In Memory

Bob Race

Bob Race

RACE JR., Robert M., age 72

Died: Friday, July 21st, 2017

Memorial Gathering: family will receive friends from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Monday, July 31, 2017 at the funeral home with a time for sharing memories at 7:00 p.m.

A private interment will take place in Lakeview Cemetery in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer memorials which will be directed to the Chippewa Valley Boy Scouts, the Eau Claire County Humane Association as well as to some of Bob's other favorite charities.


Robert "Bob" M. Race, Jr., age 72, died peacefully on Friday, July 21, 2017, at his home in Eau Claire surrounded by his loving family after a 15-month battle with Glioblastoma brain cancer. 

Bob was born in Milwaukee to the late Robert M. and Mary Kay (nee Kalt) Race on November 17, 1944. He grew up in Whitefish Bay, WI and graduated from Whitefish Bay High School in 1962. After attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he enlisted in the United States Air Force as a Crash and Rescue Firefighter and was stationed at Torrejon Air Force Base in Madrid, Spain. It was there he met the love of his life, Julia Lopez, and they were united in marriage on July 18, 1966. He was honorably discharged in 1970.

Right out of the military, he worked for the Fire Insurance Rating Bureau and then joined R.W. Scobie, Inc./Midwest General Agency, an insurance wholesale operation, as a Field Representative, then an Underwriting Manager, a Branch Manager, and finally retiring after 40 years as Senior Vice President. He was widely respected in the insurance industry and mentored countless people over the course of his distinguished career.

Bob had so many talents, interests, and hobbies. He was an amazing, self-taught guitarist and singer and was very active in the Eau Claire music scene in the late '70s. He was proud to have been able to share his love of music in the popular local band, Hand Picked. However, nothing gave him more joy than being able to share his talent by teaching his grandson, James, to play guitar. They spent many hours playing bluegrass, folk, and blues together. Bob was a prolific reader and he enjoyed reading books on history, Africa, and adventure.

He was a member of the Eau Claire Rod and Gun Club for over 40 years, as well as the Eau Claire Peace Officers Pistol Club, serving in many roles with both organizations. He was an expert marksman and shot trap on several teams throughout the years. He was a 32nd Degree Mason and a member of the George B. Wheeler Lodge 351.

Bob loved to hunt and fish, but in later years he focused most of his free time fishing. He was a real "Musky Hunter" with his favorite fishing 'hole' being on the Chippewa Flowage. He was always the happiest during his vacations to the Flowage, including his most recent trip just one month ago.  

Bob was a loving husband, father, "Bumpa" and father-in-law (although disliking the title "father-in-law" as Heath and Ron were sons to him). His entire life revolved around his family and spending time with his children and grandchildren. He absolutely LIVED for them. They were his pride and joy and he was theirs. These past 15 months were extremely difficult, but were filled with a lot of love and laughter bringing them even closer together.

This battle with cancer really tested his lifelong advice to his children "Life isn't about being dealt a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well". He would remind them of that when they would complain about some situation that they were having difficulty dealing with throughout their lives. This man talked the talk and walked the walk. He always lived life to the fullest and that was extremely evident as he battled cancer. He would tell his family, friends and doctors "This thing is going to kill me, it's not going to BEAT me". Well, he beat that cancer every day!

Bob is survived by his loving and devoted wife of 51 years, Julia; daughters, Mary (Heath) Gooderham and Cassie (Ron) Wolf; grandsons, James and Christopher Wolf; sister, Shar Race; brother-in-law, Carlos Lopez; nieces, Teresa and Sonia Lopez, Susan McCoy and Liz Speaks; nephews, Juan Carlos Lopez and Alberto Lopez; several cousins, including, Bill Kalt, Tommy Kalt, and Jane Taylor; his "honorary daughter", Jill (Supple) Urdahl; and his furry cat babies, Lola and Maite.

He was preceded in death by his parents; grandparents, Erv and Vida Kalt and Milton and Joanna Race; uncles, aunts, and his brother-in-law, Ceferino Lopez; and sister-in-law, Pilar Wood.

Bob was so funny and engaging with a hilarious sense of humor as well as a man of great integrity and loyalty. To be his friend was to be part of a very special (but large) club. He leaves behind many, many friends, but cherished his special friendships with Gary Cowles of Pasadena, CA , Ann Marie and Jane Hoeppner, Don Chrystal, Bob Gabriel, and "Doctor Juan" Nunez all of Eau Claire. You all helped get him through this, thank you.

The family would like to thank all the doctors and nurses at Mayo Clinic Health System-Eau Claire, the wonderful team at Mayo Home Hospice (especially his nurse, Jean), and the nurses and CNAs at Grace Lutheran Communities-Prairie Point, he was so very appreciative of your care of him and our family.

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07/30/17 08:45 AM #1    

David Stearns

Bob and I grew up together and were friends in grade school and high school.  We goofed off a lot but somehow managed to graduate.  It was during high school that we started playing guitar and banjo and formed a trio with another friend, Rick Matchette.  We sang folk songs emulating the Kingston Trio as best we could. Our greatest moment was playing for the entire high school at the AFS Variety Show our senior year.

Bob was raised by two incredible parents, Robert and Mary Kay.  They were not only great people but were very tolerant of our many shenanigans.  Bob's dad graciously mentored me on automobile mechanics and allowed me to park my 1929 Model A Ford in their backyard for many months while he showed me how to repair and restore it.   

In 1963, Bob and I, along with three other friends, went on a camping trip to Colorado and in 1964 Bob and I hitchhiked from Milwaukee to Florida.  We also spent numerous weekends at our cabin at Found Lake in northern Wisconsin fishing for Musky and Walleye, and deer hunting. 

