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Robert "Bob" Bokern

1929 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Robert "Bob" Bokern Obituary
1929 - 2018 Bob lived a full and diverse life for 88 years. His family and friends have used these words to describe him: devoted, dutiful, dedicated, honorable, courageous, loving, and a gentleman full of integrity. Born Robert Frederick Bokern in St. Louis, MO, on August 6, 1929, the year of the big stock market crash, to Eugene A. Bokern and Lucille Bokern (Lynch). His father, an accountant, once also owned an ice cream store where Bob worked part-time, his mother a housewife, and his grandmother, Ida Lynch, lived with them. Bob mostly grew up as an only child, with the first of his four siblings, twins John and Gene born eleven years later, then Ed 15 years later, and Karen 18 years later. He graduated from Christian Brothers College High School where he played a bit of football, then from St. Louis University where he played clarinet in the band on a scholarship. Later he received a Master's degree in Education Administration from Trinity College in Hartford, CT. During college, Bob met his future wife, Mary Joyce Newell, on a blind date at a dinner dance. It was the second date and many dances later that led to a 62-year marriage starting on August 2, 1951 in Dallas, TX, and ending upon Joyce's death on March 1, 2013. Two children were born, Mary Susan Bokern in Harlingen, TX, and Mary Pamela Bokern in Denver, CO. After college, Bob was drafted into the Air Force as a Second Lieutenant and stayed in full active duty for 22 years during which he served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and received both the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross medal and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters, for "heroism or extraordinary achievement while a participant in aerial flight." While in Vietnam, Bob was one of two people who survived the airplane crash of Shadow 78 at Tan Son Nhut that took the lives of six crewman. Bob helped one crewman out of the plane as it burst into flames. His daughter Susan vividly remembers the day when "the man in the uniform" showed up at the front door with news that Dad was injured and recuperating in Okinawa, Japan. A poignant moment for his family was standing with Bob years later at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, when he teared up as he reached out to touch the names of the six crewmen forever emblazoned on the wall. A member of Bob's squadron wrote in a book and wrote, "All of those who served with Bob at Tan Son Nhut remember him as an outstanding officer and genuine gentleman." After traveling the world and moving his family to Harlingen, TX, Denver, CO, Mainz and Wiesbaden, Germany, Farmington, CT, and Riverside, CA, at age 44, Major Bokern embarked on a new career in hospital administration in the Los Angeles area. He was at Daniel Freeman Hospital for 27 years as Vice President and Administrator of their Marina del Rey Hospital. Retired again in 2002, he was coaxed back to work at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, CA until he finally retired in November 2015 at the age of 86. Bob loved his family deeply, stressed a good education for his children, and all spent vacations sightseeing in Europe, skiing and ice skating, swimming in Hawaii, and walking the beach and watching sunsets together in Redondo Beach, CA. While he liked golf and the Denver Broncos, he loved dancing with Joyce, going to see the Los Angeles Ballet and ice hockey, both the L.A. Kings and Anaheim Ducks. Bob was devoted to his wife Joyce, especially after her devastating car accident at age 55, when he took care of her until she passed on March 1, 2013. Bob passed away quietly on January 5, 2018 after a courageous struggle with diabetes and its effects. He is survived by his daughters, Susan Bokern Holmberg and Pamela Bokern; his brothers John Bokern (Shirley), Gene Bokern, and Edward Bokern (Nina); his brother-in-law James D. Newell (Carmen); and his first cousin Kathleen Kidd (Meyer). He was predeceased by his beloved wife Mary Joyce Bokern (Newell), son-in-law, Theodore (Ted) Holmberg, and sister Karen Watkins (Bokern). A viewing will be held on Saturday, January 13, 4 to 8 p.m. and a memorial service on Sunday, January 14 at 10 a.m., both at Green Hills Mortuary and Chapel on Western Avenue in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the American Diabetes Society.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Jan. 11 to Jan. 12, 2018
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