Robert “Bob” Leo O’Donnell

May 18, 1929
April 22, 2020

Robert “Bob” Leo O’Donnell passed away peacefully April 22, 2020 surrounded by his loving family. He was just weeks shy of his 91st birthday. 

Born May 18, 1929 to Leo and Rose O’Donnell, he was later raised by his grandparents, Augustine and Mary O’Donnell in Waterloo, Iowa.  Bob graduated from Marquette University in 1951 where he studied philosophy and journalism. While at Marquette he was enrolled in the Naval ROTC Program, and was commissioned as an Ensign upon graduation. After Marquette, he proudly served on the U.S.S. Boxer during the Korean conflict.   

During his time at Marquette, Bob met the great love of his life, Shirley Ann Buresh, while on a blind date at the Eagles Ballroom. The jukebox was broken, and they danced to Sinatra’s “Don’t Cry Joe” all night.  The rest was (their) history.  After marrying on December 27, 1952, they moved to Allouez, where they raised their five children in a house filled with love and wonderful memories. Many happy summers were spent at the cottage in Sand Bay.  

Bob was involved in numerous volunteer activities throughout his life including the Boy Scouts, Habitat for Humanity, food pantries and St. Willebrord Parish, where he ushered for over 50 years.  He retired as transportation manager for the Larsen Company in 1991. 

He was an avid gardener known for his beautiful rose gardens. Bob became a master gardener later in life, spending countless hours in his gardens each day. He loved the beauty of nature and caring for the birds each morning in his yard.  Bob enjoyed woodworking, and his many toys and furniture remain treasured by family and friends.  He was a lifelong learner, voracious reader, and crossword puzzle extraordinaire. Music was a central part of his life, which he shared with his children, ensuring they all took music lessons from an early age. He loved going to dinner and concerts each week of the summer with his dear niece, Marianne.  

After the passing of his wife, Bob continued to organize monthly lunch dates with many of Shirley’s friends. He perfected the art of letter writing, mailing many handwritten notes each week to friends, authors and public figures who’s work he admired. His weekly notes of encouragement and wisdom were greatly appreciated by his grandchildren.  Bob would often tell them he wished he “could be dust in their pocket” to see where their lives would take them.  His grandchildren have fond memories of days spent learning how to fish, picnics in the park and riding the tilt-a-whirl at Bay Beach.  He loved to travel with Shirley throughout the country, and he continued to travel to see his loved ones after she passed.  Bob cherished time spent with his family.  He delighted in the lives of everyone, and found joy and happiness in the simplest of things.  When he would often tell someone, “You made my day,” he truly meant it.  

He was a man of deep faith and lived his life based on the Jesuit teachings and traditions to serve others and find God in all things. He incorporated these principles into his daily life, exemplifying goodness, grace and dignity in the face of life’s challenges. He lived each day with gratitude. 

Bob was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Shirley. He is survived by his children; Bob (Jean), Green Bay, WI, Tom (Sue) Edmond, OK, Cathy (Brad) Gerdes, Mequon, WI, Mary Beth (Ryan) McKibben, Denver, CO and Peg Bruemmer of Lathrop, CA, along with 9 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren, and his special niece who he always referred to as his “other” daughter, Marianne Herlache.  He is further survived by his brother John (Shirley) of Blairsden, CA, nieces and nephews. 

The family would like to express their deepest gratitude to Dr. Jason Hoppe and the Prevea team who took such wonderful care of Dad (and Mom) over the years as well as the Unity Hospice staff and the amazing team of caregivers at New Perspective-Howard (Betty’s Harbor) who provided such kind and compassionate care to Dad during this journey. We, like Dad, are forever grateful to you all! 

Memorials can be made to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Pediatric Oncology or the charity of your choice. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, services will be held at a later date.  Proko-Wall Funeral Home is assisting the family.  To send online condolences visit  

One of Bob’s favorite quotes was from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s, “The Little Prince”…


In one of the stars

I shall be living

In one of them

I shall be laughing

And so it will be

As if all the stars

Were laughing

When you look

At the sky at night


And in the stars Bob will be at peace, and continue to be dust in the pockets of all those that continue to love him dearly.