The Eulogy for Robert M. Mortensen
Robert was born on August 30th, 1932 Curacao (Cure a sal) in the Dutch West Indies, where his father Sigvardt Mortensen was working as a merchant marine. Bob’s father was born in Denmark, and after retiring from the merchant marines would work on Project Hope, a hospital ship that travelled throughout the world providing medical care to impoverished people.
Bob’s mother was Maria del Roasario from Costa Rica. Bob was preceded in birth by three years by his older brother Sig. When Bob was two the family moved to Bergen County, and about the same time his sister Cookie was born. Three years later his brother Ronald was born. (Many years later a fifth sibling, Dennis would also be born)
Bob’s father was often away from home on a ship, and unfortunately his mother suffered from mental illness and was in and out of institutions before dying when Bob was a teenager. Consequently, Bob and his siblings grew up remarkably self-reliant, riding the bus to get about. His father would keep accounts for his children at a local grocery store. There was a story Bob told about how on one occasion his father was not pleased when one such account was run up to $350 with cakes and such being a major expense. (Bob had a life long sweet tooth.)
For high school, Bob’s father sent him to Long Military Academy in New Bloomfield, PA where he learned the discipline of military life, though it is said he would sometimes sneak out after curfew to get pies. He played quarterback on the football team.
Upon graduation Bob spent four years in the Navy, serving for two of those years on an aircraft carrier travelling all over the Pacific Ocean. He worked in the boiler room where it was so hot the shifts were limited to four hours.
After being discharged from the Navy, Bob found his way to Parsippany where he found lodging in a boarding house, working part time assisting the manager. He began attending the Parsippany Methodist Church – the little white church on the hill – where he sang bass in the choir. It was there on Easter Sunday, 1959 that Marge and Bob first laid eyes on one another. According to Bob, he knew then and there that they would one day marry. Marge had previously sung in the choir, but was taking a break, but she promptly rejoined so they might sing together, though she played “hard to get” with Bob for a time. Bob got the low down on who the cute blond girl was, and where she lived, from a friend, Bob Dixon.
Not long afterwards Bob drove by the house, finding Marge in the driveway in her
short shorts washing her car. She dashed in to the house to put on something more
presentable, coming back out to talk with the young suitor.
Bob’s first attempt at a date fell short as Marge was already booked for a date with someone else, but Bob persisted. But Bob persisted, and before long they went out on their first date – Bob took Marge bowling. From the second date Bob began dropping comments in passing in which he would refer to some point in the future when “we’re married”. At first Marge ignored these comments, not quite sure what to make of them, but before long it was clear where this romance was headed.
Bob and Marge had a lot of fun together. They enjoyed going dancing at DeMao’s on Route 10. Once in the summer of 1959 Bob and Marge went Square Dancing at a picnic at Mazdabrook Farm, and although they had never really square danced before, they won $50 that night as the couple that danced the best together. Interestingly, they used the money to open a joint savings account. On New Year’s Eve of 1959 Bob and Marge stayed out so late at a party that they fell asleep exhausted in the driveway of Marge’s parents’ house.
In March of 1960 Bob took Marge out to dinner at Three Sisters on Route 46 in Dover,
bringing along his sister Cookie and her husband Bubby. Bubby’s job was to carry an the impressive engagement ring Bob had bought for the occasion, which at the right moment Bob presented to Marge. “Will you marry me?” he asked. Marge said “Yes!”
Six months later on September 3, 1960 Bob and Marge were married in the little white
church on the hill. Rev. Downing officiated, and afterwards 100 people gathered at the
Birchwood Manor for a reception. Afterwards Bob and Marge spent a romantic week in the Poconos staying at a honeymoon suite on Echo Lake.
Following their marriage, the new couple lived for a year with Marge’s mother and
Father before moving out on their own to a house in Lake Parsippany at 100
Jacksonville Drive. Bob had begun working for Sea Land in Newark in shipping and receiving, beginning at their docks, before moving into the office. On the side he attended Fairleigh Dickinson gradually working his way towards a BA in business. At Sea Land Bob eventually worked his way up to Director of Internal Revenue.
Suzie was born in February of 1963 in the midst of a huge snow storm. When the time
came to go to the hospital Bob called the doctor and the minister and then proceeded
to dig out the driveway, tossing the snow shovel like a javelin into the neighbor’s yard
before they drove off to All Souls Hospital on Mt. Kimball Road in Morristown.
In September of 1964 the young family moved to the house on Northfield that
would be home for the rest of Bob’s life.
Debbie was born two years after Sue in March of 1965, once more in a snow storm, but
this time not quite as bad. The rush to the hospital, however was a bit more intense this
time because Marge’s water had already broken at home.
