We lost our beloved “Da,” “Dad,” “Dado,” “Pappa,” “Gramps,” “Grandpa”, Robert Keith Ortwein, M.D. on Sunday, October 7. With a twinkle in his bright blue eyes, he was our leader, organizer, coach, and always our cheerleader.
He will be lovingly remembered and dearly missed by the three families he loved most: the Racine families he cared for as a pediatrician, his family of birth in Harlowton, Montana and the family he created with his wife of 58 years, Roberta.
Da was born on January 28, 1936 in Harlowton, Montana; he was delivered at home as were all seven of Orton and Lorree Ortwein’s children: Rosalie (Bob) Snelling, Dennis Ortwein, Da (Roberta) Ortwein, Noreen (Glen) Kozeluh, Terry (Jo) Ortwein, John (Catherine) Ortwein and Lorree (Barry) O’Connell.
In high school, Da was an outstanding student/athlete, earning high marks and 16 varsity letters in football, baseball, track and basketball. Football was his favorite because he was “speedy, strong, and smart.”
Da received an academic scholarship to Carroll College in Helena, Montana. While there, he played football coached by Archbishop “Dutch” Hunthausen. He finished in three years and was awarded a Small College All American in football in 1956 (the same year that Paul Hornung won the Heisman at Notre Dame). After college, he got a call from the L.A. Rams for a tryout, which he did not pursue. “I knew I was going to medical school, plus if they had seen me in person, they wouldn’t have called. I was 5’8” and 155 pounds!” he said.
Da went to Creighton Medical School in Omaha, Nebraska specializing in pediatrics and graduating in 1961. While there, Bob met his bride, Roberta “Bobbie” Clare Shonka. They married on September 24, 1960 in a little church in Schuyler, Nebraska. After a 3-day honeymoon, it was back to Omaha and medical school.
Bob and Bobbie started their family with the birth of Michelle Ortwein (Jim McVeigh) followed by Christina (Mike) Callender, Jenifer (Joe) Tate, Molly Ortwein, Bryan (Christie) Ortwein, Stacia (Noel) Franus, Elizabeth (Patrick) Castro and Orton Ortwein. They were blessed with many grandkids who adored their Dado: Matthew, Pierce, Luke, Robert, Ezell (Tia), Schuyler, Harlo, Brogan, Cole, Emory, Cecelia, Beatrix, Rex, Winifred, and Stacia.
Upon graduating medical school Bob and Bobbie moved to Great Falls, Montana where Bob joined a private medical practice. In 1966, “The President invited me to join the Army,” he said. That invitation lead to boot camp in San Antonio, Texas and a year in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Next was a two-year stint in Bangkok, Thailand to start a pediatric practice taking care of 17,000 military dependents. He could go one year solo, or two years if he took his wife and five children to Bangkok. He took the two-year plan. “I had no reservations about going and it changed my life,” Da said.
After Bangkok, Da and Bobbie settled in Racine. “One of the things I loved most about my career was getting to serve several generations in one family,” he said.
Da loved all things Irish, Western, Native American, and Lewis and Clark. He was creative, hard-working, clever and generous with his time. Remember Irish Night for literacy and Casino Night at Holy Name? And let’s not forget his desire to eradicate all wobbly tables from the world with his invention “Dr. Bob’s Rockerstoppers!”
He left this world in the way he lived in it: surrounded by family, and with peace and grace.
Da is preceded in death by his parents, Orton and Lorree, siblings Rosalie, Terry and John and great friends Frank, Martin, Lois, Bob, Barry, Jo, and Dutch. Thank you to all who helped in his care—many doctors, hospice workers and caregivers—your care made this journey so much easier for him and for our family. Special thanks to Dr. Howard Short and Hiedi Tradewell.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to your favorite charity.
“I hope I can give each one of you what you need when you need it.” —Da
Mission accomplished, Da.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, October 12, at 11:30 a.m. at Siena Center Chapel, with Reverend Ron Gramza officiating. Private interment will be held at Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Relatives and friends may meet Friday prior to the Mass from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.