Robert “Bob” Eric Grondahl, 78, of Lenexa, Kansas passed away on December 27, 2021. He was born February 25, 1943 in Duluth, Minnesota to Erick T. Grondahl and E. Vivian (Knox) Grondahl.
Bob was a hard working guy from a very young age. As a young kid, his first job was delivering newspapers in his hometown. He worked at the local bowling alley as a pin setter, and later worked with his good buddy Garith at Anderson's family trucking company. He had a goal to buy a car, not just any car - a Corvette!
Bob graduated in 1961 with distinction from Morgan Park High School in Duluth where he served as senior class president. He attended the University of Minnesota Duluth before being recruited in 1962 by John Geisse at the Dayton Company. This is where Bob started his career in the automotive aftermarket field. As a buyer and merchandising director, he was responsible for opening several of the first Target Stores in the Minneapolis area and Denver. Bob met his beloved wife of 32 years, Judith A. Peterson, in Minneapolis. They married and moved to St. Louis in 1968 when he went to work at Empire Warehouse. He was recruited again in 1970 by Geisse, now at the May Department Stores, to start another new discount retail operation, Venture Stores, in St. Louis. In 1977, Bob followed his friend and mentor, Marsh Penning, (and others from the Target and Venture gangs!) to Houston, Texas where they opened a new division of auto repair & retail parts centers for Eaton Corporation. As merchandising and advertising director, Bob earned a Clio award for his direction of a TV commercial for brake service. Eaton sold this division, and the gang was all let go. In 1980, Bob took a job as a salesman with a manufacturers representative agency in Kansas City. Shortly after, he started a new agency with four partners, Professional Sales Midwest, Inc. Judy joined the business as office manager, and together they built a very successful agency representing the top automotive aftermarket and tool manufacturers, selling to big and small warehouses and retailers throughout the Midwest. Bob bought out all of his partners as they retired, and continued his business for several years with hired salesmen until the rep business began shrinking. He closed up shop in 2003, worked for a few years as a consultant, and retired fully in 2007. He enjoyed many great friendships with colleagues and "most" of the adventures throughout his career.
Growing up, Bob enjoyed hunting and fishing with his dad, traveling with his family, weekends with his friends at the lake and music. At age 9, he began playing the accordion and traveled to Minneapolis and Chicago to compete. In 1955, his group won third place in the state and seventh in the national contests! At age 12, Bob began playing the saxophone in the school band. He saw Roy Orbison twice and saw Buddy Holly at the Duluth Armory on Jan 31, 1959, one of the final Winter Dance Party shows. He became an avid fan of Austin City Limits, where he watched all of his country and rock favorites. He and Judy enjoyed attending the Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth. And he could do a great Elvis impression, "Thank you very much."
Bob was a big fan of comedy, owing to his original comedic hero, his father Erick, the funniest Finlander this side of the Atlantic. His favorite shows included Monty Python, Laugh-In, SNL and the Tonight Show. His dad was also instrumental in Bob's interest in racing, taking him and his brother Ed to races in Proctor and Superior. He loved to watch all kinds of racing, with NHRA and NASCAR leading the pack. John Force was his favorite and funniest Funny Car Champion. And last but not least, Bob was a HUGE Kansas Men's Basketball fan from way back before he ever lived in Kansas or had kids at school there. Rock Chalk, Dad!
A loving and devoted son, Bob spent most of his vacation days returning to Duluth to spend time with his family, visit friends and eat pizza at Sammy's. Eventually, he would take Judy to warmer spots like Florida, New Orleans, Mexico and the Cayman Islands! They enjoyed these well deserved trips very much. They also enjoyed using their boat at Lake Perry with their dogs (and occasionally the kids). After Judy passed, Bob sold the boat and bought a Honda Shadow Spirit 750 motorcycle and enjoyed cruising around town. And no, his mother didn't know about the bike!
Bob spent his retirement working as a volunteer Beta tester for Mozilla, keeping an eye on the stock market and spending time with his kids. He passed on his love of racing to his daughter Gena, and they spent many weekends cheering on their favorite NASCAR drivers. While his son was in high school, the two worked together to rebuild a 1969 Camaro, and later he enjoyed helping Rob with projects around the house. In 2007, Bob became a grandfather, and he relished his new role as "Papa Papa." The grandkids brought him much joy, and he was always in for a light saber battle, a pizza lunch date, reading story after story, and many, many trips to local parks, sporting events and school performances.
Bob was preceded in death by his infant brother Gary, wife Judith and his parents. He leaves his daughter, Gena of Lenexa, Kansas, son and daughter in law, Robert A. and Rebecca of Overland Park, Kansas and their children, Finnegan, Ruby and Cillian Grondahl; brothers Edward (Jan) of Southlake, Texas and John of Duluth, Minnesota and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
The family would like to thank all of those who cared for Bob this past year under extraordinary circumstances at Advent Shawnee Mission, St. Lukes's South and Garden Terrace of Overland Park, especially his outstanding therapy team.
Services will be arranged later this year. In lieu of flowers the family suggests contributions to the Finland MN Historical Society, their information can be found below.
Bob was a kind and generous father and grandfather, with a great sense of humor who provided very well for his grateful family. We love him dearly and will miss him tremendously.
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