Eric arrived six years later in June of 1971 — no snow storm this time, but Bob did manage to get stuck in an elevator. When finally he made it to the waiting room, the doctor announced, “Your son has arrived.”
But Bob and Marge stood strong together through the scary times of parenting,
always trusting that things would work out in the end; they were always a team. And along the way they were able to provide what sounds to my ear like a pretty wonderfully happy childhood for their three children.
On summer evenings there were outings where all the kids would get packed into
the station wagon to go to the drive in theater in Morris Plains, where the kids would
play in the play ground until it was time for the movie to start, and then climb back
into the car and promptly fall asleep. After the drive home, Bob would carry
them into the house and put them to bed. There was ice cream at O’Dowds in Pine
Brook, followed by wanderings about the auction under the big tent.
There were tap dancing lessons for all the kids and, of course dance recitals.
From 1972 all the way through 1989, there were camping trips with their trailer for
weekends — sometimes longer — to Tall Timbers in Vernon, where there was
swimming, boating, fishing, softball, arcades, and dancing. Friends like the Johnsons
and the Beermans would visit and new friends would be made, and plenty of good memories created sitting around campfires. They were trips to Vernon Valley and to
Hershey Poconoes, trips to Rocking Horse Ranch and to another dude ranch in New York
that no one can remember the name of. There were trips the World Fair in Montreal
in 1967, and trips to Maine and Boston. There were trips to the Jersey Shore; to Seaside,
Point Pleasant and Wildwood for a week or two.
There was a trip that was supposed to end up in Niagara Falls, but the old station
wagon broke down in White Haven, Pennsylvania, providing a lesson in trust as the family found hospitality from a lovely couple that took them into their home for a couple of days and helped them get their car fixed.
The approach of Christmas always meant a trip to Pennsylvania to search for just the right tree. Wandering about in a sea of trees the family would call out to one another about various possibilities, finally coming to agreement about one very big tree. One time the tree included a bird nest. After tying the tree to the roof of the station wagon the ride home always included a stop at a diner for lunch.
On Christmas Eve, the family would always go to the candlelight service at the church,
and then Bob and Marge would stay up to 3 a.m. playing Santa Claus, and Suzie would
wake up at 4:30 and they would have to coax her back to bed, and then in the morning
there were so many presents.
Marge loved to cook and Christmas and Thanksgiving meant sit down dinners with so
much food, turkey and potatoes and pies — the works — and always lots of company.
The whole family looked forward to the potluck family nights that were held each month, and
working on the Roast Beef dinners, and helping to decorate the church for Christmas. At a church talent show one time Bob and Marge sang a duet together, ‘I remember’, a
Maurice Chevalier song that was unforgettable.
There was the night of the Great Bat Caper, marked by the sudden appearance of a bat in the house led to the immediate evacuation from the house by Marge and Marilyn, leaving the kids behind to fend for themselves. Later, from the safety of across street Marge and Marilyn watched through the windows as Bob and Tom, armed with tennis rackets, did battle to deliver the house of the wretched bat.
There was the day the Mortensens and the Gilmores made a trip together to the top of the Statue of liberty, climbing every step, the Mortensen children 10, 8 and 2 at the time — Bob carrying Eric all the way to the very top.
There were always beloved dogs around; Patches, who beget Frosty; there was Brooks,
Daisy and Princess. At certain points Bob and Marge would breed Corinne Terriers,
bringing a litter of puppies into the house. In Marge’s house, there was always room for others who needed a place to stay. In 1987, Debbie’s friend Dee moved in and
became Marge’s adopted daughter and didn’t move out until 2001. Bob’s brother
Ziggy, suffering from Alzheimer’s, came to live with them for ten months in 1990, as
Marge and Bob cared for him in his decline.
Bob retired in 1990. In 1992 Bob and Marge bought a 33 ft boat with a closed cabin
and cockpit in the back, with which they would cruise around Barnaget and Seaside;
how Marge loved to go boating. Later there would be a 40 ft cabin cruiser, and trips to the shore every weekend from a Thursday evening through Monday.
The arrival of her grandchild Natasha brought Marge great joy and helped sustain
her through the times of her illness. She loved Nick, and was delighted that Eric had found Isabelle.
In 1999 Marge’s health began to decline. Bronchitis and pneumonia, pleurisy,
problems with high blood pressure, diabetes and problems with her kidneys. It was a long hard road she traveled, turning particularly difficult this past April. Over the last six
months of Marge’s life she went from hospital to rehab center and back again over and
over, spending only 14 days of the last six months of her life in her beloved home.
Through it all, Bob was always at her side, so devoted, so faithful. Marge worried about Bob and he worried about her.
When Bob died, Sue found a wedding picture of Bob with his bride in Bob’s wallet.