Robert died peacefully at Lakeview Hospital on August 16, 2022, surrounded by family, shortly after receiving the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Up to admission to the hospital, he was active and independent while fighting kidney cancer. The family is grateful to the compassionate Lakeview staff who provided excellent care and eased his pain.
In some of his last words, Rob expressed deep gratitude for the blessings in his 93 years of life.
Rob was born to James and Grace Rafferty in Saint Paul, Minnesota on August 2, 1929. He was the youngest of five children. His much loved siblings and their spouses have preceded him in death: Eileen (Clarence “Bud”) Gangl, George (Elizabeth “Betty”), Richard “Dick” (Margaret “Mark”), and Grace Marie (Robert “Bob”) Nord.
He grew up on the East Side of Saint Paul, and always held fond memories of his grade school classmates at St John’s. Although he attended Harding High School, Rob transferred to and graduated from Nazareth Hall as he considered becoming a priest. Still trying to discern his career, Rob attended and graduated from General College at the University of Minnesota.
After the U of M, Rob followed his sister Eileen and brother-in-law Bud to Galveston, Texas, where Bud worked in engineering. There, Rob met the love of his life Margaret “Peggy” Brooks, a lifelong resident of Galveston.
In 1954, Rob found his calling as he joined the U.S. Air Force. He trained as a bombardier and navigator, before becoming a pilot. Rob felt at home cruising in the cockpit of a fighter jet—and especially loved flying the F100.
Rob and Peggy married on October 28, 1955, in Galveston. Over the course of Rob’s Air Force career, they enjoyed living many places, including: Austin, TX; Mariana, FL; Greenville, MS; Phoenix, AZ; Okinawa, Japan (where son Richard was born); Clovis, NM; Tokyo, Japan (where daughter Susan was born); and Alexandria, Virginia. During his career, he was also on many temporary duty assignments (TDYs) throughout Asia.
Rob was a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving as an intelligence officer and achieving the rank of Major. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service at Military Air Command-Vietnam headquarters.
After retiring from the Air Force, Rob relocated the family to Stillwater, Minnesota to be near his parents and siblings and pursued a second career in real estate.
Later in life, Rob channeled his incredible energy into volunteer work. For many years, he served as an usher at the 11 am mass at St. Michael’s Catholic Church. He was also dedicated to supporting individuals and families facing the challenges of mental illness. The friendships he made through NAMI brought him great joy. Coordinating with HSI (n/k/a Canvas Health), he worked to provide furniture and household goods to those transitioning to independent living. Rob helped move furniture well into his 80’s! Although he was recognized several times for his outstanding volunteer contributions, Rob wasn’t one to boast.
With love and practicing patience, Rob acted as a champion for his son Rick through his journey with mental illness. He also was a steadfast guide to his daughter Susan and son-in-law Kevin Mencke. Rob was also a devoted and proud grandfather to granddaughter Brooks Mencke and grandson Reed Mencke, acting as their biggest cheerleader in life and showering them with endless love.
Rob enjoyed being a part of St. Andrew’s Village independent living in Mahtomedi in his last years. He remained active with countless projects and boundless energy.
He is survived by his wife Peggy, son Richard, daughter Susan, son-in-law Kevin Mencke, and grandchildren Brooks and Reed. He leaves many beloved nieces and nephews, and countless friends.
Mass of Christian Burial Wednesday, August 24 at 11 am at St. Jude of the Lake Catholic Church, 700 Mahtomedi Ave, Mahtomedi, with visitation starting at 10 am. Please wear bright colors to cherish Rob’s vibrancy. Interment St. Michael’s Cemetery, Bayport. Memorials preferred to NAMI Minnesota.