Robert Welk

Staff Writer
Morton Times-News

Robert Louis Welk, 88, of McLean, Va., formerly of Peoria and Morton, died at 9:05 a.m. Monday, Feb. 1, 2010, at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., after a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.

Born April 17, 1921, in Peoria, Robert was the son of Louis Robert Welk and Harriett May Steiner.

Survivors include three children, Katherine (Richard) Litow of Ann Arbor, Mich., Margaret (Morgan) Cundiff of Arlington, Va., and Louis Robert (Susan) Welk II of Richmond, Va. Also surviving are eight grandchildren, Sarah, Hannah and Daniel Litow, Claire Cundiff and Bobby, James, Alex and Ashton Welk.

He was preceded in death by one grandson, his parents and his sister.

He was previously married to Elvera Bierlein, who currently resides in Frankenmuth, Mich.

He lived in Morton as a young child but later moved back to Peoria. Following World War II, he made his home in the Washington, D.C., area, residing in McLean, Va., since 1974.

He graduated from Peoria High School in 1938 and attended Bradley University, graduating with honors in 1942 with a bachelor of science degree in business and public administration.

He was a lifelong member of Sigma Phi Fraternity and regularly attended fraternity reunions. He also was a member of Zeta Pi Business Fraternity, Alpha Delta Journalistic Fraternity and Theta Alpha Pi National Honorary Dramatic Fraternity.

In 1955, he graduated from the Georgetown University School of Law. His education included graduate course work in public administration. He was a member of the Federal Bar Association.

In April 1943, he entered the United States Army. He was a graduate of the Tank Destroyer School and later attended the Officer Candidate Course. Upon his graduation, he was recommended for a commission as 2nd Lt. in the Army. He received an honorable discharge May 19, 1946. During World War II, he served in active combat in the 4th Infantry Division from July 1944 to July 1945 in France, Germany and central Europe. He received a field promotion to 1st Lt. for superior leadership and was a respected and beloved leader of his platoon. He was awarded a Bronze Star for military heroism during the Battle of the Bulge. He remained a member of the 4th Infantry Division and was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Following the war, he became a civilian employee for the U.S. State Department, and later the Central Intelligence Agency from 1946 to 1974. He received the Intelligence Medal for his work as deputy comptroller and director of management and supervisory training. He was also awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Chinese Nationalist Air Force. He had served as treasurer, chairman, director or president of many educational, alumni and civic organizations. An expert in parliamentary procedures, he was active in the Virginia State Association of Parliamentarians as parliamentarian and speaker. After retirement, he became a leader in Parents Without Partners, an organization for widowed and divorced parents. He remained active throughout his life.

He was passionate about genealogy and spent many hours researching and traveling to obtain family history. He also loved opera. During World War II, he attended operas in Europe and in recent years, he organized monthly opera viewings. A lover of plants, he was a passionate gardener and environmentalist and received awards for landscaping. As an avid hiker and biker, he led over 200 hikes for families in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and biked the entire 281 miles of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal in Maryland and Virginia.

In recent years, he most enjoyed sharing his love of hiking and wildflowers within the parks and trails of the Fairfax County, Va., park system. He loved to share his interests with his children and grandchildren and was loved and appreciated by all who knew him.

Services were Saturday at Knapp-Johnson Funeral Home in Morton, with Apostolic Christian Church ministers officiating. Visitation preceded services at the funeral home. Burial was in Buckeye Cemetery in Morton, where full military rites were conducted by the Army and Tazewell Military Rites Team.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to his alma mater, Bradley University, Development Office, 1501 W. Bradley Ave., Peoria, IL 61625; or to the Robert L. Welk Fund established through the Fairfax County Park Foundation, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 404, Fairfax, VA 22035.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at