“We have just lost another of the remaining few members of the “Greatest Generation”. Oh, but had we another generation arising such as his. This world is a lesser place without them.”
Robert John Vandewalker was born in Medford, Wisconsin, on August 15, 1922 to John and Ellen Vandewalker. He grew up in Belvidere, Illinois with his three sisters, Marie, Eva Darlene and Lorraine. He told many stories of growing up during the Depression. The hardships shaped his attitudes for the rest of his life. After graduating from high school, he worked various jobs until he enlisted in the service in 1944. He told the story of choosing the Navy but being plucked from the enlistment center line to be sent to the Marines. After boot camp in San Diego, he was sent to Saipan and Okinawa where he witnessed kamikaze planes sinking adjacent ships. After Japan surrendered, he was part of the peacekeeping and disarmament forces in Japan until 1946.
After returning to the United States, Bob took a solo cross-country motorcycle trip on his Harley and then came home to marry Alice Marie Paulson in 1948. Bob and Alice met in 1940 at a barn dance on Alice’s family farm. They continued ballroom and square dancing for most of their lives. He then attended Illinois Institute of Technology and earned a degree in electrical engineering thanks to the generosity of the GI Bill. They and their 3 children lived in Rockford and then Dundee, Illinois.
In 1964, Bob and Alice bought undeveloped lake property in northern Wisconsin where they built a cottage, sans indoor bathroom, electricity and running water. When they invited friends to visit, the friends also loved the area and built cottages right next door. They all worked tirelessly to build outhouses, decks, dig wells, install electricity and running water. They played hard too, building a pontoon boat for their cocktail cruises, learning to water ski and sail, and motorcycling and hiking through the woods.
Bob earned a private pilot’s license during his 40’s, which he used not only for work travel but also for recreation. He and Alice flew all over the country, frequently with friends. They also flew to Caribbean islands, Mexico and even South America.
After retirement, they became snowbirds, building a home in Fort Myers, Florida. Bob and Alice were active members of their Caloosa Yacht and Racquet Club community, serving on the board, playing tennis, boating and playing Bridge. Summers were spent at their beloved Lake Laura home in Wisconsin with their children and 5 grandchildren.
Alice died at the age of 91 in 2015, after 67 years of marriage. Bob was never again complete.
He is survived by his 3 children, Gail, Jean (John) and Jay (Linda) and his 5 grandchildren, Henry, Ellen, Daniel, Claire and Jackson.
We will miss him and are thankful for the things he taught us. His stories of his life were a lesson in the value of hard work and education. We thank him for always taking care of us.