The Lifestory of Robert William Kopf
With family as his greatest priority and focus, Bob Kopf worked hard his whole life through. A man of great natural ability, he used his knack for building things not only for his own enjoyment but for the pleasure of all. He leaves behind a strong work ethic and a loving commitment to those he held close to his heart and his memory will be forever cherished.
Robert William Kopf was born when families struggled through the Great Depression as the threat of war loomed overseas. They found joy in the little things in life like gathering around the radio for programs or baseball, and entertainment allowed them to free their minds from everyday worries. Delight overshadowed these challenging times for Frederic William and Bernice Emeline (Ray) Kopf when they welcomed the birth of their son, Robert, on January 2, 1934. They had great hopes for their little boy and with the dates of his birth being 1, 2, 3, and 4 it only made sense that he would one day be blessed abundantly.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Bob’s father worked as a Pharmacist and his mother stayed home to care for Robert. It was a trying time for the young family when Bob’s father became ill and died when Bob was only 11 years old, sadly leaving Bob’s mother to raise him alone. Following his father’s death, Bob was embraced by his mother who never remarried, but who worked hard to make a good home for her son. Growing up as an only child forged a strong bond between Bob and his mother. He held his mother in high regard for all she did and sacrificed throughout his life. Always close, he looked to her for guidance as they made their home on the east side of the city which continued to hold a special place in his heart especially for the house in which he grew up. In fact, Bob’s beloved boyhood home still stands at 1709 E. Park Place where fond memories were made.
Despite the fact that Bob missed a lot of schooling during his years at Maryland Avenue Grade School due to the many surgeries he required as a child and the choice he made to leave Riverside High School during his Junior year to join the U.S. Marines, Bob continued to hold a high regard for education, encouraging his children to be life-long learners as he was himself.
Bob felt the call of duty as the nation was heavily engaged in the Korean War, but fortunately served out of harms way at Camp Pendleton in California. Following his discharge from the service, Bob headed back home to Wisconsin and soon landed a job working for The Milwaukee Railroad. In time, he met a wonderful woman who would forever hold his heart. One day in the late 1950s, while visiting the local coffee shop on the corner of Farwell and Lafayette, Bob met Shirley Ann Kretlow. Bob and Shirley enjoyed time together and spent wonderful summer days with friends playing volleyball at Bradford Beach. Bob,a natural born athlete, enjoyed a good game of tennis and Shirley, knowing little about the game, tried her best to learn by practice-hitting tennis balls against the walls at Maryland Avenue Grade School in order to spend more time with Bob.
After awhile, the pair became quite smitten and their dating relationship soon turned to romance. On May 16, 1959 they were married at the Wauwatosa County Courthouse in Wisconsin by the Justice of the Peace in a lifelong commitment that would eventually span 50+ years testing their vows for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health and in both good times and bad times. Bob and Shirley shared much in their lives together but nothing delighted them more than beginning their family. Kelly came along first and then followed the birth of Susan, born on Bob’s birthday. Kurtis completed their household and Bob made his family his focus and priority. After growing up without a father, Bob knew how important his role was and became a dedicated and loving provider.
Continuing to work for the railroad for a total of 42 years, several dips in the economy over the years saw Bob faced with several lay-offs. During these times he worked at American Motors and even drove a school bus part-time. It just so happened he was the bus driver on his children’s route which provided him assurance knowing the kids made it back and forth to school safely each day. His years working for the railroad saw other difficult times, too, when Bob was forced to be away from home for long periods of time. He and Shirley sacrificed much to provide a good life for their family. Bob even lived in Minnesota and Illinois for some time in order to secure his position as an Engineer with the railroad. This left Shirley at home to look after the children while working as an Administrative Assistant for the Principals at the Maple Dale/Indian Hill Schools in the district their children attended. It had always been Bob’s motivation to work hard enough to be able to move to the suburbs in order to provide their children with the best educational and life opportunities.
Although a hard worker, Bob did find time for leisure activities and hobbies. With artistic flair, Bob liked drawing and molding clay models and in his later years he enjoyed building models of sail boats that graced his home. One project dear to his heart was building his prized eight foot by ten foot model train track complete with scenery that was set up in the basement. His love of sports continued into his adulthood and he enjoyed bowling, bicycling and fishing, but his passion was golfing. He loved the sport so much that he even installed a three-hole mini practice course and putting green in his backyard that included sand traps. When the kids were growing up, their home was the place to be for friends and family when Bob put in a baseball diamond and an aboveground swimming pool. Having purchased a display model in 1972, Bob almost single handily dismantled it, brought it home, contracted someone to dig the hole for it in the yard, and then reassembled it to perfection.
When he no longer was able to keep up with playing the sports he had loved throughout his youth, Bob was dedicated to being his grandchildren’s number # 1 fan for their various soccer, baseball, softball and football games. He took pride in watching them shine in athletics as well as in orchestra/band concerts and dance recitals.
In May 2009, Bob and Shirley celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a party surrounded by the family they loved along with many dear friends. They were indeed blessed to have shared so many wonderful and memorable years together. As years of hard work, long hours and health issues began to take their toll on Bob, he sadly died in Mequon, Wisconsin at Columbia-St. Mary’s-Ozaukee Hospital on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at the age of 75. He will be greatly missed and forever remembered in the hearts of those he leaves behind.
Bob is survived by his beloved wife, Shirley; adored children: John Wm. Kopf, Kelly Murray, Susan Noe Beck and Kurtis Kopf; cherished grandchildren: Gavin, Grant and Grace Murray, Samantha and Spencer Beck. Visitation with Bob’s family will be on Sunday, October 18 from 4-6 PM at the Suminski/Weiss Funeral Home, 1901 N. Farwell Ave. in Milwaukee, WI. A service to celebrate his life will be held at Wisconsin Memorial Park-Chapel of the Flowers, 13235 W. Capitol Dr. in Brookfield, WI on Monday, October 19 at 10:00 AM.
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