Cover photo for Harold R. Sandberg's Obituary
Harold R. Sandberg Profile Photo

Harold R. Sandberg

d. March 23, 2020

Harold R. Sandberg, 100, of Davenport Iowa, passed away on Monday, March 23, 2020, at Silvercrest Garner Senior Living, with his wife at his side.

Private family services will be held at Trimble Funeral Home, Moline. Burial in Rock Island National Cemetery, and Celebrations of Life in Moline and Chicago, will be scheduled at a later date.

Harold was born in 1919, in Galesburg, the son of Oscar and Esther (Gustafson) Sandberg. In 1942, he married Alice Bendt in Rock Island. Their steadfast marriage of 77 years has served as a wonderful example and a beacon of love for their families and many friends.

He graduated from Galesburg High School at age 16, then worked in construction and attended Augustana College before enrolling at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1940, where he earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering. Upon graduation, Harold worked in Pennsylvania on bridge projects to extend railroad lines through the Appalachians. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944 and was assigned to the Civil Engineering Corps and ship repairs. Upon discharge in 1946, he returned to UIUC to earn a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering. In 1947, he was hired as the first employee of Alfred Benesch & Company, a consulting engineering firm based in Chicago. At age 86, he retired from the firm with 59 years of service, including 11 years as president and 21 years as chairman of the board.

Harold was a visionary and a man of action. In his engineering career, he worked on infrastructure projects of numerous kinds, including skyscrapers, roadways, and railroad lines. Among other achievements, he was the lead structural engineer for the 54 floor Harbor Point condominium building in downtown Chicago, which became his home for 39 years. Harold’s greatest passion was bridges, particularly those crossing the mighty Mississippi. In 1938, while working on construction of the Rock Island Centennial Bridge, he dreamed that someday he would design an ideal arch bridge. In 1983, he and Benesch colleagues accomplished that dream through the design of twin, tied arch spans across the Mississippi River just south of St. Louis. The beautiful Jefferson Barracks Memorial Arch Bridge was heralded as a triumph of design, and received national attention, garnering awards for innovation.

Benesch & Company provided design consulting services for the new I-74 bridge crossing the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities. In the initial years of that bridge’s design work, his colleagues consulted with Harold in retirement for advice about the substructures in the river. Thus, Harold has a very unique connection to Mississippi River crossings in the Quad Cities – through his Rock Island Centennial Bridge experience in 1938 and the I-74 bridge project eight decades later.

Throughout his life, Harold was an active and generous contributor of his time and resources to numerous Lutheran churches, boards and committees; and community organizations (including Boy Scouts, school boards, and zoning commissions). He was highly influential within, and deeply committed to the advancement of, the engineering industry (including the American Concrete Institute, the American Consulting Engineers Council, and the American Society of Engineers; and the Chicago Committee on High-Rise Buildings). He was a committed mentor to many young engineers and a strong advocate for strengthening engineering research. Harold was especially dedicated to the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He championed the importance of developing engineering research in Chicago; and encouraged governments and private industry to support and invest in the UIC Engineering program and facilities. In 2019, UIC opened the Engineering Innovation Building which includes a high-bay structural testing laboratory that Harold envisioned.

Harold was an avid lifelong learner and an adventurer who loved to travel with Alice across North America, Europe, the Pacific and beyond. At age 82, for their 60th anniversary, they completed an around-the-world tour, visiting 5 continents. They also enjoyed spending time with their children and grandchildren, who were taken on many memorable excursions and vacations.

Harold is survived by his beloved wife, Alice; two children, Diane De Haas of Davenport, and Eric (Diane) Sandberg of Moline; four grandchildren, Anjanette (Brad) Fennell, of Australia, Jeffrey (Elliott Mogul) Sandberg, of Washington DC, John (Maya Lewis) Sandberg, of Chicago; and Scott (Courtney) Sandberg, of Chicago; four great-grandchildren, Max and Milo Morton, of Australia; Phoebe Fennell of Australia, and Nico Mogul-Sandberg of Washington DC; and a sister Alice Johansson of St. Paul Minnesota. He was preceded in death by his parents and his sisters, Helen Sandberg and Mary Lindell.

The family invites friends to share their stories and condolences at, or send cards to Alice with remembrances. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Harold Sandberg Engineering Scholarship Fund at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Contributions should be written to “UIF/UIC Engineering” and sent to the UIC College of Engineering, SEO Room 821, 851 S. Morgan St, Chicago IL 60607-7043, with a note that the gift is designated for the Sandberg Scholarship Fund.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Harold R. Sandberg, please visit our flower store.

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Rock Island National Cemetery

1600 River Drive, Moline, IL 61265

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