November 1, 1936 – July 2, 2019
Born in Mandan, ND
Resided in Lincoln, NE
Robert Ralph Barnhardt
Robert Ralph Barnhardt died peacefully surrounded by family on July 2, 2019. Descended from immigrants of Germans from Russia, Robert (Bob) was born to Mathias and Rose (Schmidt) in a sod house, in rural Morton County, North Dakota on November 1, 1936, the day of all saints.
Bob grew up with four older siblings Lil, Jack, Claudia and Pete. In the cold North Dakota winters, the boys slept three to a bed, with Bob flanked in the middle. Twins Larry and Lorraine arrived when he was ten.
Rose insisted on an education. Bob was among the first generation of Barnhardts to graduate. In 1955 he graduated from Mandan High School. Bob and cousins Don and Max Zander enjoyed attending the local dance hall where Bob was introduced to his future bride, Frances Marie Senger. Not long thereafter, he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident, landing him in the hospital and in a coma. Francie was faithfully there by his bedside. After miraculously making a full recovery, Bob proposed to Francie and they were wed on June 25, 1960 at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck.
Francie joined Bob on the homestead which by then had blossomed into a modern farming operation. The first four of their six children were born there with Jackie, Robbie, Stevie and Cindy arriving over a span of five years.
They lived there until the farm was sold in 1965. After a brief stint selling insurance in Mandan, Bob moved his young family to Nebraska where he studied Ag Engineering and conducted research at the University of Nebraska.
In 1970, they bought a new home in Waverly where son Alan was born, followed by Chad five years later. Bob and Francie would live in that house for 48 years.
In Waverly, Bob found work at National Crane Corporation where he became an expert welder, then a supervisor. He was a proud member of the Steelworkers union, helping to build boom cranes that were shipped worldwide. He worked long hours and took extra shifts to feed his growing family walking to and from work to save on gas money. A severe on the job foot injury ended his time at National Crane after which he worked in the kitchen at Sandoz pharmaceuticals and from where he retired.
So much did he enjoy welding that he set up his own shop in the garage, building wrought-iron tables and chairs, and toys for his children and grandchildren.
Never one to hire someone for a job he could do himself, he rarely took his cars to the mechanic, preferring to make repairs himself. With the help of his boys, he roofed the house, finished the basement and built the garage. He composted before composting was cool, built and installed an early solar panel and always planted a garden which produced the best homegrown tomatoes.
A man of faith, Bob was a fixture at St. Patrick’s Church where he was a lector and usher. He and Francie helped build the new church where we gather here today. He was active in the Knights of Columbus and Kiwanis where he enjoyed charitable work helping children in the local community.
Anyone who knew Bob also knew “the bus”. After a succession of sedans and station wagons, he bought a Cornhusker red Volkswagen microbus in the bicentennial year of 1976. The family crisscrossed America, packed like sardines with top carrier and often a camper in tow. It had no air conditioning and barely a puff of warm air for heat. He drove the bus to Philadelphia for the Junior Olympics which Chad had qualified for, past the World Trade Center in New York City, on the south side of Chicago and to the Space Needle in Seattle. It struggled to make it over the Rocky Mountains, but with a backup seven people power, we were able to push it over the continental divide. And of course, there were the regular treks to North Dakota for vacations and weddings.
Bob was a Boy Scout leader. He helped his kids with their paper routes. He was a champion bowler and a pool shark; enjoyed camping and following the Huskers. He loved telling jokes while playing cards and drinking Old Milwaukee beer with his brothers.
Honest and always ready to lend a hand, Bob never spoke badly of others. More than anything though, Bob was a family man who surrounded himself with a loving wife and kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who remained by his side to the very end.
He is survived by his wife Francie; daughters Jackie (Charles Wooldridge II), Cindy (Roger Uttecht); sons Rob, Steve (Elaine Bruning), Alan, Chad (Chrissy Plourd); sisters Lillian, Claudia, Lorraine; brothers Jacob, Lawrence; 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by parents Mathias and Rose, brother Peter and grandson Elmo.
He will be missed by all.
Memorials can be sent to the Villa Marie School in Waverly.
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