University Letter

UND's faculty and staff newsletter

Remembering Robert Eelkema

Dr. Robert Eelkema
Dr. Robert Eelkema

Dr. Robert Eelkema, Professor Emeritus of Community Medicine & Public Health, died Dec. 27, 2021 at Altru Hospital, Grand Forks. He was 91.

Bob was born Sept. 24, 1930, in Mankato, Minn., to Herman and Ruth (Young) Eelkema, and was raised in Duluth, Minn., and Drayton, N.D. He was a 1948 graduate of Duluth Central High School and attended the University of Minnesota Duluth where he lettered in football. Bob graduated with a degree in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Minnesota, and then went on to earn his medical degree from the University of North Dakota and the University of Washington.

Bob proudly served as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps from 1961-1964. Following his tour he earned a Masters of Public Health at the University of California Berkeley.

Bob served for years as professor and chair of the Department of Community Medicine and Public Health at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences. His many accomplishments included establishing the Family Nurse Practitioner and Indians in Medicine (INMED) programs at UND and working with UND President Tom Clifford to establish the four-year medical school program at UND. He was co-author and author of two books. He was awarded UND’s Diversity of Medicine Award.

Upon his retirement from the University in 2000, Bob practiced as an emergency room physician in rural Minnesota for a number of years. He has graduated from the following colleges with degrees: University of Minnesota DVM 1956, UND Medical School BS 1959, University of Washington MN and Univ of Berkley, Masters Degree in Public Health 1968.

He married Lois White in 1951 and is survived by daughters Susan Lundeen (Tom), Barbara Helm, Kathryn Schulte (Jeff), Jennifer Davis (Quentin), Emily Thornell (Paul) and son Robert Eelkema (Kristine); along with numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, nephews and nieces. Bob is survived by wife Virginia (Kiesau) who he married August 20, 1973 in South Dakota. Together they had one son, Rienk, who was born in 1976. Rienk was tragically taken in a car accident in 1999. Bob and Ginny merged their families with his and her children Scott Pearson, Cindy Pearson, Wade Pearson (Dianne) and Chad Pearson (Mette).

Bob is preceded in death by his parents, brother Harrison Eelkema (Irene), sister Ruth Morgan (Ben) son in laws Harold Helm and Mitchell Davis, and son Rienk Eelkema.

Bob was so proud to have been blessed with 20 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

Bob enjoyed traveling both internationally and locally, including many annual vacations to Maui and Big Sky, Mont. He also loved his summers at Cass Lake, Minn. He was an avid reader, loved a good story, and was particularly interested in biographies. He was known to ask everyone he met about their background, their education and their heritage. He was known everywhere he went for his Hawaiian shirts, clogs and his very loud, infectious laugh. Most of all he loved spending time with his very large family – he will be missed by everyone who was blessed to have him as a friend.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be directed to the Mendenhall Presbyterian Church, East Grand Forks, Minn.

Funeral Service: 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 10, 2022 at the Mendenhall Presbyterian Church, East Grand Forks, MN.

Visitation: 2 – 4 p.m. with a 3:30 p.m. prayer service on Sunday, Jan. 9, in Mendenhall Presbyterian Church, 528 10th St. NW, East Grand Forks, MN and also one hour prior to the funeral service  on Monday at the church.

Interment: Memorial Park Cemetery, Grand Forks

Online Guestbook:

Arrangements By: Dahl Funeral Home ~ East Grand Forks, Minn.