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The Eulogy for Robert Mortensen

Filed under: Eulogies — Pastor Jeff at 2:09 pm on Monday, September 25, 2017

1-Bob Mortensen

Bob Mortensen was born on August 30th, in 1932 in Curacao in the Dutch West Indies, where his father Sigvardt Mortensen was working as a merchant marine.  Sigvardt was born in Denmark, and after retiring from the merchant marines would work on Project Hope, a hospital ship that travelled throughout the world providing medical care to impoverished people.

Bob’s mother was Maria del Roasario from Costa Rica.  Bob was preceded in birth by three years by his older brother Sig.  When Bob was two the family moved to Bergen County, and about the same time his sister Cookie was born.  Three years later his brother Ronald was born.  (Several years later a fifth sibling, Dennis would also be born)

Bob’s father was often away from home on a ship, and unfortunately his mother suffered from mental illness and was in and out of institutions before dying when Bob was a teenager.   Consequently, Bob and his siblings grew up remarkably self-reliant, riding the bus to get about town.  His father would keep accounts for his children at a local grocery store. There was a story Bob told about how on one occasion his father was not pleased when he and his siblings had run up one such account to $350 with cakes and other sweets being a major expense.  (Bob had a life long sweet tooth.)

For high school, Bob’s father sent him to Long Military Academy in New Bloomfield, PA where he learned the discipline of military life, though it is said he would sometimes sneak out after curfew to get pies.  He played quarterback on the football team.

Upon graduation Bob spent four years in the Navy, serving for two of those years on an aircraft carrier that travelled all over the Pacific Ocean. He worked in the boiler room where it was so hot the shifts were limited to four hours.

After being discharged from the Navy, Bob found his way to Parsippany where he found lodging in a boarding house, working part time assisting the manager.  He began attending the Parsippany Methodist Church – the little white church on the hill – where he sang bass in the choir.  It was there on Easter Sunday, 1959 that Bob and Marge first laid eyes on one another.  According to Bob, he knew then and there that they would one day marry.  Marge had previously sung in the choir, but was taking a break, but with this attractive young man now adding his voice she promptly joined back on to sing, though she made a point of playing “hard to get” in regard to Bob’s overtures.  From his friend Bob Dixon Bob got the low down on who the cute blond girl was, and where she lived.

Not long afterwards Bob happened to be driving in Marge’s neighborhood when he found her in the driveway washing her car.  Marge was wearing her short shorts, and she dashed back inside to get put on something more presentable become coming back out to talk with the young suitor.

Bob’s first attempt to ask Marge out on a date fell flat since Marge was already booked for a date with someone else, but Bob persisted.  Before long Bob got Marge to agree on their first date – they went bowling together. Beginning with the second date Bob began dropping comments in passing in which he would refer to some point in the future when they would be married.  At first Marge ignored these comments, not quite sure what to make of them, but before long it was clear where this romance was headed.

Bob and Marge had a lot of fun together.  They enjoyed going dancing at DeMao’s on Route 10.  Once in the summer of 1959 Bob and Marge went Square Dancing at a picnic at Mazdabrook Farm, and although they had never really square danced before, they won $50 that night as the couple that danced the best together. Interestingly, they used the money to open a joint savings account.  On New Year’s Eve of 1959 Bob and Marge stayed out so late at a party that exhausted they fell asleep in the driveway of Marge’s parents’ house.

In March of 1960 Bob took Marge out to dinner at Three Sisters on Route 46 in Dover, bringing along his sister Cookie and her husband Bubby.  Bubby’s job was to carry the impressive engagement ring Bob had bought for the occasion, which at the right moment Bob presented to Marge. “Will you marry me?” he asked.  Marge said “Yes!”

Six months later on September 3, 1960 Bob and Marge were married in the little white church on the hill.  Rev. Downing officiated, and afterwards 100 people gathered at the Birchwood Manor for a reception.  Following the wedding party Bob and Marge spent a romantic week in the Poconos staying at a honeymoon suite on Echo Lake.

Following their marriage, the new couple lived for a year with Marge’s mother and Father before moving out on their own to a house in Lake Parsippany at 100 Jacksonville Drive.  Bob had begun working for Sea Land in Newark in shipping and receiving.  He began working on the docks, but over time moved into the office.   On the side Gog attended Farleigh Dickinson steadily making his way towards a BA in business.  Over time Bob would eventually attain the position of Director of Internal Revenue.

Suzie was born in February of 1963 in the midst of a huge snow storm.  When the time came to go to the hospital Bob called the doctor and the minister and then proceeded to feverishly dig out the driveway, concluding by tossing the snow shovel like a javelin into the neighbor’s yard, whereupon he drove Marge to All Souls Hospital on Mt. Kimball Road in Morristown.

In September of 1964 the young family moved to the house on Northfield that would be home for the rest of Bob’s life.

Debbie was born two years after Sue in March of 1965, once more in a snow storm, but this time not quite as bad.   The rush to the hospital however was a bit more intense this time because Marge’s water had already broken at home.

Eric arrived six years later in June of 1971 — no snow storm this time, but Bob did manage to get stuck in an elevator.  When finally he made it to the waiting room, the doctor announced, “Your son has arrived.”

Bob and Marge gratefully received the gift of their three beautiful children and stood strong together through the scary times of parenting when their children dealt with health concerns or other troubles.   They always trusting that things would work out in the end; they were always a team. And along the way they were able to provide their children with wonderfully happy childhoods.

