Eulogy for Robert Urlocker


Zack Bob Urlocker funeral 2023

Thank you everyone for coming today.

My dad was a good man. He came from a more stoic generation and he was a bit of an enigma to me. He was many things. He was kind. Strict. Generous. Cheap. Highly religious. Accepting of all people and all ways of life. He was an engineer who never figured out computers. Or Uber. Or Wordle.

He traveled to 34 countries and 48 states but he never visited Wekiva Springs state park 5 miles from his house. A park he drove by twice weekly for more than 25 years.

I am not sure how many provinces he traveled to and now it’s too late to ask him. When we were kids my parents bought a tent trailer and we visited all of the maritime provinces. Those were good times.

But did he ever visit Manitoba? Saskatchewan? In good faith, I’m willing to give him ten on ten.

My father instilled in us the value of hard work. Integrity. Being a good partner.

My father was resolute. That’s not just another word for stubborn. He was determined and unwavering. He was the rock in my parents’ marriage. My mother, let’s face it, she could be stubborn. Not so resolute. He was calm. He was measured. He was always there for us.

My parents made a good team. I have a memory of my mother taking my father’s hand and dancing to the music from the kitchen radio. He was not a good dancer. I got that from my father also.

We had a strict upbringing, or that’s how it seemed to me. If my father was ever impatient with any of you, I hope you will forgive him. He had high standards for himself and he expected no less from others.

Bob Urlocker funeral 2023My parents raised five children, some of whom, ok most of whom, ended up in trouble at some point. But we all turned out ok. He was proud of all of us.

Urlockers left to their own can be a bit book-ish. (Or so I am told.)  So, thank you to all the out-laws for brightening my father’s life. He loved all of you. All his children. His grandchildren. And his great-grandchildren.

After my mother died in 2006, my father continued to travel. He went to China, Germany, Poland, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, California, Alaska, Mount Rushmore. He had a neuropathy that over time impacted his mobility and finally he had to give up travel and golf.

In 2017, his, ah, resoluteness gave in and he accepted that he needed to move into an independent living facility. He enjoyed living at Village on the Green. He knew people there and he stayed active with his church and with his small faith group.

Somehow, my father managed to survive Covid. He almost learned how to Zoom.

My father broke his hip in 2021. I am grateful to Karen for spending months with him during his recovery. Thank you to everyone who visited him in the last few years.

Despite his more limited mobility, my father was a part of his community and respected by everyone there. But over time, his spirit dimmed and there was a bit less of my dad at every visit.

He never made it to Wekiva Springs, but I did.

My father lived a long life, full of love. He was quite private, but he told me he was ready to go. He was more than ready. He had his bags packed sitting by the curb. Still, he made it to 93 before he finally called for the great Uber in the sky.

Also, he told me: Karen truly was his favorite daughter.

Later today, I hope all of you will raise a glass in memory of my father.

In the days, weeks, months and years that follow, I hope you will all live as good a life as he did.

Goodbye To My Dad

Bob Urlocker 92 a

My phone rang just past 7:30 this morning. It was my sister. Even as I jolted awake, I knew the reason for the call. For the last two years, we knew it would come one day. I expected the call to come from 407 area code, from Village on the Green, the assisted living facility where my father lived. They'd tried to get me earlier, but the call bounced and they continued down the line and got hold of my sister.

Karen had sent an email yesterday evening saying my father had symptoms of a stomach flu and went to bed early. She had spoken to him and said he didn't sound good. That wasn't like him and I hoped it wasn't Covid. Apparently he'd coughed up blood. When they did a room check on him this morning, he had passed away. 

Bob Urlocker Karen GreggHe turned 93 a couple of days ago. My wife and I spoke to him on his birthday and he was in good form. He said he was still young compared to a lot of people at Village on the Green. But he didn't want to live to 100. I'd had that conversation with him a few times. He was ready to go and had been for some time. 

He slowed down in recent years, due to neuropathy in his legs that reduced his mobility. By 2017, he could no longer golf. He stalled for six months, but agreed to move from the house on a golf course where he had lived with my mother for more than twenty years to an independent living facility. We'd hoped he might be willing to move to Michigan, Ottawa or Arizona to be near family, but he wanted to stay in Florida where he had friends. He'd also had enough of winter.

