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Robert (Bob) Vadnais, noted educator and talented woodworker, passed away on November 2nd, 2023, at Hearthstone Manor at 90 years of age. He had his family at his side, and was supported with compassionate care by the Hearthstone Manor and Journey Care Hospice staff.
Bob was born in Escanaba, Michigan on September 1st, 1933, to the late Clifford W. and Ceal K. Vadnais. He attended local schools, graduating from Escanaba High School in 1952. He was a talented musician, playing the clarinet and saxophone in the high school band as a middle school student, and acting as student director of the high school dance band. He was also a member of a local musician’s union as a high school student, playing in local dance clubs in Escanaba.
In 1952, Bob enlisted in the U.S. Navy for four years. He was an electronics expert, specializing in sonar and submarine tracking, and spent his tour on the U.S.S. Cross, a destroyer escort ship, training reservists on sonar operations and maintenance.
Upon honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy in September, 1956, Bob enrolled in St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. There he befriended a fellow student, and U.S. Navy alumnus, from Sheboygan, Wisconsin. When Bob met his friend’s sister on a blind date, it was love at first sight. Bob and Esther (Bersch) were married September 7th, 1957, and were together for 66 years.
Bob transferred to Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, where he earned a Bachelors Degree in speech and English, with a minor in counseling, and a Masters Degree in Speech. His first teaching job was in Port Huron, Michigan, where he taught remedial English and speech for two years. The following three years were at Escanaba High School where he taught English and speech, coached the Debate Team, and directed the first musical, “Oklahoma”, ever performed at Escanaba High School.
A close friend informed Bob of an opening in District 10 in Woodstock, Illinois, and he was quickly hired on at Westwood School. When the districts consolidated, he transferred to Northwood Junior High where he taught Language Arts, was the 8th Grade Team Leader and remained until retirement in 1989.
Bob developed his love of woodworking at an early age. Wherever he lived, he always had a workshop of some sort. During his early teaching years he worked summers for homebuilders, and after several years he set out on his own and began building homes. Both of his sons joined the business, where they learned their skills on the job. He prided himself in the quality of the work he produced.
After retiring as an educator in 1989, Bob set up a professional woodworking shop where he manufactured wood furniture. After several years in operation he suffered a total loss due to a fire. The loss included equipment, furniture prototypes, in-flight projects and a tool chest his uncle made for him as a young boy. But Bob started over again, and eventually set up a new business with a friend.
In 1999, Bob and Esther decided to build a new home for themselves. This was a marvel of design and techniques, and showcased Bob’s considerable building skills. It also demonstrated that one could build a huge woodworking shop in the basement, with some living quarters above.
Bob loved his family above all else. He cherished each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild. He rejoiced that each spouse marrying into the family fit in perfectly and became one of us.
Bob leaves behind his wife of 66 years, Esther, his four children Anne (Tim) Wignall, Cliff (Vernie) Vadnais, Julie (Rick) Martin, and Frank (Diane) Vadnais; ten grandchildren (Andrew, deceased); and eight great-grandchildren; one brother, John (Mary) Vadnais; and many cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends.
The family will receive visitors on Friday, November 10th, 2023, from 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM at Schneider, Leucht, Merwin & Cooney Funeral Home in Woodstock, Illinois. There will be a 10:30 AM Catholic Funeral Mass on Saturday, November 11th, 2023, at St. Mary Catholic Church in Woodstock, Illinois.
Memorials may be made to: JourneyCare Hospice at ambercare.com/donate-2, or Woodstock Food Pantry at woodstockfoodpantry.org.