‘The Father of Public Transportation in the Fox Valley’
May 2, 1925-December 21, 2020
Robert E. Bodoh, age 95, a retired regional insurance Vice President, was reunited with his wife Mary in heaven on December 21, 2020.
Robert was Vice President of Marsh & McLennan Inc., international risk management brokers, at the time of his retirement in 1987. He married Mary L. Mueller on November 8, 1952 at St. Therese Church. They shared 65 years together until her death in June 2017. They met at the marriage of Robert’s college roommate, where he was best man. Interestingly, later that day, she leaned over to a girlfriend and whispered, “that’s the man I’m going to marry”.
However, the Korean conflict intervened. After only a few get togethers, Robert, a Naval Reserve officer, was called to active duty. Two years later after his being in North Korean waters, Robert resumed their relationship, and her prediction eventually came true.
Joining the Navy was one of the most important decisions of his life. While a senior in high school, he enlisted in 1943 during World War II as a Seaman Recruit. Rising steadily through its ranks, he retired after 21 years of distinguished service with the rank of Commander. Initial officer indoctrination occurred at both Notre Dame and Princeton Universities. He then graduated from Columbia University, commissioned as an Ensign, USNR. Later, as a Commander, he attended the Naval War College in Newport, RI.
During WWII, he served aboard the destroyers USS Stockton (DD 646) and USS Caperton (DD 650). After the war, he decommissioned (“mothballed”) both ships in Charlestown, SC.
In 1951, during the Korean conflict, he served aboard the destroyer USS Brush (DD 745). It was engaged in land/sea battles in North Korea at Wonsan Harbor, Chinanpo River and as a submarine search ship of Task Force 77. After two years of Korean duty, upon return to civilian life, he remained in the Naval Reserve, and was appointed by the Navy as Officer-in-Charge of the Naval Reserve facility in the Fox Cities area until his retirement from the service.
In his business career, he graduated from Marquette University in 1949 under the G.I. bill, with a degree in Finance. He was employed by two major insurance companies before he founded REBCO Insurance in 1959, which became a sizable regional firm.
In 1974, REBCO was acquired by Marsh & McLennan, the world’s largest risk management company. Subsequently, he was elected a Vice President of the firm. A few years later, he was also elected a Director of Outagamie Bank, a predecessor of present-day Wells Fargo.
Earlier in the 1980's, he was President of the Appleton Public Library Board of Trustees, and co-spearheaded the multi-million dollar Appleton Library Foundation in 1987, serving as its president. In his retirement years, he continued his involvement with the library as a volunteer in its “Walking Books” program, as well as its other activities.
In 1984, Robert co-organized Trolley Car '86, a non-profit corporation that recognized the 100th anniversary of the Fox Cities having one of the first electric streetcar systems in the world, and redevelopment of the area in the flats of Appleton around the history of the streetcars.
During the 1970's, he also served as the first Chairman of the Appleton Transit Commission, for which he was characterized in the media as the "Father of Public Transportation in the Fox Valley". The success of today’s Valley Transit is a testament to his leadership and vision in those early years.
During his lifetime, he served as President of the local Catholic Charities Board, President of the Reserve Officers Assn., and Trustee of Xavier High School. As a member of St. Therese parish, Robert served as a Trustee, and members of the Personnel, Endowment and Finance committees. He was the Senior Lector of the church at the time of his retirement from that ministry in 1996. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Order of Foresters, and Assn. of Railroad Passengers.
A lifetime organizer and leader, in retirement, Robert founded Group Organizers, which arranged international group travel for seniors. An intrepid world traveler himself, and an unabashed rail fan, he visited 110 countries around the globe, often using train or trolley, and was later inducted into the prestigious Travelers’ Century Club. Many of his trips in his retirement were made with the late Robert W. Johnson, longtime Appleton doctor and community leader.
Born in Park Falls, Wisconsin on May 2, 1925, the son of Edmund and Margaret (Polzin) Bodoh, he grew up in Marshfield, and graduated from its high school in 1943.
He is survived by his three children and their spouses: Richard (Karen)-Green Bay, Annie (Roy)- Saint Paul, MN, and Craig (Mark)-Wauwatosa; three grandchildren: Elliott and Collette (Annie and Roy) and Brianna (Richard and Karen); one great grandchild, Kaylee (Elliott); and one brother, John, Pennsylvania.
Robert’s family gratefully acknowledges the willing services of Marge Van Heuklon, younger sister of Mary, which she provided to him during his declining years.
The funeral service, including full Navy burial honors, will be conducted at a later date at St. Therese Catholic Church, 213 E. Wisconsin Ave., Appleton. An announcement will be made closer to the actual event. Visitation will be in the church two hours in advance of the funeral services. Brettschneider-Trettin-Nickel Funeral Chapel and Crematory is in charge of arrangements. A celebration of his life will follow the service. Private interment will take place at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Appleton.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to Robert and Mary Bodoh Music Fund at Xavier High School Foundation, 1600 W. Prospect Ave, Appleton, 54914, is suggested, or a memorial fund of your choice.
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