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1931 Dale 2024

Dale Robert Hensel

September 8, 1931 — April 18, 2024

Dr. Dale Robert Hensel, a distinguished figure born and raised near Carmel, Indiana, passed away leaving behind a legacy of unwavering dedication and tireless service. Dale, at the age of 92, passed away on Thursday, April 18, 2024, at the Legacy Hospice Center in Ocala, FL.  He was a resident of St. Augustine for over 60 years. 

Dr. Hensel embarked on his academic journey at Purdue University, obtaining both his B.S. and M.S. degrees before serving in the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army. Following his military service, Dale pursued his passion for soils chemistry, earning a Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1960.

Dale married his wife Mary Lou in the fall of 1954 where they began their 68 year journey. Mary Lou passed away in April 2023. 

Dr. Hensel joined the University of Florida faculty in the fall of 1960 as a soils chemist at the IFAS station in Hastings, FL.  During his career, he was not only devoted to the advancement of agricultural science but participated in several projects which improved the agricultural industry. He worked with UF engineers to invent a cabbage harvester and create  drainage systems for crops. In 1982, Dale was asked to lecture at an agricultural university in Zimbabwe.  He spent 8 weeks in various regions of Africa to assist in establishing better agricultural practices. Upon his retirement in January 1996, Dr. Hensel stepped down as the longest tenured Department Chair within the University of Florida College of Agriculture.

Dale's impact extended far beyond the confines of academia. He actively engaged with the community, playing a pivotal role in the establishment of the St. Johns County Agricultural Center and serving on numerous state and local boards.  He was a devoted participant in the local 4H clubs, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, was an active member of Grace United Methodist Church, member of the Hastings Rotary Club and participant in the Gator Sports Club.

His contributions were recognized with prestigious awards, including the outstanding Agriculture Award from the Kiwanis Club of St. Augustine.  His unwavering commitment and profound impact on agricultural science earned him the distinguished award of Honorary Life Member of the Potato Association of America.

After retirement Dale and Mary Lou traveled throughout the United States and other parts of the world.  He has said that he was lucky to have visited all of the fifty states.  His pride and joy was living in Hendersonville, NC, six months of the year.  The cooler weather allowed him to tend to his yard and gardens.  He grew fruits and vegetables and was able to supply the neighborhood with the surplus. Even though he was retired, he still was using his skills.

Dale is survived by his children: Kathleen (Thomas Schwarm) Hensel, Cheryl (Glenn) O’Hara, Marsha (Jack) Burr and Robert (Julie) Hensel; grandchildren: Jacob Schwarm, Shanna (Erik) O’Hara Unsworth, Evan O’Hara, John Burr, Marissa Burr, Dale (Anna) Burr, Olivia Hensel and Aiden Hensel; great-grandchildren: Eva Unsworth and Eleanore Burr.

Dad was an avid Sudoku puzzler, a notable card shark, reigning domino king, croquet hustler and most of all loved a good jigsaw puzzle. More than anything, Dad enjoyed a good joke and his laugh could put a smile on anyone’s face.  The grandchildren can attest to his competitiveness and unrelentless skills for winning.  Grandpa made sure to let every grandchild know how proud he was of them. Family was everything to him.  

Please join the family for his memorial service at Grace United Methodist Church on Sunday, May 5th at 2:00 PM. A reception will follow the service.  In lieu of flowers, Dad would have preferred donations to Habitat for Humanity in his name. 
Countryside Funeral Home is in charge of local arrangements.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dale Robert Hensel, please visit our flower store.

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