Robert Mahnke

Robert Mahnke

Died March 17, 2013

Bob was a Renaissance man of sorts. His medical history has been described as more interesting than most people’s lives. He survived: being gored by a bull, twelve years on dialysis, a hip replacement, two kidney transplants, and sixty-three days in intensive care for Aspergillosis. However, illness did not define Bob; it was the remarkable life he lived.

Bob came to Yale from Milwaukee Country Day School and graduated from Yale in 1967 with a B.A.

His working days were spent outside, in all weather, ankle-deep in manure as a livestock bro ker at the Milwaukee Stockyards where he ran John P Bruemmer & Sons.

Beyond work, Bob’s main passion was racing sailboats. This hobby grew into helping run the Milwaukee Yacht Club, where, over the years, he held every position on its board from director, to commodore, but his chief focus was junior sailing, and he spent years running the junior program and foundation.

Bob reported in the class book and directory for our 25th reunion in 1990 that he had been elected president (in perpetuity) of the Milwaukee Livestock Exchange and observed: “ For twenty-two years, I have worked in the family business, loving it and hating it in turn. We broker twenty million dollars worth of cattle and calves a year, providing a market for farmers from five states…I race sailboats for relaxation… What should be obvious to everyone is that our life here is very ordinary, very insulated by enough of everything. But to us it seems rich in detail and affection. Its prosaic quality feels like a virtue.”

Bob had many other interests, including, furniture making, wooden model building, gardening, bread-baking and cooking. But, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Bob will be best remembered for the impromptu salons that seemed to spontaneously occur in his den. People just seemed to appear at his door to talk. Much bourbon-drinking, pipe-smoking, gossip and discussion would flow around him. Generations of Milwaukeeans have spent countless hours with Bob, and walked away mentored, enriched, angry, tipsy or bemused by his charm, intelligence and humor.”

After a short and rather one-sided battle with esophageal cancer, Bob died on March 17, 2013. He is survived by his mother, Florence; sister, Suzanne; wife, Pamela, Vassar ’65; sons, Peter and John; and grandsons, Owen and Ryan, to whom he was devoted.

James Browning remembers: Bob lived next door to me at Ezra Stiles for three years. I remember his talking about Donna and the cold winters in Milwaukee. Although I considered him a good friend we did not keep up with each other after graduation I regret that I never went to Milwaukee for a visit.