March 30, 1943 ~ April 23, 2021

Born in: Terre Haute, IN
Resided in: East Windsor, CT

Robert Ernest Cork, 78, born and raised in Terre Haute, Indiana, passed away in East Windsor, Connecticut, on April 23, 2021, after a long struggle with dementia, culminating in pneumonia.

Bob was a proud graduate of Terre Haute’s Garfield High School (home of the “Purple Eagles”), Class of 1960. He entered the US Air Force and after basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio was selected to be a Chinese Linguist, and attended the Institute for Far Eastern Languages (IFEL) at Yale University. In New Haven he met and married Wilifred A. Smith, a.k.a., Willie, the daughter of Frederick William and Gladys (Crowther) Smith of Mt. Carmel, Connecticut. They began their married life at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas.

He was an avid sportsman. As a youth, he raced in the Soap Box Derby against future baseball legend Tommy John. He played football at Garfield. He told of finding a dead body in the Wabash River when canoeing with future actor Hunter von Leer and fellow Boy Scouts in a canvas Old Town canoe he had restored with his younger brother, Tom. His scouting honors included the Order of the Arrow.

Bob loved to write and tell stories. He regaled his kids with recitations of poems by fellow Hoosier, James Whitcomb Riley. He was a reporter for the Terre Haute Star, where he also had a weekly “Outdoors in the Valley” column as “the Kickapoo Clodhopper.” He wrote about the troubles of producing a fishing show in TV Guide, profiled Olympic figure skater Janet Lynn in The Saturday Evening Post, and celebrated a son’s first basket in The Chicago Tribune. He published a book about a harness-racing family, “A Chance to Win,” in serial form in Hoof Beats magazine.

He loved music, playing the trombone in high school band and, much later, in a church orchestra. Like three of his sons he acted in musical theater at the Strand Theater in Seymour, Connecticut. His favorite song remained “Back Home Again in Indiana.”

Immediately upon leaving the Air Force he began a career in sales and marketing. He started with shoes and display items and went on to sporting goods, Ford cars, Zee medical supplies, industrial tools, and Home Depot appliances. He was at his best when networking, particularly when he served as Public Relations Director of the Rockford, Illinois, Chamber of Commerce. He coordinated the 1972 Olympic Trials for canoe and kayak at Rock Cut State Park as well as a welcome home ceremony in 1973 for Vietnam POW SSG Mike Lenker.

In his spare time, he enjoyed spending time with his family, working with wood, and paddling down a lazy river in the early morning mist, listening for the slap of a beaver’s tail.
Bob could strike up a conversation with anyone he met–and if he heard them speaking Mandarin, he would shock them by joining their conversation.
He was a loving partner to his spouse of 56 years, Willie, a lifelong nurse. He always said she was “too good for him.” Willie cared for Bob for many years as his health and memory declined after a traumatic brain injury. She passed away in 2017.


Bob was a devout man of faith, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and wrote for church publications including the youth magazines Insight and Guide. He was a firm believer in helping others. Bob and Willie became passionate advocates for the Palestinian people and a just resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict after visiting their son Dan in the West Bank in 1999. Among Bob’s favorite expressions were “You snooze, you lose,” and “Way to Go, Cork.”


Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Max and Rebecca (Taylor) Cork of Terre Haute, and his older brother, Max Joseph Cork. He is survived by his six children: Pamela June Cork (Eddie), William Joseph Cork (Joy), Robert Taylor Cork (Linda), James Russell Cork (Jessica), Daniel Eugene Cork (Marie-Ange), and Jason Freshour Cork (Melissa), by his sister, Margaret Hinners, and his brother, Tom Cork, and by fourteen grandchildren: Joshua Arnold, Sean Arnold, Peter Lopez, Laura Lopez, Andrew Cork, Aimee-Joy Hearn, Liam Cork, Elliott Cork, Aurelia Cork, Everett Cork, Marjolaine Vitali-Cork, Jeremy Vitali-Cork, Sadie Cork, and Matthew Cork, and five great grandchildren: Aubrey Arnold, Jayson Arnold, Adrianna Arnold, Naomie Lopez and Savannah Dempsey.


Funeral services are being coordinated by Beecher & Bennett, 2300 Whitney Avenue, Hamden, CT 06518. Visitation will be on Tuesday, May 11, from 6-9 p.m. at Beecher & Bennett. The funeral will be at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in the funeral home, followed by burial with military honors at the Connecticut State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown. On Wednesday evening there will be a program of stories and music at the New Haven Seventh-day Adventist Church, 355 Humphrey Street, New Haven, CT 06511, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. with reception following. The family asks that donations in Bob’s honor be made to the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation ( or Alley Cat Allies (

The live stream of Bob’s funeral can be watched at:[%7B%22surface%22%3A%22page%22%7D]%7D

The Wednesday evening service at New Haven SDA can be viewed on the church’s Facebook page here, or YouTube page here.


