Robert J. Waite Sr.
Feb. 24, 1918 – May 18, 2012
Bob often described his childhood and boyhood as ideal – full of fond memories of adventures with both immediate and extended family. He spent carefree summers either with cousins, aunts and uncles in sleepy Evansville, or at a rambling family lodge on Found Lake in northern Wisconsin. One particular aunt and uncle worked for the Ringling Bros. Circus and Bob loved regaling eager listeners with stories of Pasha, the lion cub, a pet of his Uncle Bill’s. One anecdote was of Pasha escaping from the Waite house on East Broadway and treeing pedestrians trying to get out of the cub’s path. Circus tales were always exciting to hear and nothing pleased Bob more than connecting with other people, so telling these intriguing stories was the perfect way to do just that.
After high school, Bob followed his parents, Jack and Madeline Waite, in becoming a proud University of Wisconsin alumnus. He then completed his formal education when he got his MBA from Harvard. But, before graduate school, Bob took a long anticipated trip to Europe. It was 1939. He told of standing just feet away from Hitler as he delivered one of his stirring speeches and of how he narrowly escaped disaster when the ship originally scheduled to bring him home, the Athenia, was torpedoed by the Germans. He remained lifelong friends with his travel companion of that summer, Clark Fisher.
Soon afterward, Bob began serving in the Army, where he attained the rank of captain, and was last stationed at Fort Lee, Va. It was here that he met Dorothy Arnold on a blind date. They married in 1944 and remained in Petersburg, Va., for several years. While there, Bob was employed at the Remmie Arnold Pen Co., volunteered with civic organizations, including the local Chamber of Commerce and enthusiastically helped raise their three sons – Robin, Steve and Rick. In 1953, Bob moved the family back to Waukesha. As a dad of young boys, Bob spent many a Friday evening at the father/son gym and swim sessions at the YMCA. He regularly took his sons to watch the Milwaukee Braves play and saw to it that they experienced the magic of the circus, just as he had. For many years, he gave of his time to the Waukesha Rotary and was active in fundraising for the United Way. The main reason for his return to Waukesha was that he had agreed to join his brother, Dave, in running the family business, Waukesha Cement Tile Co. He did so for the next 30 years and only retired after asking “Dot” if she wanted him to work a couple more years or retire right away so they could indulge their passion for travel. He loved telling his family that her response was, “Let’s go!” Highlights for them were trips to China, Russia, Africa and Japan.
Year in and year out, he was a faithful fan of his UW Badgers in football and basketball; Badger Red garb was “in heavy rotation” in his wardrobe. Big Band music, show tunes and strains of Lawrence Welk got his feet tapping. For film entertainment, nothing could beat John Wayne in a good old Western. He thoroughly enjoyed fishing, hiking, skiing, golf and tennis. No animal existed that didn’t play on his heart strings, but he was especially fond of horses; the Kentucky Derby being an annual highlight. He preferred looking on the bright side of any situation and found joy in the simplest of things, which made him a happy traveler through his 94 years.
While he truly cherished all of his many friends, his family was always first and foremost in his thoughts. Bob was cut from the rarest cloth. He was a kind, appreciative, gentle man who embraced life to the fullest every step of the way.
Those missing him deeply will be his three sons and their families, which include 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. He also leaves behind his younger brother, George, many loving nieces and nephews and both lifelong and recently made friends.
A celebration of Bob’s life will take place at Avalon Square, 222 Park Place, Waukesha, WI 53186, on Saturday, June 2. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m., with the service following at 11 a.m.
Those wishing to offer a memorial may do so to Avalon Square, at the same address. For further information or directions, please call Randle-Dable-Brisk Funeral, Cremation and Preplanning Services at 547-4035 or go to www.waukeshafunerals.com to leave the family an online tribute message.