Robert Leroy Hartenstein died peacefully in his sleep on Jan. 3, 2022, at the home he shared with his wife of 66 years, Carolee, at Reflection Ridge Retirement Community in Wichita, Kan.
He was born at home on April 9, 1936, to Frederick Theodore and Mildred Frances Mastin Hartenstein and was raised on the farm with one sister and three brothers in the Willowdale Township. He graduated in 1954 from Dickinson County Community High School in Chapman, then attended Wichita State University for a semester. He returned to Abilene to work as a journeyman lineman for Kansas Power and Light Company. On Nov. 25, 1955, he married Carolee Engle, who he met on a double date (she was the other boy’s date); they had two daughters, Cathie and Beth.
Bob spent his career as a lineman and assistant general foreman with KP&L in Abilene. He was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He loved climbing poles and going out to help restore electricity after storms. Even after retirement, he could not bear hearing a phone ring more than a couple of times. “That means overtime to me!” he would exclaim when we shrugged and said the answering machine would get it.
He and Carolee were steadfast members of First Christian Church in Abilene, where he served as an elder and sang in the choir. He was blessed with a lovely tenor voice that was used to sing anything from “On The Good Ship Lollipop” while wearing a tutu for a grade school fundraiser, to singing at family weddings, to annually joining the Bethany College Oratorio Society in singing Handel’s “Messiah” on Easter Sunday in Lindsborg.
Bob started golfing in mid-life, and as a novice golfer got a hole-in-one at Abilene Country Club, sealing his life-long love for the sport. He was an enthusiastic photographer and took the family to Colorado many Septembers to capture landscape images, especially those of changing aspen tree leaves.
In 1987, Bob accepted a company transfer to Marysville, where they lived on a street known for its Christmas displays that he eagerly took part in. They were active in Christian churches in Marysville and Washington, Kan. Bob and Carolee moved to Manhattan to be near Beth’s family after retirement in 1995. They were indispensable in helping with grandchildren, and Bob especially deepened his bond with his disabled grandson. They became devoted members of University Christian Church, where Bob’s lack of fear of heights was valuable in changing light bulbs and his handyman skills were appreciated. They faithfully delivered cookies to first-time visitors and were fixtures in greeting worshippers at Sunday morning services. UCC members fondly remember Bob singing ‘O Holy Night’ for many years at Christmas Eve services.
In 2018, Bob and Carolee settled into their new retirement community home in Wichita near daughter Cathie and her family. They attended Pathway Christian Church. Bob dearly loved being near his little great-grandsons, who were the most recent riders on the family rocking horse Bob built 30 years ago. He was a skilled and creative carpenter, and despite requiring a wheelchair for mobility late in his life, he imaginatively set up a workshop in his garage in Wichita and always had a project underway. His retirement community buddies would gather around his garage for coffee, he frequently took naps there, and he puttered around in his “playpen” (as Carolee called it) even throughout the week prior to his passing.
He is survived by his wife, Carolee Engle Hartenstein, daughter Cathie Hartenstein Chaffin (Kevin) of Wichita, daughter Beth Hartenstein Tolentino (Elias) of Manhattan, granddaughters Meagan Hymel of Wichita, Bri Parker (Dan) of Wichita, Claire Carty-Tolentino (Kevin) of Washington, D.C., Sophia Kenney-Tolentino (Patrick) of Manhattan, grandson Nicolas Tolentino of Manhattan, and two great-grandsons, Luke and Andrew Parker of Wichita. Other survivors include sister Frances Burdick of Salina, and brothers Gene Hartenstein of Chapman and Wilbur Hartenstein of Colton, Oregon. He was preceded in death by his parents and older brother Ted Hartenstein.
Arrangements are being handled by the Hillside Funeral Home West in Wichita. A come-and-go memorial gathering will be Saturday, Feb. 5, from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at University Christian Church in Manhattan. There will be a family graveside service in Abilene at a later date. Memorials are suggested to the Multiply Campaign at Manhattan Christian College or to a non-profit organization of your choice.