A Family Funeral Home

Robert Edward Oertel

March 26, 1943 - April 3, 2024
Racine, WI


Life Story / Obituary


Robert Edward Oertel passed away suddenly at home on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. He recently celebrated his 81st birthday.

Bob was born in LaCrosse, WI, March 26, 1943, son of the late Erhardt and Viola (Nee: Haas) Oertel. Bob graduated from UW LaCrosse with a chemical degree. He married Sandra J. Roelke on January 31, 1970. He continued to work at Modine Mfg as a chemist for the next 37 years, retiring in 2006.

He continued to participate in twice yearly fishing trips with his former coworkers from Modine.

Bob was drawn to community service in Racine gradually over time, at first by his dislike of beach trash, which he picked up for many years during his beach walks. His first formal community action was probably the Drains to Lake grate labeling project, a small neighborhood project to help protect Lake Michigan water. He was an important part of Friends of the Zoo Path, a local neighborhood effort to maintain a dirt trail that ran behind the Zoo, on the edge of Lake Michigan. His most ambitious project was as co-chair of the Kids Cove Playground, and he continued to provide his time and labor to keep the playground in good repair for many years. He volunteered extensively at Riverbend for many years. He was steadfast in his dislike of invasive plants and was responsible for the removal of countless buckthorns around Racine. He received many accolades including a 2003 The Journal Times Award, a 2008 Environment Award from the Volunteer Center of Racine County, and a 2018 Roger Chernik Volunteer of the Year award.

Bob, like most of his brothers, was an old-school handyman who believed he could fix anything, whether that belief was justified or not. He once bought two Mustang cars from a junkyard that had been totaled, cut them in half, and welded the two good halves together. That car successfully ran for many years. He remodeled the entirety of their family home on Wolff St, and later remodeled their vacation home in Ladysmith, grumbling extensively along the way. Tim, his oldest son, inherited his “fix anything” attitude and both assisted and was assisted by Bob on various projects. Most recently, Bob was helping his youngest son, Jeremy, work on his new house. Just days before his passing, he was still climbing up on his rickety old paint-splattered wooden ladder to use his antique Sawzall to cut iron drainpipe. Bob loved feeling useful, and he undeniably was.

Surviving are his wife of 54 years, Sandy; sons, Tim and Jeremy; in-laws, Gertie Oertel, Dianne Oertel, Betty Oertel, Connie Jenkerson, Linda Roelke, Dennis Roelke, Donald Roelke, Cheryl LeMay, and Anthony (Denise) Roelke; nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers, David, William, and James Oertel as well as several brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.

Per Bob’s wishes, services will be private.