Charles Robert ‘Bob’ Wasem, Jr., age 92, a long-time resident of Burlington, Washington, passed away February 8, 2020, in Mt. Vernon, Washington. He was born August 23, 1927, in Columbus, Ohio, to Charles Robert, Sr. and Margaret Marie (Harm) Wasem.
Bob grew up in the suburbs north of Columbus, largely unaware of the Great Depression. He explored his world with his younger brother, played baseball, and nurtured a lifelong love of adventure, nature, and animals. Bob was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps in the waning months of World War II, serving his duty in Florida, where he learned aircraft mechanics and honed a passion for British-made motorcycles. After his military service was complete, Bob returned to Ohio, where he enrolled at Ohio State University to study wildlife biology. He also worked at the university’s airport, and there, he met a farmer’s daughter from nearby Dublin, Ohio.
Marilla was the love of his life (she must have been because he sold all his motorcycles at her insistence). They were married on June 24, 1956, in a small, local Methodist Church and honeymooned at Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Shortly after their return, a lifelong adventure began that would define Bob’s life: He accepted a position with the National Park Service at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah—adventure, nature, and animals.
By June 1959, the couple had transferred to Glacier National Park in Montana with two-month-old daughter, Bonnie Jean. In Glacier, they lived among bison, antelope, bighorn and grizzly at West Glacier, East Glacier, Two Medicine, and the St. Mary Ranger Station. Daughter, Karen Marie was born in 1961 in Cut Bank, Montana, and son, Michael Robert was born in 1965 in Whitefish, Montana.
The family retreated to Bozeman, Montana, while Bob attended graduate school in Wildlife Management at Montana State University. And later, the Wasem clan transferred to North Cascades National Park, headquartered in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. The family purchased a home in nearby Burlington, and Bob served as the Park’s research biologist, spending much field time at high alpine lakes, studying fish populations, and, for many years, documenting the impacts of acid rain on aquatic species.
The family attended Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Sedro-Woolley, where Bob held leadership positions over the decades.
Those who knew Bob, were conscious of his dry humor, and while he was naturally the quietest person in a noisy room, when he did speak, the crowd would quiet, and laughter followed.
Bob retired from the Park Service in 1989, but continued much of his research and documentation for the Park Service for many years. He took great pride in the body of his work and in the legacy of that work for future biologists. His attention slowly shifted to the importance of well-fed songbirds, and he would spend most evenings softly stroking and talking to a cat on his lap (the cat loved the attention but did not get Bob’s dry humor). He and Marilla enjoyed travel—from Grand Canyon to Hawaii and back to their old home in Glacier. After Marilla’s death in 2010, Bob’s health slowly declined, and he eventually moved to a retirement community near his daughter in Anacortes, Washington, and later to Mt. Vernon as his medical needs grew.
Bob is survived by his daughter, Bonnie (Bill) Baugh of Anacortes; son, Michael (Heidi) Wasem of Richland, WA; grandchildren, Megan (Jeremy) Church of Lacey, WA, and Micaela Wasem of Richland; son-in-law, John Keates of Bellingham, WA.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents; wife, B. Marilla Wasem; brother, John W. Wasem; and daughter, Karen Marie Keates.
The family would like to thank Hospice of the Northwest for their compassionate care. Memorial contributions may be sent in lieu of flowers to The Hospice of the Northwest Foundation at 227 Freeway Dr. Suite A, Mount Vernon, WA 98273 or online at www.hospicenw.org.
A Private Family Graveside Service will be at the Fern Hill Cemetery, Anacortes, WA. The family is planning a celebration of life later this spring. Share your memories of Bob and sign the online guest register.