There are few of which it can be said that the lives of many were greatly enriched at the hands of just one man, but this is a clear depiction of Robert Niemann. He was kind, gentle, and generous whether he was giving to his family, the organizations he was affiliated with, or those he served within his community. Sitting around a crackling campfire surrounded by loved ones, recounting times gone by with a great-grandson, and playing 10-cent poker with family were all precious moments that Bob treasured. It was these and so many more cherished pieces in time that all work together to create the magnificent symphony that has become Bob’s lasting legacy.
The dawn of the twenties ushered in times of prosperity and hope for the future as innovation and technology were propelling America toward heights never before reached. This was also a time for great celebration for Arthur A. and Leona H. (Willy) Niemann as they welcomed the birth of their son, Robert, on April 7, 1920. Bob, as he was often called, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the oldest child in his family. He was joined by his brother Jack five years later. Bob’s father was a second generation funeral director who took over for his father, Jacob W. Niemann, who established J.W. Niemann Funeral Home in 1896. Bob was raised in the family home in the Bay View neighborhood on Milwaukee’s south side. He attended Dover Street Elementary School and Bay View High School where he played the clarinet in the school band. After high school he attended Wisconsin Institute of Mortuary Science, graduating in 1942 as a licensed funeral director.
Shortly after he graduated from mortuary school, Bob’s life was put on hold for a time when he was drafted into the Army to serve during WWII. He served as a medic and was stationed in the Pacific. Bob’s brother Jack was also serving in the Army during this time, and they were able to meet up with each other in the Philippines. They both considered it a true blessing to be able to spend a few nights together so far away from home under such unlikely circumstances.
Once again a civilian, Bob entered the family business, working with his father and uncle and later, his brother joined them as well. His career was always of the utmost importance to Bob and eventually, he and his brother became the owners of the family business. Bob served as vice president of the company until he retired in 1990, although he remained licensed until 1992. It was also in 1992 that he was recognized by the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association for his outstanding service within the industry over 50 years.
Although his career was of great significance, there was so much more to life for Bob. He was married to Ruth and together, they were blessed with the addition of their son, Noel. This marriage would later end in divorce, but Bob was forever thankful for the son that sprang forth from their union.
Great changes were in store for Bob one fateful evening some time later. The funeral home sponsored bowling teams, and Bob enjoyed supporting them. It was in the Three Seasons Bowling Alley in Oak Creek that he met Marilyn Cieszynski, a bowler on one of the teams he sponsored. They got to know one another, often over dinner, and after falling in love, they were married on February 16, 1990, at the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee. They soon enjoyed a honeymoon in Hawaii. Marilyn had four children from a previous marriage whom Bob embraced as his own children. He truly enjoyed the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who became part of his family through Marilyn as well.
Family times were such treasured times in the Niemann family. They enjoyed attending sporting events that various children participated in or at times, a professional game. Camping at Mauthe Lake in the RV or weekends spent at either Lake Geneva or in Door County were some of the times Bob treasured most. He loved sitting around a campfire, just being outside drinking in the splendor all around him, or going out with the boys including Rich, Mike, or Glen looking for new camping areas to enjoy or for a “bite to eat.” Bob also savored the times he spent sitting with a great-grandson and sharing his experiences in the Army. Fourth of July celebrations or the following week when the South Shore Water Frolics were in Bay View were also memorable events in the Niemann family. What began as an event Bob helped sponsor became family gatherings with numerous precious times shared. Additionally, nothing beat the 10-cent poker club Bob had with his brothers and sisters-in-law. His mini poodle Ginger was a treasured companion who brought Bob so much joy, too. Bob’s grandchildren enjoyed going to Grandma and Grandpa Bob’s house in search of the bubble gum machine on the bar. His great-grandchildren loved getting Kit Kat bars from his drawer as well.
In addition to his family, Bob had a few others passions he relished. He loved convertibles and when he was in mortuary school, he had a shiny, red Packard. Once he retired, he purchased another one. Bob liked to read the newspaper and always paid special attention to the death notices in search of anyone he knew. He was also involved in his church and was a member of several civic and fraternal organizations including the Lions Club and the Shriners. Bob was additionally notorious for watching infomercials and buying just that special something for his beloved Marilyn.
Life became more challenging for Bob when he fell and broke his femur in 1997 – an accident that almost cost him his life. Marilyn tenderly nursed him back to health and some time later, he suffered from an aortic aneurysm that needed to be repaired. Then in September of 2009, he was diagnosed with cancer of the liver and given two months to live. His greatest desire was to be at home surrounded by the family he so deeply loved. Bob’s family did indeed care for him – and counted it an honor to do so. Throughout this time he never complained, was always polite and courteous, and continually expressed his gratitude to those caring for him.
Robert Niemann was a remarkable man who lived a remarkable life while loving those he treasured most. He was a man of great character and strength, yet his days were also laced with compassion and generosity toward others. Even as he struggled with his own health, his greatest concern was for those around him. Bob leaves behind lessons in honor, unconditional love, and humility that will surely withstand the test of time.
Robert A. Niemann died on January 31, 2010. Bob’s family includes his wife, Marilyn Niemann; children, Christine (Steve) McClelland, Deborah (Richard) Nowakowski, Kevin (Julie) Bray, Todd (Julie) Bray, and Noel (Ellen) Niemann; 11 grandchildren; 7 great-grandchildren; as well as other relatives and friends. Inurnment Southern Wisconsin Veteran Memorial Cemetery, Union Grove, WI. Niemann / Suminski Funeral Home, 414-744-5156. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a favorite memory or photo or sign the online guestbook.