Robert James Bieszka
April 7, 1953 ~ December 20, 2023
Comstock Park, Michigan
Resided in: Alexandria, Virginia
Robert James Bieszka, age 70, passed away in his home in Alexandria, Virginia on Wednesday evening, December 20, 2023. Bob was surrounded in love and attended by his wife, son, and youngest brother. Bob was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in late 2022 and succumbed to the disease a year after the diagnosis.
Bob lived a full life devoted to his family, his friends, and his many hobbies. He was born on April 7, 1953 in Comstock Park, Michigan, to Theodore (Ted) Bieszka and Crystal (nee Jacobs) Bieszka, and was the second of four children. Bob attended Grand Rapids West Catholic High School where he played football and excelled in art. Bob continued his education at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and then a Master of Fine Arts degree in design from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield, Michigan. Bob’s talent in art and photography and his love of design served him well throughout his career as a graphic designer and art director in Ann Arbor, Traverse City, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, and briefly in New York City.
Bob was a man of many passions and hobbies, collecting friends and an encyclopedia of knowledge with each activity. He quickly developed a love of the outdoors in his childhood, both at home and at the family cottage in Belding, Michigan, which led to decades of hunting and fishing. He embraced environmental conservation, planting and propagating trees and native plants at his residences in Grand Rapids and later in Dexter, Michigan. Bob’s love of nature found its greatest outlet in northern Michigan, where he resided in early adulthood. Lake Michigan, and the beauty and woods of Leelanau County became his spiritual home.
A sailboat trip up the Hudson River brought Bob to the next phase of his life, when he met his future wife, Mary Jukuri, a fellow designer living in New York City, but also a native of Michigan. The couple soon moved back to the Ann Arbor area, designing and building their own home near Dexter, Michigan. There they raised their son Jim, and pursued a full life of family, work, and travel.
Through his friend Roger Hill, Bob developed a passion for hickory golf, becoming a member of the Society of Hickory Golfers, a group dedicated to preserving vintage golf and restoring antique wood shafted golf clubs for play. Despite a high handicap, his golf friends dubbed him “Sunny”, for his enthusiasm and happiness playing the game, no matter his score. Bob was an avid listener of the music of the 1970’s. As he joked “all the good notes got used up in the 70’s”. Some of his favorites were Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan, Dire Straits, Steve Winwood, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Bob was a skilled handyman, remodeling and repairing projects in all of his various homes. One of his recent projects was building an outdoor Finnish Sauna with his son Jim in 2021.
It is hard to summarize a life well lived. It is hard to summarize Bob’s life, as a beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend. An amazing artist and photographer. A devoted dog lover to Queenie, Annie, and Sadie. An accomplished outdoorsman and hunter. A kind and caring husband. A proud father and adoring grandfather. A beloved brother and uncle. An admired and giving friend. And forever a proud Detroit Lions and Detroit Red Wings fan. At last in 2023, the Lions made him proud again.
Bob is preceded in death by his parents Ted and Crys Bieszka. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Mary Jukuri; son James Bieszka, daughter-in-law Noor Martakoush, and grandchildren Theo and Zoya; brother and sister-in-law Chuck and Kathy Bieszka; sister and brother-in-law Joanne and Mike Feutz; brother John Bieszka; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and aunts. He left us too soon. He is sorely missed. A memorial gathering will be held for family and friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in early 2024, exact date and time to be determined.
The family is eternally grateful for the caregivers who provided loving and compassionate care to Bob and Mary in the last stages of his disease. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Inland Seas Education Association at https://schoolship.org; to the ALS Association at https://www.als.org; or the Arbor Day Foundation at https://www.arborday.org