Smuda, Robert J., Born in Chicago, his early and formative years were in Hoffman Estates, IL and Arlington Heights, IL. His Lutheran education at St. Peter’s Lutheran, Schaumburg, IL and spiritual instruction provided a firm foundation for life. At St. Peter’s church he served as acolyte and was in choir; these were important. He graduated from Arlington Heights High School. Parents, Robert B. and Lillian A. Smuda, gave their best to underscore the basics, and along with God’s grace, provided examples in their own lives of service to God, family, and community. Bob was raised in a giving home; wonderful that being so blessed there was an overflow to give to others. He was raised to respect elders and to be of service. Shoveling a neighbor’s drive, mowing a lawn, Scout newspaper drives, helping his grandparents or friend were natural and done cheerfully, no fuss. There were also many celebrations of just being together with family. It was a time when families ate dinner together and visited extended relatives on Sunday. Big and small triumphs, holidays and feasts had the feeling of thankfulness wrapped around many a celebration. Never to take people or blessings for granted.
Bob had choices and Carthage College, Kenosha, WI was it. In ‘74 he earned a B.A. in Psychology. Along that path another family formed with his good and solid Carthage friends. Shirley Spangler, a life-long love, and Tau Delta Psi fraternity brothers (Buffalos), some of whom include Don Radlein, Carl Johanson, Fred Behnke, Dennis Ziegler, Richard Belzer, Art Wachholz, John Karnatz. There was plenty of the disciplined, hard work of study as well as the balance of celebrations. This was the late 60’s and early 70’s. That was a time. After graduation he backpacked Europe with Ron Hooker and upon return Bob regaled me with stories of boozy French girls. Another trip out West with Hooker and Don Radlein. California travels to visit Georgianne, with Don and Darrel Johnson and his little dog too. New Orleans with Shirley.
He was close to his grandmother, Anna Zarko, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, who along with her Russian husband George Zarko, owned a Chicago butcher and grocery store. George died early and Anna raised their two young teen daughters. They were stable, but financially challenged from time to time and from Grandma, Bob had early lessons on resourcefulness. Bob was good with numbers, really good. He had the art of turning a dime into a dollar and still knew how to be true and happy even with the occasional reversal of fortune. He always had a book or three with him. Lake Michigan was irresistible and so he bought a house on a block with a view of the lake. Bob enjoyed boating, fishing and sometimes waterskiing. He turned up for the smelt runs; especially enjoying the mystique of the early hours when the fish run in the shallow waters. He sailed and crewed large sailboats and raced regattas with friends. He played around on Lake Michigan on a whip fast Hobie Cat and at times we sat dead in the water waiting for the winds and swatting at bothersome black flies that congregate in open waters. Bob once worked as a longshoreman and grew tan and more muscular. He liked lighthouses. He volunteered and worked on the Safety Around Water Coalition, Pike’s River Kenosha Safety program which drew attention to the dangerous area.
Bob enjoyed estate sales and sometimes gifted special people with special things. He liked a certain bakery in Kenosha and thought it was just great that they had Paczki on Fat Tuesday. He still subscribed and enjoyed reading a newspaper. He is known for mailing cartoon strips to share a laugh or a newspaper article of interest. Christmas presents always came in the same red and green plaid wrapping paper. No tag necessary, this was Bob’s gift. He must have a locker of it somewhere. Others presents came wrapped in comic strips, maps or sometimes the finance section of the newspaper, when there was one. We had fun.
As formative as all of his various education and experiences were, two thick books given to Bob quite early on made an impression and were read and reread. They were the collections of O’Henry and Mark Twain. He remained an enthusiastic Twain fan. Bob took his humor on the wry and dry side, especially enjoying irony. Good thing for it, too.
In 2014 he retired from Kenosha County Health and Human Services as a Financial Fraud Investigator. He protectively and lovingly watched over his father who, having become blind and a double amputee, resided at Brookside Nursing Home, Kenosha. Bob made sure that Dad attended the WWII Veterans Honor Flight, and travelled with Dad to Washington D.C. for a very special day. Bob once belonged to a team as an intake call volunteer for a Rape and Suicide helpline. He entertained a stint at the King Richard’s Renaissance Faire, Bristol, WI, along with Shirley. He played guitar and had a nice voice. Every Easter without fail our first greeting was always the same, “He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!” Bob was involved in Somers civic and community groups and did research for improvements. He regularly went to town meetings and was an active citizen. He voted and kept his views to himself.
I’ve been told that we have the same eyes, and I will miss looking to those eyes for a knowing look and a shared laugh over a shared memory. He was always my trusted big brother and my oldest friend.
He leaves behind many loving friends. Grateful and loving sister, Georgianne Cox, Verona, WI. Cousins, Mildred Pecen, Chicago, IL and Victor Jon Griswold, North Canton, OH.
A lunch with family and close family friends is scheduled for August 29, 1:00 p.m. following Bob’s Memorial Service.
House of Gerhard
3927 75th Street
Kenosha, WI 53142
Service Date August 29, 2023
SERVICE LOCATION Messiah Lutheran Church
Lutheran Memorial Service for Robert J. Smuda
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Fellowship Room – Arrival and Gathering
11:00 – Noon Robert J. Smuda Memorial Service
1:00 p.m. Lunch