Robert E. Lee Hartman Sr.

April 3, 1922January 2, 2011

Robert Hartman was born at 9:00 am on April 3, 1922 in South Bend Township, Kansas, which is ½ mile south and 1 ½ miles east of Great Bend. He was named Robert E. Lee after the great civil war general. When he was born, the doctor and midwife thought that he was a still-born breech baby and just threw him in the corner. Guess he fooled everyone, since he never let anyone put him in the corner since that day. The farm he was born on was originally his grandfather’s…Frederich Hartman, who had purchased the land from the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe Railroad. His earliest childhood memory was when he was 4 or 5 and ran into a door and knocked my two front teeth out. Another early childhood memory was when a gypsy woman came to the farmhouse door and was trying to sell his mother some “good fortune”. She was eyeing his mom’s dishes, one in particular, but his mom wouldn’t let the woman in. In the early 1920’s, the Catholic Church brought orphans on the infamous “Orphan Trains” from New York out to the farms of the Midwest. Farmers would take them in to work the farms. Five of these children ended up in their area. They were treated pretty well there, but in other areas, they weren’t as lucky. When he was six, he came down with some sickness that made his legs weak. He couldn’t walk, so he couldn’t go to school. He just laid in the window on the south side of the house. He studied at home all winter, but was better in the spring and was able to go back to school. He rode to school on horseback, behind his sister Marian. The school he attended was one room for all grades. His teacher was Violet Seller. Arithmetic was his favorite subject As a child, he didn’t like doing farm work. They had wheat, milo and alfalfa clover. They had beef cattle, 30 hogs and 1000 laying hens. The eggs went by train to a restaurant in Denver. They got 10 cents a dozen. He loved to shoot his gun. He would practice shooting the head off a bolt. When he was 10, he trapped gophers in the field. He got 10 cents a pelt. He loved his Grandpa Cooney. When he used to go see him his grandpa would open his purse and give him a nickel so he could get ice cream. When he was young, he would sit on the front porch and close his eyes and could tell what kind of car was coming down the road just by the sound of the engine. For fun, he would go rabbit hunting every Sunday. They would fry the rabbits and gave the jack rabbits to the frogs. Sometimes, there would be a Sunday ballgame. He progressed through school quite fast. He had his IQ tested. It was 186. Over 130 is genius level. He started high school when he was 12 or 13, and graduated when he was 16. He was a small child. When he was 16, he was only 5 ft. tall and weighed only about 90 lbs.. He didn’t start growing until he was 18…by 20, he had grown to 6 ft. When he was 16, he got a Model A Ice Cream truck for a vehicle. Later had a ’33 Ford Coupe…sold it, then got a ’41 Ford. After he graduated, he went to Chilocothe Business college in Chilocothe Missouri. He didn’t care for it because he didn’t like being inside, so he only stayed there for six months then went back home. He and his best friend, Jimmy Schraple, drove to Portland Oregon and stayed with uncle Jim. They slept on cots in the garage. They worked at different dairies, milking over 50 cows a day. He stayed there over a year. He said Portland was nice but rained all the time so you were always ducking umbrellas. He said there were a lot of roses everywhere though. They headed down the coast to Santa Monica and got a job at Douglas Aircraft. There were a total of five guys there from Great Bend. He worked as a riveter on the DC 3’s. He was 18 or 19 at the time. While he was in Santa Monica, he used to go to dances. One night he got to “jitterbug” with one of the Andrew Sisters at the Douglas Rec Center, and ended up getting their picture in Life Magazine. He had learned to dance by watching people at the Venice Ballroom. It was while at Douglas that he started chewing Copenhagen snuff. He went back to Great Bend after the war started and enlisted. He said that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was a big surprise, but that the U.S. knew it was coming. Three days later, he received his draft notice. He reported for training camp at the Naval Air Corp in Hutchison Kansas on 10/31/42. Then he was shipped to Quansol Point, Rhode Island , as an aviation mechanic, but the Lieutenant in charge of personnel wanted him in the office. He was assigned to do book work. He had to keep track of all personnel. He did that for over a year, then was transferred to Corpus Christi and worked in the office there. He was required to get in 4 hours of flight time a month. His job flying was as a spotter on “sub patrol” . One time when he was flying they spotted a German sub 40-50 miles off the gulf. A German was sunning himself on the deck. They bombed the sub. He didn’t know if they hit it or not, since they didn’t have good bomb sites back then. He knew that at least one or two German subs went of the Mississippi river before they started laying nets. One morning he was supposed to do his flight time but a Chief talked him out of it because he said he needed the flying time, so he let the Chief go in his place. That plane never came back, and was never found it. In June of 1945, it was announced over the loud speaker that the war with Germany was over. He was supposed to be discharged, but got transfer papers to Norman, Oklahoma instead. He went there then was discharged on March 30, 1946. He hitch-hiked back to Great Bend. His mom and dad had moved into town in 1941, so he stayed with them. He started a bottling company. He had to buy the distributor rights from a guy who did all the advertising. The guy turned out to be a crook, beginning his long litany of relationships with charlatans who have taken advantage of him over the years and relieved him of his hard-earned cash. Thus, he quit that business and began wheat farming with a friend. To supplement his income, he began playing “moon” (a form of dominoes) in the pool halls. Because he had a photographic memory, he won about 80% of the time. He was doing farming and plumbing on the side, when he met his wife Dorothy. He and his friend were driving downtown and saw her and her sister as they were walking home from the movies. They honked at them and stopped to talk. They got married in the County Treasurer’s Office October 8, 1948, a year after he met her. He was 26 and she was 22. They lived in the little rental house in back of his parents house. Dorothy had two daughters: Jean 3, and Claudia 4 ½. His brother-in-law got him into the Local 661 electrical Union in 1948. His starting pay was 90 cents an hr. He moved his family to Hutchison KS in 1951. Then moved with the work to KS City, KS, Lawrence, and Eudora KS, then Belton MO. Then on to Corpus Christi, TX. for the fall and winter work. In April of ’52 they went back to Kansas City. When he left Corpus, he was making $1.82 per hr. In May of ’54, he moved the family to Denver. He worked for Shannon Electric. He signed a 3 yr. contract for $1.90 and hr and $2.25 the next year. Then he worked at Arrow Electric, Al Zito, then Johnson Control. He tried to run his own electric & HVAC company in the ‘60’s, but it didn’t take off. The name of the business was Hartman/May. He worked on the Convention center, and worked in the mountains for the television stations. Then on to work at Buckley missle site. One day he had just come out of a building when someone turned the hydrolic tie backs down, which caused the two big cables on each side of the door to come loose. The missle silo door came down. Five or six people were smashed, and he was only 50 feet away. TV people came to his house that night to interview him. While working in a bank building in Cherry Creek, pulling wire, a wire flopped down and hit a live wire. Copper shavings burned his face…taking his mustache off. Another incident at work was at Buckley doing splicing in a ditch at the tower. The power was off, but there was a military shift change . The new guy saw the power was off and flipped it back on while he was splicing. He got 3rd degree burns over most of his body. He thought that incident was what started his Parkinson’s disease. He retired the first time at 65, then went back to work for Charlie O’Donnell at DIA on the distribution system. He was there for 2 years and made the most money he had ever made..$25/hr. He was the oldest man there, but never missed a day of work. He was then moved to the notorious baggage system as an inspector…he was fired from that job because he wouldn’t “pass” anything and they were under pressure to get the job done. The thing he was most proud of was building his house near Franktown, with his son, Bob, Dorothy began having heart trouble in 1993, and died in June of ’96. She is buried in Ft. Logan cemetery, where he will be laid as well. In June of 2001, he married Wanda Stewart. He said she had a loving family and she would do anything for them. She had dreamed that they would have many happy years together traveling and doing things, but that was not to be. His Parkinson’s disease began to worsen, then he lost the ability to walk. Wanda became his loving caretaker. That burden has now been lifted from her, but the good memories cannot be lifted from her heart. We know she will miss him terribly. Bob’s fondest memory was his trip to Europe in 1973 to visit his daughter Jean and her husband Jim and his grandson Jimmy. While there, he was able to go to a Union Meeting in Ipswich England. That is how much he loved his work. His work was everything to him. His favorite car was his LTD. His greatest regret was being a “workaholic”. Always working or thinking about work instead of being with his family. He said that if he could do one thing over, it would be to have paid more attention to his family. He felt that he let them down…He didn’t feel that way at the time but he did in the last couple of years. He said the biggest event in his life was Nolan Ryan pitching a “no hitter”. Also, the moon shot. Bob had an interesting life. In recent years, he occupied himself with his “paperwork” and doing computer games…He would spend hours playing hearts or dominoes. He leaves behind his wife Wanda, his daughters Claudia, Jean and Lanette, and his three sons: Bob Jr. Marshall and Marlow as well as his grandchildren Jim, Laura, Jeff, Craig and Dianne and his great grandchildren. He also leaves behind his friends and all his brothers in the IBEW.


