Robert Mackensen

Obituary of Robert Mackensen

Robert "Bob" Mackensen died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes Friday morning, June 23, 2023, in Yuba City, California. He was 90 years old. Bob joins in Heaven his wife, Eleanor ("the greatest thing that ever happened to me"), who died in 2017. Bob was a deeply faithful man, a proud Air Force veteran, and uncommonly civic-minded. He was a member of First Lutheran Church in Yuba City, serving in the choir and as an elder, and shepherding the construction of a built-on-site pipe organ. After graduating from Lutheran High School in St. Louis, Missouri, Bob enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1952. He was selected for the Aviation Cadet Training Program and was trained as a Navigator-Bombardier at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento, earning his wings and a commission in 1954. After seven years of active duty, most notably with the 47th Bombardment Group at RAF Sculthorpe, England, as a Navigator-Bombardier in the Air Force's first operational – and nuclear-capable – jet bomber, the B-45 Tornado, he transitioned to the Air Force Reserve. Continuing Navigator duties in a variety of aircraft, including the C-141 Starlifter, in which he flew numerous missions to and from Vietnam throughout the war, he retired with the rank of major in 1976. Bob's service continued. He was active in local, state, and federal politics, advocating for taxpayers and the retention of cultural landmarks. He ran for the Sutter County 4th District Board of Supervisors seat in 1992. He was an active member of the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, the Sutter County Taxpayers' Association, the Sutter County Museum, and the Military Officers Association, among others. For years, Bob volunteered for the American Red Cross, and later assisted with the Yuba-Sutter Veterans Stand Down. Bob's career accomplishments also reflect his commitment to his community. A 1964 graduate of U.C. Berkeley's Architecture Program, Bob designed numerous area residences and other structures, including both the Sutter and Yuba County libraries, Bridge Street Elementary School, Sikh Temple - Yuba City, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, and in 1978, his cherished First Lutheran Church. Later in his career, his restoration work at Marysville's Bok Kai temple ignited a passion for the preservation of culturally significant buildings, and for many years Bob served as a senior architect for the California Office of Historic Preservation. In 1991, he was appointed Executive Director of the California State Historic Building Safety Board, which provides standards for the rehabilitation, preservation, restoration, or relocation of historical buildings. After retiring from state service in 2012, Bob continued consulting throughout the western states, authoring preservation manuals on several National Register of Historic Places facilities, such as the Presidio of Monterey. Bob's accomplishments and activities can never match his love for Eleanor, his sons, grand- and great-grandchildren, and his friends. Rarely without a broad smile and an outstretched hand of greeting, Bob spoke with almost anyone around. But Eleanor and he especially enjoyed monthly get-togethers with their close friends from church, catching up, playing bridge, and singing at the piano. His four sons were the pride of his life (as he often told them), and he adored being a grandpa. None of this would have been possible, however, without Eleanor, who "lit up my life" (as he wrote next to the photograph he kept of her), to whom he was married for nearly 63 years. They met in 1954, while he was a Student Navigator at Mather Air Force Base and she was working at the California Board of Nursing Examiners. It was love at first sight. They soon married in Yuba City before Bob was shipped off to England. Four months later, Eleanor joined him. There they began a life of service together and embraced travelling, history, and the arts – activities and interests that they enjoyed for decades to come. After leaving active duty in 1959, Bob attended U.C. Berkeley, graduating in 1964. That same year, with three boys now, Eleanor and Bob moved to Yuba City, where their youngest was born. Robert Ernest Mackensen was born on December 3, 1932, in St. Louis, Missouri. His mother died when he was not yet four years old, and his brother died four months later at five years old, when Bob was just four. His father remarried, but travelled for work throughout the Midwest and South during World War II. In those years, Bob became very close to his sister Mary Lou, whom he loved deeply throughout his life and with whom he spoke frequently and in that mind-melded manner that only siblings can. Bob always kept busy with church, work, this-or-that club or activity – or just "fidgeting," as Eleanor would note. In his spare time he loved swimming (especially at Bridgeport), listening to classical music, reading Mad magazine, decorating the house, building things with his boys, playing with the dog, experimenting in the kitchen (guava jam, guava wine, "garbage soup" – a leftover vegetable broth), cool cars and airplanes, and more. Most recently, he enjoyed making crafts and singing with fellow residents and caring staff at Summerfield Senior Living, where he was, as usual, so friendly and well-liked that he earned the nickname "Happy Bob." Bob is preceeded in death by his wife, Eleanor Mae (née Starke); his father and mother, Fred H. Mackensen and Dorothy (née Benkendorf); his stepmother, Rosalia P. (née Quigley); his brother James F.; his half-sister Sandra; and his grandson, Roger Starke Mackensen. He is survived by his sister, Mary Lou Hendron; sons, Jim (DeAnna), Ken, Eric (Kate), Roger (Karen); grandchildren, Alex, Cassandra, Nicole, Kristina, Robert, Russell, Mark, Jeff, Emily, and Peter; and great-grandchildren, Tillian, Emma, and Amelia. Bob's funeral service will be held on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, at 10 a.m. at First Lutheran Church, 850 Cooper Avenue in Yuba City. He will be interred with Eleanor at a later date at Sutter Cemetery.The family requests donations be made to First Lutheran Church or First Lutheran/The Starting Place, Sutter County Museum, or the Yuba Sutter Veterans Stand Down.

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