July 7, 2009

Saying good-bye to a friend

It’s always difficult to face the void of a friend who is no longer there.

Bob Oehrtman died last week (7/1/09) in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He was 69 years old. Bob was a big man with a zest for life and a passion for learning. A loving husband, proud father, dedicated scoutmaster, outstanding teacher, and a good friend. But as with all who spend time on this earth, he was so much more than words can express.

Now he is gone, but memories of him will linger with the many of us whose lives he touched.

A native of Greenville, Ohio, Bob graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Ohio State University in 1961 and pursued an M.S. in agricultural economics at Oregon State University in 1964. But he left Oregon with more than just a degree – he had married Anne Bigelow in Coos Bay on December 19, 1965. After earning a Ph.D. in economics at Iowa State University in 1970, he joined the faculty at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater where he taught for 33 years, winning a bevy of outstanding teaching awards over the years.

It was in Stillwater in the mid-1970s that Karen and I first came to know Bob and Anne Oehrtman. Bob was on the faculty in Ag Econ, and I was managing KOSU-FM and teaching in Journalism & Broadcasting. Karen and Anne became acquainted while bowling and at meetings of the OSU Lahoma Newcomers organization. Since my memory often follows my stomach, I seem to recall that we were also members of a dinner group that explored new menus monthly in different homes.

Eventually, mutual interests in photography, sewing, computers, bluegrass music, and – of course – kids, strengthened our bonds of friendship. Even after our departure from Stillwater in 1985, we continued to share Thanksgiving dinners, meet at distant locations, and often traveled together. We shared a wonderful trip to Europe in 2000.

I recall Bob was something of a skeptic about scouting when I first knew him. But that skepticism was cast aside as he developed a keen interest in Boy Scouting. He became a most passionate advocate of scouting and served as Scoutmaster of Troop 814 for nearly three decades, earning him an Outstanding Stillwater Citizen of the Year award for 2008-2009. His contributions and accomplishments in scouting alone were remarkable achievements. But it was just one aspect of Bob Oehrtman’s life.

While there’s no way to encapsulate the story of one man’s life in a short space, his obituary in the Stillwater News-Press does a good job of sampling the many dimensions of Bob Oehrtman.

In this short Oehrtman gallery, we’ve selected a few candid photos that capture a bit of the Bob Oehrtman that we knew and loved. It’s a story that could be told even better by the thousands of students, scouts, and friends who were touched by “Mr. O.”
The wonderful eulogy delivered by Rev. Rick Hendrick was right on the mark -- and a most moving tribute. At Bob's service on Tuesday (7/7/09) his nieces Pat Clark and Melanie Hogan -- along with family friend Andy Lowery -- shared a compilation of Life Lessons embraced by Bob Oehrtman. They did a splendid job capturing the spirit of this remarkable man. It provided a few chuckles, many smiles, and even a few tears.


Mike said...


Thanks so much for your memories of both Mom and Dad. You and Karen are dear friends. As we have been at the house this past week, we've come across many photos (Minolta and Mavica) documenting our families' intersections over the decades.

Hope to see you soon.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this splendid memorial of Bob and Anne. Anne and I were dear friends in high school and always remained close. After she left us far too young, we kept in touch with Bob, visiting back and forth and talking for hours on the phone. So many things remind us of our dear friend Bob since he went to his greater glory with Anne. He is sincerely missed.

Barbara & Richard Weide

Judy said...

This is a wonderful tribute to Bob (and Anne). I regret that our time with both of them was all too short. They came into our lives by way of their son Mike who married our daughter Beth in 1998. She couldn't have had better in-laws. How much we sorrow that little Verena will never know these wonderful grandparetns. However, I know that your tribue will be saved and shared for many years. Blessings Judy Furnish <><