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Obituary of Robert Charles Baumgarten
Robert (Bob) Charles Baumgarten passed away on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 after experiencing sudden cardiac arrest in Tucson, Arizona. Bob was visiting lifelong friends in the area – his home-away-from-home – at the tail end of a three-month cross-country trip to visit his daughters, their families, his nephew and dear friends. It provides tremendous solace to his immediate family that they had such quality time with him before he left us too soon.
Bob was born on March 10, 1942 in Seattle, Washington to Dr. Otto Charles Baumgarten and Virginia Ernst Baumgarten. After a memorable move to Corona, California, the Baumgarten’s settled in their lifelong home in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego, California. Henry Street will always be a special place for the family – near and far.
After attending St. Vincent’s Elementary School, Bob graduated from St. Augustine High School in 1960. He spent a year each learning Latin in Staten Island, New York and teaching in Ojai, California. Bob then began seminary at his beloved Villanova University in Pennsylvania (Go, Wildcats!). He graduated in 1967 with his younger brother, Bill, and as Dean of the Class. He has always been the connector – maintaining friendships over many years, including with his fellow Villanova alums, the “Geezers”, whom he saw without fail every time he came East.
It might not be a shock to many that Bob decided, after one year at the Augustinian School of Theology, that the priesthood was not his best way to serve. The priesthood’s loss was his daughters’ gain – he married Kathleen Hunter in 1969, with Elizabeth (Liz) and Lara following in 1970 and 1972. It was at this time that Bob was a high school math teacher at Notre Dame Academy in DC – where he made the subject understandable to all and was quite popular. He stayed in touch with many of those students and traveled back East for reunions often.
Upon dissolution of the marriage, Bob joined E.C. Ernst and Company and moved around the country as an industrial construction project manager, including in the construction of Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. He finally landed in Davenport, Iowa with Ellen Olmstead whom he married in 1978. After five years in the Midwest, they moved back to Bob’s family home of San Diego where Bob started law school at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and graduated with honors in 1983. The youngest of the Bob Baumgarten girls, Elise, followed in 1986.
Bob dedicated his entire law career in the area of construction law – first with The Corona Firm, then in solo practice and, most profoundly, as a highly respected mediator and arbitrator for 30+ years. As a close friend recently wrote to his daughters,
No finer praise can be stated than the fact that no matter which side his decision was for, even the losing party and attorney felt they had received a fair "shake" and never bore any ill will toward Bob. His sense of fairness and willingness to always fight and represent the underdog was forever ingrained in his soul and personality.
As he slowed down professionally in recent years, he dedicated himself to helping others in many, many ways. Friends suffering health challenges, needing a larger vehicle for a family trip (his vans were famous), rides to appointments, or sage advice (his daughters might say a bit longwinded advice…). And always a hearty laugh.
In addition to attending Mass consistently, often multiple times a week, whether at the Mission or St. Joseph’s Cathedral (where he was in the church choir for many years), Bob’s favorite activities were getting Vitamin D on the beach at Marine Street in LaJolla, visiting his daughters and their families on the East Coast (often – and most recently – driving his van across country solo) and his volunteer work for DAV (Disabled American Veterans).
Since 2016, every Friday and often multiple times a week, Bob drove veterans from all over San Diego to and from their medical appointments at the VA hospital. He built many relationships through this work and was honored to do it.
Bob is survived by his three daughters Elizabeth (Win), Lara (Charles) and Elise (Kris), his four grandchildren whom he loved dearly – Caitlyn, Fei, Charlie (Robert-Otto) and Lily, his brother Rev. William (Bill) Baumgarten, and the many nephews and nieces who loved him and he loved much. He was a glue to many who are left floundering to find a new reality without Dad, Grandpa, Uncle Bob.
To say he had a presence is an understatement – it is a presence that will be felt for a long time to come. Funeral Masses will be held on March 27th at 1:00 pm in Alexandria, Virginia (St. Rita’s Catholic Church) and on May 30th at 1:30 pm in San Diego, California (St. Joseph’s Cathedral). In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the local DAV chapter: DAV Chapter 2, 1049 Elkton Blvd, Spring Valley CA 91977, Attn: Suey Lee.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert Baumgarten, please visit Tribute Store