The mid-1960's was a tumultuous time because of the Vietnam War and we were all under pressure of the draft.  Bob joined the Air Force and got a plum deployment to Madrid, Spain.  He was gone five years while I was working in Bogota, Colombia and going to school in London, England, but we managed to get together in Milwaukee as often as we could when our paths crossed.  We continued our friendship and kept in touch via letters, phone calls, and email.  Bob visited me in Colorado and I was able to visit him in Eau Claire several times.  Bob and Julie were very gracious hosts and treated us like family.

I have always said that a person needs only one good friend and Bob was a steadfast friend whom I could always count on.  Friends and acquaintances come and go but Bob and I stayed close even though we lived miles apart.

It's hard to grasp the fact that Bob is gone but in my mind he is still with us. People don't just die and fade from memory, they leave a legacy. Bob has left an enduring legacy of family and good friends.  He bestowed on us the legacy of his spirit of honesty and hard work, love of life, optimism, enthusiasm for the outdoors.  He left us a legacy of his light-hearted humorous outlook and his kindness.  He did his duty for his country and passed on his legacy of fervent patriotism.  The legacy of his music will live on in his recordings and will be in our hearts forever. 

I am truly blessed to have known Bob and to have had such a great friend my entire life.    

Bob and Julie raised two beautiful and wonderful daughters, Mary and Cassie, who have shown extraordinary courage, strength, and self-sacrifice throughout the last year.  I know Julie will be in capable and loving hands as she deals with the loss of this great man.

Bob is now at peace and I trust God will reward him for his faithfulness. 

Psa 116:15   Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

07/30/17 10:50 AM #2    

Wayne Schroeder

My sympathy to Bob's family and friends. It sounds like he lived a full and satisfying life and will be missed.  Wayne Schroeder


07/30/17 11:56 AM #3    

Kris Krabbe

Condolences to Bob's family and friends.  He had an unusually good sense of humor.  One of the good ones!  

Kris Krabbe

08/13/17 12:26 PM #4    

Jerry Thornbery

The thoughtful eulogy by Dave Stearns (and the full obituary I assume that he provided) made me think of incidents that occurred over fifty years ago.  Unlike others who have contributed to this page, I was not a close classmate of Bob's, at best a friendly acquaintance, but even for someone like me, Bob Race left fond memories.  Three stand out.

I first met Bob in Jack Nagle's ninth-grade English class.  Sometime that winter Bob began to wear boots that somehow flew under the radar screen of the WFB dress-code enforcers.  "Where did you get those boots, Bob?" I asked.  "From Roy Rogers?"  Although I called him Roy Rogers Race for about a month, Bob never got angry.  In fact, somewhere in my very small collection of WFB mementoes is a post card that reads: "To Jerry. Best Wishes, Roy Rogers Race." Bob was a classmate who was exceptionally good natured and who never took himself too seriously.

A second memory is of one Friday night in my junior year (I think) when Bob rang our door bell.  My Dad answered.  There was Bob with a cigarette, waving it as if it were a firery sixth appendage to his hand.  "Oh, oh," I thought, "this is trouble."  But Bob had plenty of charm, and he charmed my Dad just as he did a lot of people he met.  As we were almost out the door my Dad called out, "Nice talking with you, Bob."

Dave Stearns writes about Bob and his interest in folk music.  I am sorry that I missed their performance at the senior talent show.  The few discussions I had with Bob about music, however, centered on country and bluegrass.  In his senior year he sometimes sat out in the family car, listening to some clear channel station out of Cincinnati or Wheeling, West Virginia.  Bob did mention to me that sometimes it got a little chilly, and sometimes he had to wrap himself up in a blanket, but he could only get that station and that kind of music in the driveway of his home.  Definitely Bob was into country before country became cool.

After high school, most of what I knew about Bob Race came from another '62 friend, Bob Wolf, who like Race, joined the Air Force and served as a fireman.  The two Bobs were into hunting and fishing and I would occasionally hear about their treks into the wilderness.  It was through Bob Wolf that I learned of Bob's fatal illness.

When we think back about our high school days we (or at least I do) sometimes romanticize the past and sometimes get lost in the fog of memory.  Nevertheless, one thing is crystal clear.  Bob Race was one of the good guys.  Kris Krabbe succinctly stated that on this site.  And in my book, that is high praise indeed.

                                                                                Jerry Thornbery, August 12, 2017




09/10/17 12:07 PM #5    

Ken Rotter

My condolences  to Bobs family and friends we were classmates in aeveral classes  at WFBH and I wa g;ad to read he had a good long life He will  be missed  by many  Ken Rotter

09/11/17 11:53 AM #6    

David Stearns

A few weeks before he died, I asked Bob how he got brain cancer. It did not run in his family. I remembered that he was stationed in Spain when the B-52 collided with another plane while being refuled. It was carrying 4 hydrogen bombs and they all fell on Spain.  Two were recovered from the ocean and two fell on land.  One fell in the town of Palomares.  Bob and many other airmen were called to conduct cleanup operations.  They were not given any protective gear and got covered in Plutonium dust which had spilled out from one of the bombs that broke apart.  The Air Force never would admit that this was an unsafe operation.

There are numerous accounts from other airmen involved in the cleanup who have contracted various diseases and cancer.  Bob said he wasn't sure about it but his family is convinced that his brain cancer was a direct result of being exposed to high levels of plutonium.  During his life, Bob refused to get any x-rays because he said he had already been exposed to too much radiation, so I think he had an inkling that he was in danger.  

For those who may want to read an article on the subject, I refer you to the following:

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