Bob Urlocker GermanyI'm grateful we got to spend a lot of time with him in recent years. My mother passed away in 2006 and we'd taken my father on trips to China and San Francisco. He also traveled on his own to Alaska, Germany, Poland, Israel, Australia and New Zealand. 

My wife and my sister helped him pare back his belongings to what would fit in a two-bedroom apartment. He was fine with whatever they got rid of, but he didn't want to see it. He was happy to get an apartment on the ground floor near the dining room. He knew other residents there from his church and was engaged in many group activities. 

The facility was in lockdown for several months during the pandemic, so his 90th birthday was over Zoom. Once we got vaccinated, my wife and I flew down to see him. He was in good spirits, if a bit less sturdy on his feet. When we left, I said to my wife: the biggest risk is he's going to fall and break his hip.

Israel 2023-07-04 at 11.41.05 AMTwo days later, he called me from a hospital for that very reason. I flew back to Florida the next morning and my wife and sister joined a few days later. We stayed together in his apartment and despite the travails of rehab, there were a lot of laughs. My sister spent the better part of two months with him.

I managed to visit my father every few months during the last couple of years. Surprisingly, he managed a good recovery. My father was hard working and resolute. Whatever life thew at him, he took in stride. But time takes its toll, and the neuropathy continued its course, eventually leaving him wheelchair bound. We also learned that he had Parkinson's. And there was a noticeable deterioration in his short-term memory. 

My father had always been an avid reader and I would load his Kindle with Len Deighton, John le Carré and Philip Kerr novels. Sometimes he remembered the stories from the past, but he enjoyed re-reading them. It broke my heart when he gave up reading. My brother and I had finished writing a novel but he could no longer retain what he was reading from one page to the next. I think he was proud of us, but I'm sad that he never got to read the work. Did it measure up? Did I? 

Bob Urlocker Christmas 2022 moustanchesThe last few years, I knew it was just a matter of time. I tried to be a good son to my father. I would get him to talk about the past, about travel we did as a family out to Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Lake Ontario. His world kept getting smaller. He didn't leave Village on the Green. He barely went outside. He stopped doing email. My wife and I introduced Wordle to some of the residents of the assisted living facility, but without us being there to coach them, it didn't take. 

I last saw him in March, on a solo trip that overlapped with my sister's last visit. Meals at the assisted living facility were hard. My father would sometimes close his eyes and nod off for a moment. Without my sister or wife in the dining room, conversation was pretty slow among the other guests. If you could get them to talk about their past there were some fascinating stories.

Zack wekiva springs alligatorBut after you've heard the stories enough times you can repeat them yourself and eaten the same food five days in a row, you can get a little antsy. To stay sane, I developed a few rituals. I would run and swim at nearby Wekiva Springs State Park. I would get BBQ from Four Rivers Smokehouse. I would have a local Funky Buddha beer at dinner. Sometimes I would play at the blues jam at The Alley in Sanford, Florida. I love my father, but it is an ordeal to see someone you love fade away. 

I often thanked my father, and my mother before she passed way, for raising five kids. They gave us good values: hard work, integrity, curiosity, respect. Everyone thrived and no one went to jail. There were some years in my late teens and early twenties when things were strained between us. My older brother Shawn and I duked it out to see who would be the black sheep of the family and, ultimately, he won out. I reconciled with my parents in my late twenties one Christmas when we all gathered at my sister's house in Ottawa. 

Bob Urlocker graduationMy dad studied chemical engineering earning a bachelor's degree from Queens University and a Master's Degree from University of Toronto, despite missing a year of school due to scoliosis. He was born in the depression and neither he nor my mother had an especially easy upbringing. My father was a strict Catholic, but as he grew older, I was glad to see he was liberal in his views. He understood the difference between those who do good and those who wield religious dogma against others.

My father had a career in the world of chemical engineering working for Liquid Carbonic, Air Liquide and then switching industries to become GM of the Canadian Division of American Air Filter, a manufacturing company. When he came to visit us in San Francisco one time, my wife brought him to the Zendesk office and I learned to my surprise that my father had worked as Product Manager early in his career. I guess the acorn doesn't fall far and all that. 

