Robert E. Martinka, 89, of Chanhassen entered eternal life on January 23, 2022. He died at home with his family by his side and wrapped in prayer.
“Bob” was born on December 1, 1932 in Lucan, Minnesota to Herbert and Agnes (Steffl) Martinka. He grew up in New Ulm with his older sister and brother and graduated from Holy Trinity High School. As a teenager, Bob played trumpet for school and town bands and was part of some of the big bands that performed at the Kato Ballroom, owned by his father. As student coordinator of the Holy Mother Solidarity Organization, Bob represented his school on a student pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, a profound spiritual experience that impacted his journey in the Catholic faith throughout throughout his life.
He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in English and Education from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, and a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis.
Bob met Diane Louise Lockwood at a teachers’ conference near Alexandria – saw her lead a choir and was hooked from the start. They were married on June 16, 1958 at Holy Trinity Church in New Ulm and lived the first two years in Malta while Bob was on a faculty exchange under a Fulbright scholarship scheme. Over 62 years, they have built a strong, loving and enduring partnership and a rich legacy, including seven daughters and two sons. Bob was a dedicated caregiver to Diane, who graciously lived with Parkinson’s disease for 30 years before passing away in December 2020.
Bob taught high school in several districts; served as school principal at Eden Prairie; Superintendent of St. Cloud’s Regional Center for Educational Services; and school principal in Mukwonago, WI and Proctor, MN. He has worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, DC and as a Rural Ventures project manager for Control Data; managed a United States census team; participated in several joint ventures in the areas of mediation services and technologies; and started a small business known as “Porcelain Portraits” out of love for decorative plates.
Bob was a handyman. Even in his senior year, he cut tree branches, mowed the yard, insisted on doing all the snow removal, baked corn muffins, and made homemade soups that always simmered on the stove for passing visitors. He helped build sets for parish theater productions, volunteered for the local food aisle and enjoyed driving the campaign.
A devout man of faith and longtime member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Excelsior, he served there as a lector and initiated the Feast of Divine Mercy devotion for the parish after attending the canonization by Pope John Paul II from Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska in 2000. in Rome, Italy.
Bob is survived by his children, Mary Martinka-Haun (Jim), Benedict Martinka (Anesha), Teresa Simonett (Mike), Elizabeth Mancini (Jim), Robert C. Martinka (Ann), Birdie Breiner (Michael), Amy Knebel (Bob), Julie Severson (Mike) and Katie Stricklin (Jason); his sister-in-law Phyllis Martinka; and a large and beautiful clan of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his wife, parents, sister Sr. Agnes (Joan) Martinka, brother Jerome, stepmother Agnes Kernan and half-sister Kay Kelly.
Funeral services will be held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 680 Mill Street, Excelsior, MN 55331 on Friday, January 28, with public visitation at 10:30 a.m., a rosary service, and then a Christian burial mass at 11 a.m. :30 AM, with internment at Resurrection Cemetery, Shorewood, immediately afterwards. Light lunch to follow in the church gathering area. Commemorative suggestions: St. John’s Church, Sharing & Caring Hands, or one of the Right to Life services.