Robert Dean Root, age 87 years of Niles, father, grandfather, brother, retired city employee, honorable veteran, and remarkable pole vaulter died peacefully at 5:23 p.m. on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 with family at his bedside at American House in Jenison, Michigan following an illness of five months.
He was born on March 24, 1934 in Cassopolis, Michigan to Norman Robert and Irene Marie (Hull) Root, and was raised on the family farm in northeast Cass County. He graduated from Dowagiac High School in 1952 and enlisted in the United States Army. He was honorably discharged as a Veteran of the Korean Conflict. He returned to southwest Michigan and began employment with the City of Niles Utility Department in 1968, using his training from the Army as an electrical lineman, and retiring in 1999.
Bob was a longtime member of the First Baptist Church of Niles and, more recently attended Calvary’s Lighthouse Church of Benton Harbor. He had been an active athlete all of his life, beginning with track and field in high school. He ran regularly as an adult, but also renewed his skills in pole vaulting. After retirement, he became active in the National Senior Games Association as a pole vaulter, using a motorhome to travel and compete at events throughout the Midwest including Minnesota, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi. He constructed a pole vault pit in his backyard for practice, and was still clearing seven foot bars in his 80s.
He was also a certified SCUBA diver, and enjoyed boating and fishing on Lake Michigan and Indian Lake. His boat was named the “Nasalata”, using the last two letters of the names of his four daughters.
He was first married on July 19, 1958 in Volinia, Michigan to the former Donna Gean Kipker with whom he celebrated the fortieth anniversary of their wedding prior to her death on January 26 of 1999. On April 20, 2002 in Niles he married the former Lois Jean (Young) Austin Westfall with whom he celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of their wedding prior to her death on January 17, 2018. Bob was also preceded in death by a son-in-law, Paul Kraus in 2015; and a sister, Gloria Root in 2018.
Surviving family includes his daughters, Gina (& Mike) Coty of Remington, Indiana, Lisa (& Tom) Griffore of Jenison, Michigan, Karla (& Brian) Gallivan of Rockford, Illinois, and Roberta Kraus of Ludington, Michigan; thirteen grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren; and Bob’s sister, Norma Canniff of Buchanan, Michigan, and many nieces and nephews.
The funeral service for Bob Root will be at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles with a granddaughter’s husband, Pastor Matthew Elless of the Pathway of Hope Church of the Nazarene in Kokomo, Indiana officiating, assisted by Pastor Charles Engler of Calvary’s Lighthouse Church in Benton Harbor. Committal will follow at the Silverbrook Cemetery in Niles.
The family will receive relatives and friends on Wednesday at the funeral home beginning at 11:00 a.m. Contributions in memory of Bob may be made to the National Senior Games Association, Post Office Box 5630, Clearwater, Florida, 33758; https://nsga.com/ . Online condolences may be left at:
Bob was very active all of his life, and most of that was outdoors: in the Army, in the lineman’s bucket truck, fishing, running, and jumping; and always with a smile. But he was also active with the people around him, co-workers, fellow competitors, and - most importantly – his family.