Bob Alaska 5When American Air Filter was acquired by a larger manufacturer Allis-Chalmers in the early 1980s, my parents moved from Montreal to Louisville, Kentucky. They made a lot of friends there and really enjoyed the community.

In 1989, my father made one final switch to become CFO of a semiconductor testing company CTL located in Florida. I am not sure he was well suited to that industry. After a few years, the founders wanted to move in a different direction and so my father retired. Thirty years later he told me not to tell anyone that he had been let go from his last job. I told him I was sure the statute of limitations had run out on that, that he'd had a good career and he shouldn't worry about it. Good advice for anyone.

After my father's retirement, my parents traveled to Russia, Macedonia and other countries where my father worked with a non-profit organization as an advisor to help local manufacturing companies modernize their operations. 

As much as I hate Florida in the summer, I had been planning to visit my father in August. But now, plans have changed. My wife and I are heading there tomorrow. There will be paperwork to be done, arrangements to be made, people to see. There were still a couple of cans of Funky Buddha in his fridge when I visited in March. Maybe I'll get some Four Rivers BBQ. And if I'm lucky, one last trail run and swim at Wekiva Springs State Park to say my final goodbye. 

Bob Zack Gregg China 4In these situations, you always wish you had one more visit, one goddamned more phone call, please, just one more time... But it would never be enough. He was ready to go and I'm glad that he didn't have to deal with a lengthy illness. He lived a good life, he cared about people and he left a solid legacy through his children and grandchildren. My mom will be glad to see him.

So, if you find yourself with family and friends this holiday weekend, cherish the moment. And if the spirit takes you, raise a glass of Jameson in my father's honor. No doubt, he will do the same for you. 

Official obituary at / Orlando Sentinel

PS. Feel free to post positive vibes or any special memories as a comment below. Thank you!

Mary bob 1956

Bob Mary Urlocker wedding

Bob China garden smile

Bob Zack China boat

Christmas Without Mary


This was our first Christmas without my mom.  Gregg and I flew to my younger brother Tim's family in Phoenix and we were joined by my brother Mike, his family and my father.  It was not the entire family, but there were nephews and nieces to ensure that things were lively.  But there were times when it was very noticeable that my mom was really gone.  It was the thing that was on everyone's mind even if we did not speak about it much.

I was sad on Christmas day, but I realized that the things my mother appreciated, the festivity, the kids running around, she would have greatly enjoyed.  I'm sure she would have been playing Guitar Hero with the boys and laughing right along with them.   That image of her laughing and having fun let me relax and enjoy the day. That's what my mother would have wanted. 

Tim said a prayer at dinner and got everyone choked up.  He was very close with my mom and I think he is still taking the loss quite hard.  There's a tension there that I have not seen before with him; he's usually the most easy going and social guy, but there were times on this trip when he seemed distant and preoccupied. 

It's freaky, because it just catches up with you once in a while.  There have been many times over the last six months where I've woken up and thought "I should call my mom to --" and then the realization hits me that my mother's not around any more.   But I still think of her often.  I hope that she's proud of what's going on in her children's lives and that we are all living up to the potential she saw for us.



After the funeral and the reception we had family over to the house.  I was still in a fog for an hour or two after the reception, but as guests came to the house the mood changed.  The kids were playing together in the pool, neighbors brought food, we drank beer, watched the Tour De France, caught up with cousins.  We heard stories about my mother, mostly of the "off the record" variety.  We reminisced about camping trips when we were young and road trips to Allentown and Kingston to visit family.  It was a really nice time.

As my brother Mike remarked the night before, my mother was always the bright light at a party. Her spirit was there and you could see my mother in her brother Ted's eyes and in her sister Carmel's smile. 

Sometime around 10:30 after everyone had left or gone to bed, I went for a run.  The heat and humidity had broken and there was a gentle rain.  I was relaxed and ran for nearly an hour as I've done countless times in the last six months.   But I felt better than I have in a long time.  I realized my mother would have really enjoyed the day.   And I guess she did. 



