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Dr Robert Weidenhamer



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Robert “Bob” Weidenhamer passed away peacefully at Danbury Hospital on March 1, 2019, from complications of Parkinson’s Dementia at the age of 91.

He is survived by his wife, Dr Linda Weidenhamer; his children, David Weidenhamer of Orangevale, Calif., and Judy Weidenhamer Parks of Great Falls, Mont.; his niece, Gail Hansen of Citrus Heights, Calif.; and his stepchildren, David Wilhite of Bandon, Ore., Michael Wilhite of Westcliffe, Colo., Chris Wilhite of Knoxville, Tenn., Greg Wilhite of Tulalip, Wash., Dr Ian Forsyth of Kailua, Hawaii, and Andrea Forsyth of Danbury.

Bob was predeceased by his stepson, Michael Forsyth of Burbank, Calif.

Bob was born in Corvallis, Ore., on September 13, 1927, to James Linwood Weidenhamer and Carol Griswold Weidenhamer. The family soon moved to North Hollywood, Calif., where Bob grew up in the home built by his father.

Bob’s voice was heard. At the age of 9, he auditioned and was selected to be one of 25 boys to sing in the Hollywood Boys’ Choir. A family treasure is the 1936 letter from the choir’s director, Hal Crain, praising the success of the choir’s debut performance in the Hollywood Bowl to an audience of 40,000 people. At the age of 11, Bob was earning money singing in the Hollywood Bowl with Robert Preston (of The Music Man) and also providing the voice for the cartoon chipmunks in the movies.

The Depression’s impact reached kids, too. At the age of 8, Bob had a paper route that included the homes of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope; at the age of 10, Bob was sweeping the floor of the Merry-Go-Round at Santa Monica Beach; and at age 11, he was working in the local grocery market.

Bob’s love of airplanes and flying started with the walks he took with his dad to the end of the Burbank Airport, where they watched the planes landing and taking off. Those days watching the planes together inspired his determination to become a pilot. When Bob was only 13, his father died, and Bob was expected to take care of the family.

At age 14, and in high school, Bob joined California’s State Guard Infantry, which later became the California National Guard. These youth were America’s eyes and ears, watching the coastline from the hills, searching for submarines from Japan. They were also assigned neighborhoods to warn in the event of a sighting. By the time Bob was 16, he was still going to school, but also working at Lockheed Aircraft, building B-17s on swing shift, doing his part to provide support for the family.

Bob served his country. After graduation, he enlisted in the US Navy and served that last year of World War II. After discharge, he worked at United Airlines while taking classes at Los Angeles Community College. Two years later, with G.I. Bill funds, he entered the University of Southern California (USC) and promptly joined the Air Force ROTC program. He graduated in 1953, a Second Lieutenant with a bachelor of science degree in commercial aviation. Assigned to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Bob flew throughout the Pacific to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Pearl Harbor, and Travis Air Force Base in California. Eventually, Bob was assigned to the University of Detroit to teach Air Science and train cadets to become pilots in the Air Force ROTC program. He was also on duty at Wayne State University and was the last of the ROTC instructors there to leave Wayne State University when it ended its ROTC program.

After leaving the Air Force in 1962, Bob began a career in teaching and administration at the school and district levels. Bob continued to work and take classes, earning his masters and his doctoral degrees. He taught at many grade levels and served as a school principal. At the district administration level, he served in various positions, including Director of Elementary Education and Curriculum Development, Director of State and Federal Categorical Programs, Director of Summer School, and also of Adult Education. During those years, he hired Linda Forsyth away from the classroom to implement a new “school-within-a-school” Gifted And Talented Education program (GATE). Linda left the district after three years coordinating the program at several schools to manage the GATE program for the State of California. Bob and Linda would meet again, though, many years later.

When Bob retired in 1988, he did not really retire. He had written an important grant that was funded, and the district called him back to develop and run his new creation. It was a public-private partnership of hospitals, state and county social service agencies, the school district, local volunteers, and others that used portable school classrooms provided by the school district to house a Medical and Family Services Clinic that would serve low-income families located on an elementary school campus. The clinic served as a model for State Legislators and the Governor’s Office, as they worked to take this idea statewide. They were successful; the Healthy Start Initiative passed the Legislature and was fully funded.

In 1994, Bob’s clinic was asked to become a partner in a new California Local Area Service Partnership (CLASP) that would compete for one of the new AmeriCoprs community service partnership grants to be awarded through a grand process in each state. The clinic became a CLASP partner, and they won a grant in a California competition that added a cadre of trained AmeriCorps Members, who gave the expanding clinic much needed reach and service capacity.

In 1998, the executive director and three program officers for California’s AmeriCorps Commission were invited by the partnership to come speak at an awards ceremony. That director was Linda, and that accidental meeting brought those two — now older and both widowed — former colleagues together. They fell in love; decided to both retire; traveled to select their new place to live; chose Connecticut, where Linda’s daughter and family lived; bought a house on a promontory in beautiful Falls Village; returned to Sacramento, where they held their celebratory wedding on a former Mississippi River boat that had been brought to Old Sacramento to ply the Sacramento River; and yes... they did live happily ever after, in Falls Village and later at Liberty at Newtown in the beautiful State of Connecticut.

A memorial service and celebration of the well-lived life of Robert Weidenhamer will be held on Saturday, June 1, at 11 am, in the Newtown Congregational Church, 14 West Street. Bob is gone from our sight, but not from our lives. He reminds us now, as he always did, that love is everything.

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