Robert Ihlenfeldt

image of Robert Ihlenfeldt

Robert Ihlenfeldt

Bob Ihlenfeldt, age 66, passed away May 9, 2019 after a long battle with cancer.  He was born August 23, 1952 to Vernon and Harriet Ihlenfeldt in Escanaba, MI.  After graduating from college with a degree in accounting, Bob was employed at Walker Mufflers in Wisconsin.  A new job opportunity came open in the summer of 1977 which brought him to South Carolina with Schlumberger, where he met a southern belle.  Enter Karen, whom Bob lovingly called Miss Kay.  Miss Kay returned the favor by calling him Mr. Bob.  Bob and Karen were married in 1982.  After a tour of the United States (plus a short stint in Canada) brought to them by several job transfers, they ended up in Bellingham, WA.  Bob’s last job was CFO of Zodiac Aerospace and he retired in 2018 after 10 years.

Bob is survived by his southern belle of 37 years (Karen), his mother Harriet, his brother Brian (Elyse), his stepdaughter Wendy Patterson and grandsons Taylor Bradberry and Konnor Patterson, his daughters Kristina and Melissa (Jon) Harle and granddaughters Piper, Payton, Presley, and Paxtyn, and his brothers-in-law Danny Moore (Deb) and Stanley Moore (Melanie).

Bob will be remembered fondly for his love of cars and sports and his distaste for impractical gifts.  He would like to remind everyone that he STILL does not need anything for Christmas.  On the side, many may not know that Bob dabbled in some light private investigating into how many pairs of shoes Mrs. Kay actually owned, as well as the age-old question of why would anyone need 17 pairs of black heels??  Bob adored Miss Kay, despite her love of shopping and proclivity for tardiness.  Ever the sensible gift-giver, he even proposed to her with a ring hidden inside an alarm clock (not that it helped much).

Bob learned woodworking from his dad, who was a shop teacher, and used those skills to build playhouses in the various places they lived, much to the delight of his daughters.  He also used those skills to expand closets in those same houses, much to the delight of Miss Kay.  Bob passed his love of sports onto his daughters and coached several of Melissa and Kristina’s softball, soccer, and basketball teams growing up.

At work, Bob was known for his dry sarcasm and tendency to strike fear in the hearts of salesmen with his shrewd eye on expenses.  He was also notorious for owning the last flip phone in America until his company finally coaxed him into an iPhone in 2015.

When Melissa got married, Bob was especially excited as Jon shared his passion for cars.  They would spend many evenings watching Barrett-Jackson and Mecum Auctions and sharing their wealth of knowledge around all things automotive.  We are especially blessed by the graciousness of Jon and Melissa for opening up their home so that Bob could be closer to his doctors and treatments.

Ihley, Bobby Chuck, Mr. Bob, Daddy-O, Bebe, Grandpa Bob—Bob had many pseudonyms but he will be greatly missed by all of us, regardless of what we called him.

We’d like to thank Dr. Doherty and his staff for all the support and guidance.  We’d also like to thank Dr. Nghiem, Dr. Bhatia, Dr. Parvathaneni and their staff from SCCA and UW for all their research, treatment, and perseverance towards finding a cure.

Friends and family who wish to make a donation in memory of Bob may do so online at:

Conversely, checks may be mailed to the following address:

UW Medicine Advancement
Attn: Tyrone Jimmison
Campus Box 358045
Seattle, WA 98195-8045

Checks should be made payable to the “UW Foundation.” Please write “Bob Ihlenfeldt – Merkel Cell Research ” on the memo line of the check, as this will ensure the funds go directly to Merkel cell research in honor of Bob. This fund will be used to support Merkel cell carcinoma research in the Paul Nghiem Lab at the University of Washington.

6 Responses to “Robert Ihlenfeldt”

  • Hugh and Susan Meeler says:

    We are so sorry for your loss. Bob will be greatly missed by all. We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers. Love y’all so much

  • Adele Kirby says:

    My Dearest Karen ,
    My heart is breaking for you and the girls! I am so desperately sorry that I cannot be there physically with you to hug you. The beautifully written celebration of Bob was the most precious tribute to a loved one that I have ever read! I felt like I could literally reach out and touch each one of you in both of the included pictures. The endearing reflections of Bob truly captured the amazing love story that you shared and will always have in your heart ❤️. You will always be my South Carolina Sister that came into my Bellingham Life . I am here for you always , My Forever Friend. I love you dearly and will count on seeing you in mid August when we visit the Grand Babies. Please let me know a good time to call you when you can …

  • Gary Moersch says:

    Went to school and graduated with Bob, was always lots of fun, so sorry for your loss but now he is with our Father in Heaven, Many Blessings

  • Paul Nghiem says:

    Dear Karen & Family,
    What a special, delightful, funny tribute to a wonderful person. I recall so well the “shoe stories” from our first meetings, and the humor that lightened even the toughest discussions. Thank you so much for your commitment to help understand and better treat the disease that took Bob.
    Paul Nghiem, physician scientist at UW

  • Laura Henderson says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of Bobs passing. Bob was my supervisor for five years. I remember one conversation when I was becoming a new Grandmother. Bob asked me what I wanted to be called, Grandma, Nanny, etc. I said I didn’t know. He said Miss Kay wanted his granddaughters to call him Papa, but they insisted on calling him, Bob! I’d never seen him laugh so hard. He was a great supervisor. My thoughts are with you all.
    Laura Henderson

  • Robert ihlenfeldt says:

    In researching my name I came across your announcement. Vernon was my father Williams brother,I think, i was always told there was another Robert in the family. I am a cancer surviver, my father passed from cancer. In reading your comments I find several shared interests, wood working, cars, I met Vernon years ago. Sorry for your loss.

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