Today we had the funeral mass at the Church of the Annunciation that my parents belong to.  Many of my mother's golf friends and neighbors were there as well as my mother's sister Carmel and her son Bob, her brother Ted and his wife Joan, our cousins Kevin, Gary, Michelle and Colleen.  I'm sure my mother was pleased to be remembered by so many.  There were more than 200 people there.

My wife Gregg and Tim's wife Kelly did the readings from the Book of Wisdom and from Corinthians.  Father Bill did a nice homily about my mother and taking something from how she lived and incorporating it into our lives. 

Later there was a reception at my parents' golf club.  Gregg and Kelly had set up a nice table of photos of my mother and our families along with my parents wedding album from 1957.  Gregg had also ordered crystal Christmas ornaments of a golf bag with a shamrock on it from Galway Ireland to give to all the families so that they would have a way of remembering my mother. 

I got up to say a brief memorial.  I didn't think I would be able to do it extemporaniously, so I wrote it up yesterday.  Afterwards, many people got up and told stories about my mother, some light hearted, some serious, all of them touching.  Many people said that they had read the web site, which was nice.  I got to thank many people who had posted comments to my mother and I let them know that I had read them to my mother in the final days.

Here's what I said:

I'd like to thank everyone for coming, especially those who traveled far.  Also thanks to those who could not make it, but wrote, called, sent email or posted comments to the web site.  You all meant a lot to my mother.

Especially her grand kids: Austin and Cameron, Brianna and Faith, Ruby and Agnes, Lauren and Brendan who are here today.  She loved you guys and she appreciated that she didn't have to discipline you.

My mother was sometimes strict with us growing up, but I had great respect for the values she had.  I owe a debt of grattitude to both my parents for helping to make me who I am today.  She shaped all of us and she touched our lives.

The last six months, I got to see another side of my mother.  She knew she would not live the year, but she still had kindness, humor and strength.

She accepted what was happening.  But she went with a fight at the end to make sure that we finished saying the rosary before she died. 

Thank you to my father, my brothers, my sister and my wife for helping out in the final days.  They were tough times but they will make us stronger.  That's what my mother would have wanted. 

Please raise a toast to my mother.  Mom, I miss you.



There's still a few last minute preparations for the funeral and reception that we've been working on today.  We had a head start early in the week, but now time is running out and some things are still not finalized.  It will all come together, but it's the kind of last minute stress that puts you over the edge given the circumstances.  I was cursing in the car on the way to the funeral home today after 30 minutes in heavy traffic, but it was just the stress getting to me. 

The rest of the family has arrived now.  My brother Mike returned yesterday with his wife and two girls.  Karen's husband and her two girls came in yesterday.  And today My brother Shawn arrived today with his wife and two of his kids.  With Tim's two boys we now have a house full of kids and they are enjoying playing together by the pool.  When we were kids, visiting with our cousins was always tremendous fun.  It's nice to see that happening with the next generation.  But we don't get together as much as we should and that's a shame.  As my brother Mike put it "weddings and funerals."

My wife ordered some  plastic bracelets for the kids to remember my mother.  They are teal colored, to signify ovarian cancer, and they can add small buttons you can add representing different aspects of my mother's life, a golf ball, a shamrock, a maple leaf, a nurse's cross etc.  It was a nice project for the kids.

Flights from Heck


Unfortunately, our red eye flight last night to Chicago was canceled.  It was somewhat of a panic situation at the airport.  There were no other options to go east last night due to weather problems.  And no good options to get to Orlando even on Saturday.  The woman from United was quite helpful though and we managed to get a flight from Oakland 6:00 am connecting through Chicago and then to Tampa Bay.  Hey, at least it's in Florida.

We drove to Oakland, stopped at In-N-Out Burger and stayed in a sleezy motel.  Four hours sleep, two cups of coffee and we are ready to roll.

There was a further panic when we were changing planes in Chicago and Gregg realized that her checked bag was tagged to go out on a later flight to Tampa.  Luckily we were able to speak to an agent in Chicago and they got her bag on the right flight.  I guess the prayers from the nuns from St Clare's Retreat were starting to kick in!