Visitation: May 11, 2021 6:00 - 9:00 pm

Beecher & Bennett Funeral Service - Hamden
2300 Whitney Avenue
Hamden, CT 06518


Funeral Service: May 12, 2021 10:00 am

Beecher & Bennett Funeral Service - Hamden
2300 Whitney Avenue
Hamden, CT 06518


Memorial Service: May 12, 2021 7:00 - 8:30 pm

New Haven Seventh-day Adventist Church
355 Humphrey Street
New Haven, CT 06511


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  1. Tom & Margaret…so sorry to hear about Bob. Old neighbors are hard to lose and forget. Prayers to both of you.

  2. Je n’ai pas eu la chance de connaître cette grande personnalité humaniste et militante, mais j’ai connu son fils Daniel, qui porte, j’en suis certain les mêmes bonnes valeurs.
    Je le remercie pour ce qu’il a fait de bien pour ses semblables, et souhaite que son âme repose en paix pour l’éternité.

  3. Godspeed, Dad. Thank you for all that you gave me, including skills and interests in wood working, public speaking, and story telling. I’ll miss our canoeing adventures.

  4. Que votre âme se repose en paix, et que vos enfants prendront le flambeau de votre éternelle flamme.
    Merci Bob
    Merci Dan

  5. “Further up and Further in”.. Dad.” Thanks for teaching me to follow my passion, for showing me the value of honesty and hard work, and for always being there to cheer me on. Thanks for lending me your paddle. I won’t let it go.

  6. Remembering an Easter at the Corks where Bob had set up activities for the “Pathfinders”. Sunrise services to watching a cow who was laboring are some of my memories. Always enjoyed his stories.
    Thank you for your service Bob, wish I would have told you many years ago.

  7. Sorry we couldn’t be with you to celebrate your father’s life. Our thoughts are with you.

  8. Saw Facebook today, and read about your family. What I got was a blessing knowing what a wonderful GODLY family life you all had. You are so blessed to have had two precious LOVING & GODLY parents, grandparents, and great grandparents!

    Praying for peace, and joy in knowing you will see them again when JESUS comes to take HIS children to be with HIM forever!

    My greatest earthly blessing is to KNOW JESUS! GOD be with you children of GOD, my brothers and sisters!

    Sister Dora St.

  9. Our prayers and thoughts are with you Jason and your family.
    Bob and Willie were a Blessing to know as you my friend.
    Fond memories that live on forever!🙏❤

  10. Loved your dad’s laugh and the way he and my dad would carry on with their collective love of adventure.

  11. Dear Cork Family – Enjoyed reading Mr Cork’s life story and can understand your great loss. Dementia is such a cruel thing not only robbing a person of their identity but also robbing family and friends of the person they knew and loved. So glad there were family members with him as he set forth on his new journey. Extending sympathy to each of you as you mourn your loss.

    Marge Hoffman
    Member Willoughby UMC

  12. “Freedom through Vigilance” Thanks Bob
    Kevin USAFSS 6987th Shu Lin Kou, Taiwan IFEL 1962

  13. Cork Family: “Freedom Through Vigilance” USAFSS Thanks for Bob’s Service. My condolences.

    Kevin Gunther IFEL ’62 6987th Shu Lin Kou, Taiwan, 62-63

  14. After witnessing themselves the tragedies in the West Bank of Palestine, caused by 72 years of atrocities committed by Israel and Israeli settlers (living on confiscated Palestinian land) against Palestinians from a few years old to the elderly, Willie and Bob acted with conviction. They were genuine humanitarians. Bob created a website he entitled Cactus48, the year hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly ejected from their homes where they and their ancestors had lived for centuries- since the beginning of time. It was beautifully and professionally written providing the history of Palestinians and Palestine. In one anti-war march, someone gave me handouts which I helped to distribute. They were gamecard size with summaries all from Cactus48 and so effective not only because of how well the content had been written but because they could be put in one’s pocket or wallet without the difficulty of carrying 8×11 pamplets.

    It was Willie who I first met. She visited at my home and communicated with me many times, even writing a letter to the editor in support of a lengthy 2009 op-ed I had written which was published in a local newspaper.

    Willie once invited me to a family brunch where I met Bob and a few children. He had a marvelous sense of humor, frequently making us laugh. A wonderful family to be with.

    I love the detail provided in this accounting of Bob’s life. I had no idea of the breadth of his life and activities and contributions. I’m about to be 87 and I have not read a more interesting obituary written with obvious extraordinary love far from the ordinary canned obituaries. Bob and Willie were themselves extraordinary in their love and commitment to justice. If only we had millions of clones of these two precious beings.

  15. We are very sorry we cannot be there. We are sending you all peace and comfort in our prayers.

  16. Dear Corks, I was a classmate of Bob’s all the way from Grade 1 through Garfield High School. I remember his being so very bright. Our paths crossed again in life during the 90’s when I was in seminary. He was most encouraging of my journey and sent me some of this writings about Christianity. I appreciated his support.

  17. Condolences to all of the Cork children and grandchildren on the loss of your father and grandfather. Although we never met in person, before he became ill we occasionally exchanged e-mails. He was interested in my previous career in book publishing because he had hoped one day to get some of his writing published. I came to know him and about him when I reconnected with my old friend Willie, whom I had known since we were four years old, thanks to Bill’s website. It was a pleasure and privilege to finally meet the six of you at Willie’s funeral and to continue the connection through Facebook.

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