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In Memory of Robert Pierce

Celebration of Life

1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Saturday December 28, 2019
Lake Elmo Inn Event Center
3712 Layton Avenue North
Lake Elmo MN, 55042

Robert “Bob” Gene Pierce, age 87 of Houlton, passed away November 19, 2019 at Pine Ridge Gardens Memory Care in Hudson. 

Bob was born on October 19, 1932 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to parents, Robert and Mildred Pierce. He graduated from Cedar Falls High School in 1950 and continued his studies at the Iowa State Teachers College where he met his wife Joan “Jo” Barlow in 1952. For their first date, Bob took Jo to the commons area of the college where they danced to music from a record player. The next year, Bob graduated with a B.A. in English and began his M.A. in English Education.

He put his education on hold to serve in the U.S. Army during the Korean War from 1954-1956, later finishing his M.A. at the University of Minnesota. Throughout the war, Bob was stationed in Virginia and regularly drove to Iowa City to see Jo, who was completing her B.A. at the University of Iowa.

Bob was united in marriage to Jo on November 23, 1956 in Denver, Colorado. The couple spent 10 months living in Brighton, Colorado and working as teachers, before relocating to Brooklyn Center, Minnesota which they called home for the next 16 years. They both accepted jobs with the Minneapolis Public School system where Bob worked as an English Teacher and Jo as a Physical Education Teacher.

In 1959, the couple welcomed their first child, Brad, into the family. Before long, daughters Sarah and Ann came along. In 1974, the Pierce family moved to Houlton, Wisconsin where Bob (with a little help from the family) built their two story, gambrel roof house from the ground up.

In Houlton, Bob continued working as an English Teacher for Minneapolis Public Schools. He also joined the Planning Commission for Somerset Township, authored a Language Arts curriculum, worked with student teachers at the University of Minnesota and taught an Indian Culture Class.  

Around the time of his retirement, Bob finished building the Pierce family cabin on the banks of Webb Lake, where his mother and father first bought the land in 1967. The humble establishment began as a simple one-room bedroom and accompanying outhouse shared by the family of five. Bob built a cabin around the bedroom, complete with a loft, kitchen, dining room, living room – and to everyone’s joy – a bathroom with plumbing. Four generations of Pierces have enjoyed the cabin, and to this day they carry on many of Bob’s traditions; skipping rocks off the dock, executing massive cannonballs, frying freshly-caught sunfish and playing fetch in the lake with the dogs.

Bob was a creative, witty and adventurous man with many talents. He grew up playing the upright bass in his father’s jazz band, which inspired a lifelong passion for music. He enjoyed the art of the English language and spent nearly every Sunday morning reading the paper with Jo. The outdoors was his playground, and you could often find a dog or two trailing behind him. He loved to fish, kayak, sail and grow all kinds of plants. Summer days with good wind were often spent on “Mur Mur,” a J-scow that Jo taught him to sail. He could fix just about anything; from carpentry, to electricity, to furniture and plumbing – he never let a leaky pipe keep dripping.

Bob will remain in the hearts of his wife of 63 years, Jo; children, Brad (Kathy) Pierce, Sarah (Eric) VanValkenburg, and Ann Pierce; grandchildren, Hannah and Claire VanValkenburg, Lili and Dylan Pierce, and Ella Pierce; sister, Pat (Don) Briggs; nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. He is preceded in death by his parents.

A gathering to celebrate Bob’s life will be held from 1:00-3:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 28th at the Lake Elmo Inn Event Center, 3712 Layton Ave. N, Lake Elmo, MN. Memorials preferred to the Alzheimer’s Disease Research through Bright Focus Foundation at brightfocus.org/donate.


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    • I am sure that you are already fixing things in heaven. We on earth are pleased to know that you resting and fixing in peace.
      Love to all,
      Margaret and Bob

    • Bob was a wonderful person! He was a friend and mentor to me and was and will be missed by so many. Prayers and love go to you Jo and your family.