Monday, March 21, 2011

My Uncle Bob

When I started this blog in January, I had never intended for it to become an outlet for personal information.  It was meant to be a means by which I could post stories and pictures of stuff I happened across when out in the woods for research and fun. 

Those silly stories and pictures seem alittle trivial now. 
Last week, I recieved a call from my dad, Michael (Max to anyone who knows him well).  My Uncle Bob (Bobby Lee Kapfer) had passed away the night before due to a blood clot in his lung.  He was 77 years old and living in Black River Falls, Wisconsin.  He had fought with one or two blood clots in recent weeks, but had managed to get through them.  In fact, it's my understanding that everyone thought he was more or less in the clear until the last clot showed itself.  It was this latest one...the one that formed in his lung..... that doctors could not seem to get rid of.

The picture at the top of this entry shows my dad's three brothers.  It was taken in 1940 on the family farm outside of Neillsville, Wisconsin.  My dad hadn't been born at the time this picture was taken, so he's not present. From left to right they are, my Uncle Bill (11 years old in the pic), my Unlce Dick (5 years old) and my Uncle Bob (7 years old and eating an apple).  Also pictured are their dogs at the time: Tarzan (the big one) and Prince (the little one). 

I love this picture.  I remember it from my parent's house and asked them to send me a copy recently.

My uncle joined the Airforce at the start of the Korean War (around 1950).  He was 17 at the time, and my grandma (Elsie) and grandpa (Happy Lee) had to sign consent papers to allow him to enter.  My grandma later said it was one of the hardest things she had ever done.  I still can't imagine the nerve it must have taken a teenage boy to enlist in the armed forces with a war going on.  I know I don't have that kind of gumption...neither do most of the teenagers I've met in recent memory. 

Uncle Bob went through basic training in San Antonio, and was a radio operator on a B29-Bomber.  He never went to the war in Korea, however.  Due to an ear infection, the Airforce "grounded" him (much to the relief of my grandparents, I'm sure).

He ended up being stationed in Topeka, Kansas, where he met and married my aunt (Mary Ellen) in 1953.  My Uncle Dick was the only member of the family who could make the wedding (grandparents had a working farm, Uncle Bill was working and my dad was a kid) and drove from Wisconsin to be the best man.  Eventually, after living in a few various places (I believe Albuquerque, NM at one time, and Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin) my Aunt and Uncle settled in Black River Fall, WI and had three kids (my cousins): Lynda, Ken and Chris.

Uncle Bob was an avid hunter and fisherman for most of his life.  He enjoyed the outdoors.  Although I never went hunting with he and my cousins....I think enjoying outdoor recreatiton must be in my family DNA.

Above is a picture from last year (2010).  I believe it was taken at my Uncle Bob's birthday.  This picture shows the adult versions of those little tow-headed kids in the shot at the top of this entry, with the addition of my dad.  Left to right, they are: Uncle Bill, Uncle Bob, Uncle Dick, and Dad.

I hadn't talked to my Uncle in too many years.  My aunt Mary Ellen passed away a few years ago.  Several months after her passing, my dad and I went to visit Uncle Bob (I still lived in Wisconsin at that time).  We got to spend the day with him, my cousins and their families, and had a great time.  I'm so very glad we did that.  I only wish we had did it more.  He came to visit my parents for alittle while not long after that, and also stopped by to visit my wife and I.   I'm also glad for that time. 

Although I saw them all frequently when I was a kid, I saw them less-often as I grew older.  Mostly this is because my time became consumed with the dumb crap that I thought was so important when I was in high school/college.  After college, my time became consumed with the responsibilities that come from adulthood........I wish that wasn't the case.

I could write about what a great guy he was.  But everyone who's reading this knows I wouldn't be posting about him if he wasn't.  I don't need to write out the full story about how (approximately 10 years ago), my cousin Chris and I took a top-heavy canoe out on a cool mid-October afternoon, with Uncle Bob fishing from the shore.  About how I dug in too deep with an oar in one stroke, snapped the oar and we flipped the canoe.  I don't need to tell you about how damn cold the water was, and how bogged down we were in our soaking wet sweatshirts and shoes while trying to swim the canoe to the other side of the lake....or about how Uncle Bob (who had been watching us from shore), drove his car around the lake, knocked on someone's door (I think he knew them, but not that well), asked if they would mind taking their pontoon boat out on the lake...and showed up just as we hauled our shivering, soaking butts out of the water onto a doc to pick us up.

If I started telling stories like that, you'd be reading all day.

It was after his passing that I, randomly, did an internet search...using his full name... and found very little.  In our overly digitized, computerized, and technical Uncle barely existed.  His life is barely known about, outside of those who were related to him, his friends, or in the words of an obituary that will likely only be read by relatives and friends.  I found that particularly disturbing.  There are entire generations of individuals that may....some day...cease to be part of our cultural record because we have not kept track of them digitally.

Now, this wont happen to my Uncle Bob.  At least for as long as my blog lasts.  If someone searches for Bobby Lee Kapfer on Google, I hope something will show up and the people that read the entry will know about my uncle.


  1. Hey man,

    Just finally clicked the link you sent about that cartoon, and then saw this.

    I'm so very sorry to read the news. Please give my best to your Dad and his family, and let me know if I can do anything for you.

    All my best,


  2. Sorry to hear about your uncle. Doesn't hurt to get a little sidetracked especially for something like this. Best wishes.

  3. Hey Joe,

    Thanks alot.

    I enjoy your blog, btw.

    You'll noticed I've put it on my bloglist...

    Have a good evening

  4. Josh, my grandpa sent me your blog earlier today. What you do is really interesting. Also, reading about Uncle Bob was great, he will certainly be missed by our family. I hope you are well man, maybe we will run into eachother at a family event in the near future.


  5. Hi Drake!

    Good to hear from you. Been quite awhile.

    I hope we'll see you soon and that all is well with you!

  6. -Oh JoshieFafer, what a wonderful honor you have given Uncle Bob with this blog. I think about how much it will mean to Lynda, Ken & Chris especially.
    I wish you could have been with us on Monday. It was really wonderful and long overdue to be with your Little Sissy and of course Uncle Max & Aunt Judy. They all came prepared to Show(pics)&Tell(fun stories)Violet! We need to See&Hold-now...real soon!
    -It really was a wonderful and meaningful to celebrate and remember our Uncle Bobby with all who gathered in Black River Falls on Monday. I learned that he was quite a horseman-as he played Cowboy Polo while in San Antonia! I just learned from you that my Dad was the only one to make it out to his wedding-I'm so glad! I'll bet that was a happy reunion and I'm going to place my order now to see that reel for Movie Night in Heaven :o)
    -During the service the Pastor opened it up to all of us to share a memory or something about Bobby Lee. I remembered going to a Race Track because he was part of the Dick Trickle Race Team...and I remember that watch he always wore for years with the big round face :o) The memory I shared, which is my favorite, is when Uncle Bobby would ask me to dance at Wedding Receptions. I was always so excited about Receptions because I knew at some point Uncle Bobby was going to ask me if I'd like to dance-and then he was going to prance me around that floor in and out of everyone. It always made me feel so special.
    Uncle Bobby--always sweet to me.
    -So since I'm all teary and sniffly, Little Cousin, please give my love to Your Girls…and I sure do look forward to seeing You.
    Kiss Kiss - KuzinKelly :o)
    ps-I took some photos and video on Monday that should arrive in Inboxes today or tomorrow…so be watching…and if you have the photos you posted here scanned and could send them to me…I’d be grateful. :o)