Robert T. Elhenicky of Portage, MI.
Affectionately referred to as "Dad, "GB", "Spade Cooley", "Bob", and his favorite, "Colonel", Robert Thomas Elhenicky passed away peacefully on the morning of September 19, 2023.
To say his story was interesting really doesn't do it justice. Born in Chicago during WW2 (with a few years in Texas), it is fitting that the military played a defining role throughout his life.
Although a good student by all accounts, at the age of 17 he dropped out of Carl Sandburg High School and enlisted in the USAF, surprising his friends and family. Armed with his 8th grade diploma, Airman Elhenicky completed basic training in Texas and found himself stationed in England during some of his most formative of his years. Some of his favorite stories took root in his time overseas and he would consider himself a lifelong Anglophile. Quickly obtaining his G.E.D., he then enrolled at the University of Cambridge and thus began a lifetime committed to furthering his education and service with and surrounding the military.
Upon returning stateside and while continuing his education with stops at the University of Maryland, Northwestern, and Western Michigan University, he obtained multiple advanced degrees and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army.
While serving both active and reserve duty in the medical and intelligence arms of the service, he tapped into his entrepreneurial spirit that would be ever present. Serving as president of the family beer distribution business and restaurant proprietor, he got his start in what would be a lifelong passion in rental properties. He ultimately returned to service with the Department of Defense, predominately at the US Tank Automotive Command, until his retirement where he was recognized for his 40+ years of service to our national defense on many fronts.
While I know he lost track of how many awards, certificates, designations, and promotions he received over the years, the one he was very proud of occurred recently when he was awarded his Honorary High School diploma with a ceremony at Sandburg, officially ending his ability to refer to himself as a dropout.
In retirement he settled in Portage but continued his dedication to those in uniform. While providing mental health services to veterans in need, he often provided anonymous financial assistance and established his rental properties as veteran friendly.
He is survived by his son, Rob (Lyndsay), and grandchildren, Elsa and Will, along with many friends, colleagues, and countless people he took great joy in helping both near and far.
He truly lived with a mantra of Service over Self. He defined success in life by making sure to laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded. Mission accomplished. Arrangements entrusted to Langeland Family Funeral Homes Burial & Cremation Services 622 S Burdick St. Kalamazoo, MI 49007. To leave an online condolence, please visit