Robert Edward Martinka, 89, of Chanhassen, entered eternal life on Jan. 23. He passed away at home with family at his side and enveloped in prayer.
“Bob” was born on Dec. 1, 1932, in Lucan, Minn., to Herbert and Agnes (Steffl) Martinka. He grew up in New Ulm along with his older sister and brother and graduated from Holy Trinity High School. As a teenager, Bob played the trumpet for school and city groups and sat in with some of the big bands that performed at the Kato Ballroom, which his father owned.
As student coordinator for the Blessed 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 the rest of his life.
He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in English and education from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis.
Bob met Diane Louise Lockwood at a teacher’s conference near Alexandria. He saw her directing a choir and was smitten at the get-go.
On June 16, 1958, they married at Holy Trinity Church in New Ulm. They lived the first two years in Malta while Bob was on a faculty exchange program as part of a Fulbright Scholarship program. Over 62 years, they built a strong, loving, persevering partnership and rich legacy, including seven daughters and two sons.
Bob was a devoted caretaker 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 a school principal in Eden Prairie; superintendent of Regional Education Services Center in St. Cloud; and school superintendent in Mukwonago, Wis., and Proctor, Minn.
He worked as a legislative aide in Washington, D.C., and as rural ventures project manager for Control Data; managed a U.S. Census team; participated in several joint ventures in the mediation services and technology fields; and started a small business known as “Portraits in Porcelain” out of his love for decorative plates.
Bob was a do-it-yourself guy.
Even in his final year, he was cutting down tree branches, mowing the yard, insisting on doing all the snow removal, baking corn muffins, and whipping together homemade soups, always simmering on the stovetop for stop-by visitors. He helped with set construction for parish theatre productions, volunteered with the local food-shelf, and loved driving the countryside.
A man of devout faith and a longtime member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Excelsior, he served as a lector. He initiated the Feast of the Divine Mercy devotion for the parish after attending Pope John Paul II’s 2000 canonization of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska 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 big, beautiful clan of grandkids, great-grandkids, and nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, parents, sister Sr. Agnes (Joan) Martinka, brother Jerome, stepmother Agnes Kernan, and stepsister Kay Kelly.
Funeral services will be held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 680 Mill St., Excelsior, on Friday, Jan. 28, with public visitation at 10:30 a.m., rosary service, and then Mass of Christian Burial at 11:30 a.m., with interment at Resurrection Cemetery, Shorewood, immediately after.
Light lunch to follow in the church’s Gathering Space. Memorial suggestions: St. John’s Church, Sharing & Caring Hands, or one of the Right to Life services.