Robert “Bob” Fred Kateley, of Merced, CA, passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones just after midnight on January 21, 2023. He was 88. Robert was born July 27, 1934 at home in the small town of Ceylon, Minnesota to parents Fred and Irma Kateley. Bob was the eldest of four children, and was preceded in death by both parents, daughter Brenda, younger brother, Jim, and wife June. Robert grew up working on his family’s farm in Bingham Lake, Minnesota where he would grow to love and appreciate dairy cows, rhubarb, corn cob pipes, and of course fishing. He would later recount that he did not care for or miss the Minnesota winters, but he sure did miss the many lakes and fishing opportunities. Robert attended Ceylon High School in Minnesota and would go on to be the first and only person of his class to graduate from Ceylon High School, and would jokingly say he graduated top of his class.
It was shortly after attending the University of Minnesota that Robert decided to take the call to action and join the United States Air Force where he figured it was a great opportunity to “see the world, fly some cool planes, and impress the ladies”. Robert did all of those things, flying nearly half of the Air Force planes on display at Castle Air Museum in Atwater, CA, flying all over the world, and of course impressing the ladies. Robert managed to impress one lady in particular, Arlyn Schroeder, who would become his wife and mother to his six children. Robert was a Vietnam Veteran, serving over twenty years in the United States Air Force, and would retire as a Major. While serving in the military, Robert completed his coursework and earned a Bachelor of Professional Aeronautics Degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He would also later earn an Associates in Science Degree from Merced College and with a smile claim that the “two degrees combined should suffice as a Master’s degree”.
As a military family, Robert and his family would move around and live all over the country. Maine, North Carolina, Florida, Hawaii, and California to name just a few. Robert was stationed at Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, CA and upon retiring from the Air Force, Robert and his family decided that they rather liked Merced County and would prefer to settle and start their next chapter there. Going back to his roots, Robert knew how to run a farm, and was familiar with running a dairy operation and so he and his family bought a Jersey cow dairy, ironically right next to Castle Air Force Base. This dairy was lovingly named Peaceful Heart Dairy, and the whole family lived on and ran the operation. Merced was good to Robert and his family, giving them all the opportunity to grow up and begin their lives in a small town. After several years, a divorce, and after many children left the nest, it was decided to sell Peaceful Heart Dairy and venture out for more adventure.
Robert would later work in many professions all over California, including teaching aeronautics, but no matter where Robert’s work or life would take him, he would always come back to Merced, CA. He eventually remarried, retired, and traveled around the country where he visited his many family and friends.
Robert was an active and long time member of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Merced, CA. He often took part in all of the social gatherings at Church, dinner groups, and club meetings. He became quickly known for his cooking and baking abilities. He was famous for his Christmas gift bags filled with his homemade holiday popcorn, chocolate chip cookies, and nut mixes. He particularly took great pleasure in making special desserts for special occasions, always sure to never repeat a recipe. Robert also found joy in art in his later years, drawing and painting air planes he flew, animals he found fascinating, or scenery that caught his eye. In Roberts home you could always see his love for cooking, baking, art, and his family by looking at his shelves and walls. Cookbooks and recipe folders graced many a bookshelf, art displayed on every wall, and of course pictures of all of those he loved found in every nook and cranny. Robert was loved, and well respected. We will miss him, his quiet humor, and his low timbered voice. He is survived by his sister Betty Thompson (Richard), brother John Kateley (Judy), his children Laura Kateley, Lynnda Kateley, Neal Kateley (Susan), Gail Basso (Ron), Rebecca Vincent, 16 grand-children, and 26 (and counting) great-grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life will be held for Robert at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church 1455 E. Yosemite Avenue, Merced, CA 95340 on February 18 at 11am followed by a potluck luncheon where we can browse photo albums, eat some of his favorite foods, and share memories. In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to the Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church Building Fund. The Church is in need of a new roof, and Robert felt that this was of particular importance.
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