Photo Credits – Isabel Torres
We all crave things that give us joy in this most stressful and demanding college life. It could be a person, place or thing that gives us light in our darkest days and has that home-away-from-home feel. For a lot of us, Baker Bob is that person. Every time you greet him in the dining hall, he has this positive and welcoming energy that always makes you feel good inside. When you come to his table, he always has some sweet treats for you to try and make your day.
After 25 years, Baker Bob is closing this chapter of his life here at the university. To celebrate his retirement and meet this legend, I had the pleasure of having a conversation with Bob to discuss his retirement. I want to make a note though: before and during our conversation, people were stopping by and saying their hellos and expressing their sadness about his retirement, making sure they visited him on his last day. This goes to show what a positive impact he left on a lot of students that go here.
Here are some highlights from our talk: he feels excellent about his retirement; he will miss the students and their smiles; he joked about not having a plan on what he was going to do after retiring, but he plans on spending a lot of time with his four daughters, two sons and all his grandbabies; his favorite dish he ever served is oatmeal raisin cookies; he wants the university to keep doing what they are doing because they are doing a great job and WCU have the best students in the world.
Closing chapters of your life that you’ve dedicated so much time and energy to isn’t always easy. Whether it’s a job, volunteering, college, relationships, etc., it takes a lot to say “I’m done.” That’s why Baker Bob’s time here is so respected and celebrated; he didn’t have to stay for as long as he did, but he did it because he loved what he did and the smile he put on students’ faces.
I’ve also had the pleasure of contacting one of his daughters, Rosemarie, to get more of a sense of who Baker Bob is. She tells me, ”Our Dad’s retirement will be a new chapter in his life. He has worked since he was 8 years old. His parents had a bakery at 52nd and Kingsessing in Philadelphia, which he worked at while growing up and then later assuming as his own. He then moved his bakery, Muller’s Bakery, to Drexel Hill so that it would be closer to home and his six children could help with the family business.”
After selling the bakery in the late ‘90s, he began working at WCU’s as the dining hall’s full-time baker.
“Over the course of his 25 years at WCU, he has enjoyed the stories the students have shared with him and the joy it has brought him. He would look forward to their smiles when they would see him at ‘Baker Bob’ events and talk to them about their activities, athletics and other interests. He loved to buy candy for the kids to decorate their cookies, cupcakes or donuts. As a cancer survivor himself, he was always grateful and willing to help with the annual Relay for Life that students ran.”
After turning 85 years old this past month, Baker Bob made the ultimate decision that he wished to return home and spend more time with his family. He also hopes to explore new paths and interests in life that he hadn’t had the opportunity to pursue before.
Such a great story of what led him to the university and him owning a bakery. I asked her how she would describe her father. She writes ‘’…. [words] to describe Baker Bob are: easygoing, generous, and gregarious. He is willing to listen, able to empathize and enjoys a good cup of coffee from Einstein’s. He always saw the good in people and tried to meet them where they were.” She added, “We know how much he will miss working at WCU. He always spoke about how kind the students, as well as his fellow Aramark co-workers and others from the university, were to him.’’
I want to thank Rosemarie for giving me so much backstory and letting other students who read this get to know Baker Bob a little more. As I close this, I want to make sure that we celebrate how Baker Bob made us feel and all the delicious treats he had to offer. Thank you, Bob, for all the smiles, laughs, jokes and food you provided students daily. We hope your next chapter of life is filled with fun and happiness.
Isaiah Ireland is a second-year Media & Culture major. II978280@wcupa.edu