On summer evenings included outings where all the kids would get packed into the station wagon to go to the drive-in theater in Morris Plains, where the kids would play in the play ground until it was time for the movie to start, and then climb back into the car and promptly fall asleep.  After the drive home, Bob would carry them each into the house and put them to bed.

There were ice cream trips to O’Dowds in Pine Brook, followed by wanderings about the auction under the big tent.

There were tap dancing lessons for all the kids and, of course dance recitals.

From 1972 all the way through 1989, there were camping trips with their trailer for weekends and sometimes longer — to Tall Timbers in Vernon, where there was swimming, boating, fishing, softball, arcades, and dancing.  Friends like the Johnsons and the Beermans would visit and new friends would be made as they sat together around campfires.  There were trips to Vernon Valley, to Hershey Poconos and to Rocking Horse Ranch.

There was a trip to the World Fair in Montreal in 1967, and trips to Maine and Boston.  There were trips to the Jersey Shore; to Seaside, Point Pleasant and Wildwood for a week or two at a time.

There was a trip that was supposed to end up in Niagara Falls, but the old station wagon broke down in White Haven, Pennsylvania, providing a lesson in trust as the family found hospitality from a lovely couple that took them into their home for a couple of days and helped them get their car fixed.

The approach of Christmas always meant a trip to Pennsylvania to search for just the right tree.  Wandering about in a sea of trees the family would call out to one another about various possibilities, finally coming to agreement about the biggest tree they could find.  After tying the tree to the roof of the station wagon the ride home always included a stop at a diner for lunch.

On Christmas Eve, the family would always go to the candlelight service at the church, and then Bob and Marge would stay up to 3 a.m. playing Santa Claus.  Suzie would wake up at 4:30 and they would have to coax her back to bed, and then in the morning there were so many presents, and a bountiful dinner prepared by Marge with lots of company.

So many memories.  There was the Great Bat Caper with the Gilmores in which the wives and the children fled the house upon the sudden appearance of a bat, leading Bob and Tom to arm themselves with tennis rackets to bravely do battle to deliver the house of the bat invader.  There was a trip to the Statue of Liberty with the Gilmores when the Mortensen children were 10, 8 and 2 in which Bob carried little Eric all the way to the very top.

There were always beloved dogs around:  Patches, who beget Frosty; there was Brooks, Daisy and Princess.  At certain points Bob and Marge would breed Corinne Terriers, `bringing a litter of puppies into the house.

Through the years Bob and Marge sang in the choir at the church, passing on a love of music to Suzie.  They worked on Roast Beef Dinners and helped decorate the Church for Christmas.  The whole family looked forward to the monthly potluck family nights.   At a church talent show one time Bob and Marge sang an unforgettable duet of Maurice Chevalier’s “I remember.”

In Bob and Marge’s house, there was always room for others who needed a place to stay.  In 1987 Debbie’s friend Dee moved in and remained a part of the household fourteen years.

In 1990 Bob’s brother Siggy was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease so Bob brought him into their home where he and Marge looked after him for ten months.

When Bob retired in 1992 the boating chapter of Bob’s life began, as he and Marge bought a 33 ft boat with a closed cabin and cockpit in the back, with which they would cruise around Barnaget and Seaside. Later there would be a 40 ft cabin cruiser that needed a lot of work. Weekends were spent from Thursday through Monday in their “floating hotel” at the shore, where Bob perpetually worked to restore and fix up the boat.

Around 2003 Bob got certified to scuba dive.  Unfortunately Marge’s health began to decline, so there wasn’t much opportunity to engage in this new adventure as trips away became from home became less frequent.  In the last year of her life Bob was always at Marge’s side, so devoted, so faithful.

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Bob was there at Marge’s bedside along with the rest of the family, when Marge left this earth on October 21st, 2006 after 46 years of marriage.

This past week when Bob died, Sue found in her father’s wallet a picture of Bob and Marge on the day of their wedding.

In his later years Bob adopted yet another dog from the pound, feeling drawn to one particular sweet, quiet dog.  After he had chosen the dog, he found out that, mysteriously the name of the dog was “Marge.” The dog would respond to no other name.

Bob adored his grandchildren:  Suzy and Nick’s daughter Natasha close at hand here in New Jersey, and then Eric and Isabelle’s boys Tyler and Ryan, to whom Bob would travel to Florida to be present for their birthdays, bringing along his dog with whom the boys particularly enjoyed playing.

Bob was a gentle and kind man devoted to his family, consistently offering himself in service to others, always willing to lend a helping hand. He would take neighbors to doctors’ appointments, or travel an hour to pick up a friend of Debbie’s who was stranded.

Bob was a faithful member of Saint Johns Masonic Lodge for over fifty years, where served for many years as the chaplain, visiting fellow lodge members in the hospital, saying prayers with them.  By his bedside he kept prayers he had written in that capacity.

He loved children, and for twenty years in retirement Bob worked as a crossing guard, safely shepherding children across the road.

In his later years as a widower Bob enjoyed the companionship of Terecita Vaca, and when she became sick, once again Bob was the attentive caregiver until her passing in March of 2016.

Bob was always a very hard worker — active and fit right up until he recently became sick. He found it hard to sit still and would think nothing of driving himself all the way down to Florida to see Eric, Isabelle and the boys.  Just this past June Bob made a trip with Suzie, Nick and Natasha to Hawaii where he enjoyed walking all over the beautiful islands in that ocean he had spent so much time in long ago in his years in the Navy.

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