Robert Eugene Bartels, 78, of South Bend, died in the afternoon on July 17th.
Bob was born on May 29, 1937 to the late Martin H. and Verna K. (Conklin) Bartels in Zanesville, Ohio. Bob was a 51 year employee of Martin’s Super Markets. His wife Nancy was a daughter of the company’s founders, the late Jane (Cary) and Martin Tarnow. Bob served as president & CEO of Martin’s beginning in 1973, and as Chairman beginning in 2005.
Bob and Nancy were married on February 1, 1964 in South Bend, Indiana. Surviving are their daughter, Amy Jo (Jim) Stoll of Winnetka, IL; son, Rob Bartels of South Bend; seven grandchildren, Robert, Andrew and William Bartels, and James, Samantha, Emma and Nancy Jo Stoll; and two sisters-in-law, Suellen Leslie of Kitty Hawk, NC and Liz Meyer of DeKalb, IL. Bob was predeceased by his wife, Nancy; and a brother, Richard.
Bob attended DeKalb High School and Purdue University ,where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1959. He joined General Electric and served in assignments in various east coast cities. While visiting a fraternity brother in South Bend in 1962, Bob met Nancy on a blind date. They married and settled in Providence, Rhode Island.
In 1964, Martin and Jane Tarnow offered Bob an opportunity to join Martin’s Super Markets as a right-hand executive with the company. With Nancy as a partner and trusted confidante, Bob led Martin’s Super Markets through many challenges and changes during his tenure. Under his leadership, the company grew from a “mom & pop” business into a fully functioning corporation and the Martin’s Team grew, developed, and matured into a professional, innovative team. The company added 19 new stores, relocated six, and completed countless updates and remodeling projects under his watch. He also oversaw the introductions of many of the company’s most popular features, such as Side Door Deli Cafes, Starbucks Coffee kiosks, catering and more.
Bob also served his community and industry in many roles, including past trustee of Stanley Clark School; past director of St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce; past director of YMCA; past trustee of Project Future; and various titles, including chairman, of the Food Marketing Institute. He was instrumental in expanding Martin’s commitment to its communities, with fundraisers such as Heat for Homes, Roofsit, Advantages for Education and student scholarship programs, both public and private.
Bob enjoyed golf, skiing and piloting his planes. He was a devoted husband and loving father and grandfather to his children and grandchildren. He was an inspiration and source of encouragement and friendship to his colleagues at Martin’s, which number in the thousands.
Bob was a man gifted with an powerful intellect and an ability to understand great complexities, reduce them into simple concepts and put them to work. He was a steward and defined his responsibilities expansively. He was careful with resources because every penny represented customer and employee trust, effort, and satisfaction. He lived the American Dream fully; his commitment to personal excellence, education, demanding workloads, and his ability to turn opportunity into accomplishment were inspiring. His hard work, commitment to high personal standards of conduct, and seemingly tireless effort and engagement, were his way of showing his love for his family, colleagues, and friends.
Bob was also a man of immense bravery. The unpretentious, simple, and direct kind. He had multiple sclerosis which was diagnosed over twenty years ago. He faced it and made it as invisible and inconsequential as possible. He treated it like any other problem, not a disability, and problems can be answered. He only gave ground in millimeters and even those closest to him were protected from the depth of his challenges. And no, he did not need help very often. Thank you very much!
He will be missed by family, colleagues and friends who knew him for both his brilliance in the business world and his wit and wisdom as it applied to life. He was a good man. An unassuming hero. A gentleman.
Funeral services for Bob will be held at 5:30 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at Sunnyside Presbyterian Church, 115 W. Frances Street, South Bend, where friends may visit with the family from 1:00 - 5:00 pm. Private burial will be held on Thursday at Riverview Cemetery, South Bend. Palmer Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be left for the family at www.palmerfuneralhomes.com.
In lieu of flowers honorary donations, for multiple sclerosis research, can be made to: University of Texas HSC Houston, ℅ Lucie Lambert, Department of Neurology, 6431 Fannin St, Suite 7.044, Houston TX 77030.