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1924 Robert 2024

Robert R. Burkemper

July 31, 1924 — May 20, 2024

Waterloo, IL

Robert R. Burkemper, 99, of Waterloo, died Monday, May 20, 2024, at Oak Hill nursing home in Waterloo.


Robert was born July 31, 1924, in St. Louis, Mo., and was the only child of the late Phillip and Anne (nee McNally) Burkemper. He married Dr. Orlou Reitz Raeber of Waterloo on June 21, 1985. She preceded him in death on Feb. 15, 2023.


An avowed Billiken, Robert graduated from St. Louis University (SLU) High School in 1942 and from St. Louis University in 1949. He has bequeathed his estate equally to the two institutions and he has donated his body to the university’s medical school for educational and scientific purposes.


Robert served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he attained the rank of Petty Officer First Class as an electrician’s mate.


After the war Robert matriculated at SLU, where he earned a degree in geophysical sciences. Upon graduation, he began working for the Shell Oil Company as a geologist. In 1967, he went to work at McDonnell Aircraft, where he was involved with its development of the Gemini Spacecraft. When he retired from that position, he went to work for the U.S. Postal Service as a Data Systems Supervisor in the St. Louis Bulk Mail Processing Plant.


Robert was a confirmed bachelor for the first 60 years of life, until he was included in a book listing the most eligible bachelors of St. Louis. A radio interview about his bachelorhood led to an introduction to Dr. Orlou Reitz and to marriage. Robert and Orlou enjoyed 38 years together filled with adventures ranging from frequent strolls and bicycle rides through the streets of Waterloo, to hikes in the Rocky Mountains and road trips throughout the contiguous lower 48 U.S. states in their motor home.


The couple joined the Peace Corps briefly before devoting 20 years to volunteering with the U.S. National Park Service. Much of that time they spent working as campground hosts at Glacier National Park in Montana. They also volunteered at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks in Utah, and Big Bend National Park in Texas.


When Robert married, he acquired a large extended family, many of whom survive, including Orlou’s sons Mark (Marlou Eckert) Raeber of Millstadt, Joel (Helen) Raeber of Marietta, Ga., Glyn (Beverly) Raeber of Ames, and Michael (Carol) Raeber of Waterloo; her daughters, Ruth Raeber of Gillespie, Karen Kneib and Jane Drusch both of St. Peters, Mo.; Ann (David) Brant of Phoenix, Ariz.; and Ellen (Jack “Lee”) Rowe of St. Clair, Mo.; and her son-in-law Troy Eppinger of Columbia. He also is survived by 54 of Orlou’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.


In addition to his parents and wife, Robert was preceded in death by Orlou’s children Lee Raeber and Mary Eppinger and her sons-in-law Richard Drusch, John Layton and David Kneib.


There will be no funeral. Instead, Robert’s life will be celebrated during a Mass at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Waterloo. Illinois, at a later date.


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