Charles Robert Utermohlen

Charles Robert Utermohlen, age 91, died January 9, 2019, in Alexandria, Virginia. Bob was born May 7, 1927, on a farm between Verdon, Stella, and Dawson. The family was part of all three communities, shopping in Verdon, attending church in Stella and school in Dawson.

Bob graduated from Dawson High in 1944, then worked on the family farm before joining the Navy at 18. On V-J day, he was in basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois. He was sent to the Philippines and discharged after his return in 1946. The first 18 years of his life, he was known as Robert Charles, only discovering upon enlistment in the Navy that his name had been wrongly recorded as Charles Robert at birth. Lacking time to correct the error, he adjusted to the new name.

Bob attended Peru State Teacher’s College, graduating in 1950. His first teaching job was at Burchard, Nebraska, where he met Mary Lee Cox. Mary was home from working in Lincoln, gaining weight to become an airline stewardess. They married on May 24, 1953.

The couple moved to DuBois, Idaho, where Bob taught high school, working on a sheep station during the summer. The next year, he taught in Craigmont, Idaho.

In 1955, they moved to Kilgore in the Sandhills. In 1958, Bob became Superintendent of Schools in Hershey, Nebraska. In 1963, he became Superintendent at O’Neill.

In 1966, Bob moved the family to Lincoln, to complete his doctorate in Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska. The family then moved to Mankato, Minnesota, in 1968 where Bob became a professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Bob took a strong interest in the various international students he had in classes— students from Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Taiwan, and Nigeria to name a few. One of his most unusual accomplishments was to organize a teacher delegation to travel to Russia shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He retired in 1993. The next three years, Bob and Mary spent the fall term at Rust College in Mississippi, where Bob taught introductory classes in education.

Bob and Mary raised three children: Bill, Terry, and Kim. They were proud grandparents of nine grandchildren. They also provided a home to several others over the years, particularly Ermias Asfaw, who lived with them during college.

Bob had a life-long interest in people, often finding ways to help others. He was dedicated to his family. He and Mary hosted each of their grandchildren on a significant trip when they reached ten years old and also contributed to their education.

After retirement, Bob published a number of articles, participated in the Retired Faculty group, the Futurist Society, Mankato Spelling Group, and a Memoirs group. He was also a long-time member of Centenary United Methodist Church and a regular attendee of its Friday morning men’s study group.

Bob lived in the family home on Dillon Avenue in Mankato from 1968 until 2016, when he moved to Old Main, an assisted living facility. In October 2017, he moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where he was able to be near Bill and his family. He resided at Paul Spring Retirement Center. He entered the hospital due to pneumonia on November 25, 2018, and never fully recovered.

Bob was preceded in death by his parents, William and Eva (Carsh) Utermohlen, two infant siblings Harry and Virginia Ann, his sister, JoAnn Plihal, and, in 2006, by his wife, Mary. 

He is survived by Bill and Alison Utermohlen of Alexandria, Virginia; Terry and Scott Bunke of McKinney, Texas; Kim and Paul Scott of Athens, Alabama; Ermias Asfaw of Mankato; Briannon Scott, Kaitlin Scott, Ryan and Veronica Bunke, Erinn and Sam Preston, Mary Utermohlen, Michaela Bunke, Noah and Samantha Scott, Micah Scott, and Kendra Bunke; his sister, Billie Dean Thoresen of Fremont, California, as well as a number of nieces and nephews.

His funeral was held at Centenary United Methodist Church, 501 South Second Street in Mankato, on Saturday, January 19, at 11 am, and was followed by burial at Minneopa Cemetery. Visitation was at Mankato Mortuary, 1001 North Riverfront Drive, on Friday, January 18, and again at the church before the service.

Memorials made in Bob’s honor can be given to the charity of your choice, or to the Pearl and Paul Fieselman Fund at Peru State College.

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