Robert Prell Etgen passed away in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Feb. 5, 2021 surrounded by his family.
The son of Martha (Prell) and William C. Etgen, Bob was born on Staten Island in 1937 and attended school at New Dorp High School. Growing up, Bob loved flowers, dogs and convertibles. He had no interest in sports and was happiest around his family and friends. He was a real jokester and social butterfly. After high school he attended the American Academy of Funeral Services and became a funeral director in Brooklyn at Joseph G. Duffy Funeral Home and then M.J. Smith Sons.
Marriage, Family and Career
Bob married Arlene Longobardi in 1965 and they started their family on Staten Island. They then moved to New Jersey and fulfilled Arlene’s dream of running a farm, Sunny Acres in Cream Ridge, NJ.
Bob was a great dad and taught his two children the value of education, independence and humor and was always there to offer advice or a ride to a practice.
He commuted to Brooklyn between working on the farm. Bob was passionate about his role at the funeral home and understood the privilege of helping families through such a difficult time.
“I miss the intimacy and community of the job even though it was often sad.” He explained to his daughter a few years after retirement.
Arlene passed away in 1995 and Bob began his next chapter. He stayed in Cream Ridge for another ten years before he sold his land and moved to a retirement community in South Jersey. There he became an organizer of parties and loved being part of the Danbury Road “social club.”
Gimlet Straight Up
Bob will be most remembered for his sense of humor and love of life. He worked hard but also knew how to have fun. He was a great friend and helpful neighbor who loved preparing festive gatherings for family and friends filled with flavorful food and cocktails.
Bob’s facial expressions, hand gestures and body language often got his point (and many opinions) across without uttering a word. One of his friend’s once remarked, “His personality arrives before he does.”
A lover of the outdoors and sun, he could often be seen on his tractor donning a thatched sombrero, short shorts and high dress socks with old loafers as he waved to neighbors.
He survived two heart surgeries and was living with dementia, but his “Bobisms” did not fade. He still was successful at making his nurses and family laugh until his last days.
One of his caregivers recently summed it up well, “They just don’t make ’em like that anymore.”
Summary and Farewell
Robert Etgen was a true original and he will be greatly missed by his family and friends.
Bob is survived by his son Laurence Etgen of Lambertville, New Jersey, his daughter Alicia Etgen and her partner Dr. Joseph Willis of Tulsa, Oklahoma, his brother William C. Etgen, Jr. and his family of Sacramento, California and many cousins.
The family will plan a celebration of life after the pandemic eases. Bob would have liked it if you toast him for now and feel free to donate to your favorite charity in his name if you are so inspired.