Robert Clive Menard, age 87, of Rockville, Connecticut, loving husband of Mary Lou (Kolar) Menard, passed away peacefully with Mary Lou at his side on Thursday December 27, 2018. Robert was born in February 1931 in Sioux City, Iowa to the late Arthur and Mary Viola “Vi” (Beeson) Menard.
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Robert was a 1949 graduate of Central High School in St. Paul, Minnesota – where he excelled on the pommel horse at the All City Gymnastics Championship – and a 1953 graduate of the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul. While at the College of St. Thomas, Robert completed the Reserve Officer Training Corps program and earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics. After completing college, Robert entered the United States Air Force (USAF) as a commissioned officer and was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota during the Korean Conflict. At the end of his service, Robert was honorably discharged from the USAF as a First Lieutenant. Years later, Robert returned to school to earn his Master of Business Administration from the University of Connecticut in 1972 while simultaneously helping to raise his 12 children.
After beginning a family and career in Minnesota, Robert was one of thousands of professionals who answered the call of President Kennedy's challenge to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In 1963, he moved with Mary Lou and their seven children (their “Minnesota family”) to Connecticut, eventually settling in Rockville where Robert started his career working as an engineer supporting the United States space program. While living in Connecticut, Robert and Mary Lou added five more children to their brood (their “Connecticut family”).
For most of his distinguished career, Robert was an aerospace engineer in the Space and Sea Systems Division of Hamilton Standard (now “Sundstrand”). At Hamilton, Robert proudly served on the engineering teams that created space travel life support backpacks for generations of astronauts traveling to the moon and beyond, stretching from Apollo moon landings through several Space Shuttle missions. Later in his career, Robert transitioned to training, becoming a certified instructor teaching Clean Room Technology and Quality Assurance to new engineers. Between stints at Hamilton, Robert also served as an engineer at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, where he worked on the critical infrastructure supporting our nation’s Submarine Corps.
While Robert’s vocation was physics and engineering, his passions were reading, learning, and engaging in the civic process of our country. He honorably served his local community on the Vernon Town Council and the Vernon Board of Education. Robert was a staunch Democrat who never missed an opportunity to vote and treated voting as a sacred right. He taught his children the importance of service and giving back to the community. He loved libraries and bookstores, reading and collecting books voraciously. Throughout his life, Robert subscribed to and read several local and national newspapers every day. His children and grandchildren fondly remember that one of his favorite responses when asked a question in the pre-Google era was “Go look it up.”
After retirement, Robert continued his public service, volunteering in Vernon by providing tax preparation services for seniors and teaching the “55 Alive” safe driving course through AARP. In retirement, Robert also volunteered as the State Training Coordinator for AARP, and tutored math for individuals studying for GEDs. For several years, Robert maintained an active and passionate commitment to his clowning hobby, delighting children throughout the area through performances as his clown alter ego “Rumpus.” Until he was no longer able, Robert remained an active congregant and Lay Eucharistic Minister at St. Bernard’s Church in Rockville and later at Sacred Heart Church in Vernon, often bringing communion to the homes of those who were too sick or frail to attend Mass.
Robert is survived by his wife of 65 years, Mary Lou, and his twelve children and their spouses: Mary Metheny (Jeff), Paul Menard (Sigrid), Peter Menard-Warwick (Julia), Kate Menard (Eric Robinson), Julie Menard (Steve Lane), Tricia Allen (Dave), Jeanne Santacroce (Mike), Tom Menard (Deanna), Sarah Grady (Dan), Susan Eriksen (Matthew), Margie Menard, and Barbara Menard (Heidi Clark), in addition to 19 grandchildren and one great grandchild. Robert was predeceased by his sister, Mary Anne (Grade) Pietrzkowski, to whom he was very close and shared a lifelong special bond, as well as Mary Anne’s first husband, Arnold “Ned” Grade. Robert is survived by Mary Anne’s four children: Christopher, Anne Marie, Andrew, and Jeremy, as well as Mary Anne’s loving husband Anthony “Tony” Pietrzkowski, with whom he shared a friendship of over forty years.
Robert’s family would like to express their sincere appreciation to all of the staff at Welles Country Village and Woodlake at Tolland, as well as to the Hospice team from ECHN/Visiting Nurse and Health Services of Connecticut, for their patient, loving care of Robert over the last years of his life.
Relatives and friends are welcome to join the family from 4:00-7:00 PM on Thursday, January 17 at the Burke Fortin Funeral Home (76 Prospect St, Rockville, Connecticut). Mary Lou will be present at the calling hours from 4:30-6:30 PM. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11:00 AM on Friday, January 18 at St. Bernard’s Church (25 St. Bernard Terrace in Rockville, Connecticut). Burial to follow at Elmwood Cemetery in Vernon, Connecticut. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Save a Family Plan at https://safp.org/ or The Cornerstone Foundation in Rockville, Connecticut at https://www.cornerstone-cares.org/, For online condolences please visit: www.pietrasfuneralhome.com