Robert E. Lee Hartman Sr.

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David Lewis

January 8, 2011


Yvonne McCosh Williams

January 7, 2011

Rest in peace Uncle Bob.

Bob Mulkey

January 7, 2011

Your are already missed our dear friend Bob, may you rest in peace!
Our family will cherish the friendship and times we shared with you.

Bob, Bonnie Mulkey and family

Lynda & K.C. Williams

January 7, 2011

Bob I will always have a spot in my heart for you. You will be missed. Your struggle is over. Rest in peace.

Jim Ramsey

January 6, 2011

To the family of Bob who I admired very much.
As an apprentice my learning increased because of his guidance.
The memory of Bob breaking his leg at Kraft Foods Wearhouse and his returning to work on crutches in just a couple of days is an example of his presonality and his desire "to get the job done".
He was a gifted electrician, foreman and person.
Peace to your memory Bob!!!

Patty Olds

January 6, 2011

Rest in peace, I pray your family can find peace in their hearts and comfort in your memories.

Bruce Harms

January 6, 2011

May you rest in peace, I will always remember the times at 2340 Forest. You were always good to me .

Michael Mayers

January 5, 2011

All the great memories, I will never forget.

Donna Layne

January 5, 2011

Dear Wanda, Dan and I are so sorry to hear of Bob's passing. May God comfort you and bless you. Love, Donna (and Dan) Layne

Lanette Murfield

January 5, 2011

May you rest in peace, dad. Your struggle is finally over.