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Robert  W. Wennerholm
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Obituary for Robert W. Wennerholm

Robert W. Wennerholm of Iowa City “slipped the surly bonds of earth” on March 11, 2017, after a very full life and an extremely short experience of cancer. A memorial service will be held at 10:30 am on Monday, March 20, 2017 at First Mennonite Church, Iowa City. Visitation will be from 5-7 pm on Sunday, March 19 at Lensing Funeral Service in Iowa City.

Bob was born in Port Huron, Michigan on July 5, 1939 to Henry W. and Florence Steele Wennerholm. In 1973 he married Rosemary Michael. Through his life he lived in many parts of the U.S., from Southern California to Southern Florida, Detroit and Chicago to Washington, D.C., but the state where he spent the largest number of years was Iowa.

His missions in life were to know God, to assist and to improve the world, and to protect those for whom he was given responsibility through family and community ties or career duties. Bob’s ultimate career was a police legal advisor, after a variety of positions in different fields.

Bob received a JD degree from the University of Illinois, Champaign, and along the way studied many subjects at several different universities, including engineering, writing, library science, and history, at Wayne State, the University of Florida, University of Chicago, Western Illinois University and the University of Iowa.

Learning TV repair while working at a store during high school, he later worked in the Chicago public libraries and then in research at the American Meat Institute (before nearly 50 years of being a vegetarian). He moved into management at the American Society for Public Administration, then went to IBM and became a Selectric typewriter repairman, with the idea that a less mental job would allow him to contemplate philosophy while working. That led to his having the contract to service all the electric office equipment at Western Illinois University. Still later he managed the Miami office of Citadel Electronics, which partnered with a Haitian business that manufactured electronics parts, and he traveled monthly to Port-au-Prince.

Bob’s police legal career began at the Metro Miami-Dade Public Safety (Sheriff’s) Department, where he served as head of the Legal Unit, and continued as legal advisor at Fort Launderdale. In 1983, when personal computers were just coming into existence, he came up with the idea of providing computer-based continuing legal training to law enforcement officers, which he saw as the most effective way to keep officers updated on the law. Finding no interest for it in educational institutions, he founded a company, The Police Law Institute, to provide current, practical monthly lessons in topics such as use of force, search and seizure, and stop and frisk, as well as other areas of criminal law, and this continued until his semi-retirement.

Always a teacher (both formally and informally) as well as a learner, Bob taught both business and criminal law at universities such as Florida International University and St. Thomas University. But his love was in doing live police legal training, starting first at Dade County Public Safety. This continued to near the end of his life for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and others in Illinois, and occasionally in Johnson County.

He was a member and chairman of the Legal Officers Section of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and a member of the American Society for Law Enforcement Trainers and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. More importantly, he was one of the most knowledgeable legal advisors in the U.S., educating himself thoroughly on law enforcement systems, practices and realities in order to translate legal abstractions into directions an individual officer could apply at a scene, for the protection of both the officer and the citizens each officer interacted with.

Completely self-disciplined and holding himself to the highest standards, he periodically forgot that not everyone was capable of the same level of performance, and he could grow impatient with individual citizens of the world of people he was trying to help. But he appreciated and worked hardest for the people at the lower ranks and his wit and good humor encompassed everyone.

Bob was the quintessential lifelong learner. He considered it a duty to best prepare himself for what he was called to do. All his life he was constantly buying, borrowing, downloading, and studying books, right until the end of his final illness. He even had an eye problem caused by reading under the covers by flashlight as a child, when he had measles and was supposed to be kept in a darkened room to protect his eyes. But he also learned from live interactions, questioning intently (and listening) to gain knowledge from the varied experiences and background of everyone he met. He constantly took short courses or classes, most recently at the Iowa City Senior Center and Senior College, and in the last month of his life regretfully cancelled three classes he had signed up for.

His search for knowledge covered nearly every topic, though omitting a few, such as celebrity culture. Popular sports held no interest for him, but he had raced bicycles as a young man. He always kept up on the latest knowledge about keeping fit, and in retirement could still instruct a sports store employee on the most efficient way to paddle a kayak.

Survivors include his wife Rosemary Michael and daughter Kira Wennerholm, brothers-in-law Jan Michael (Susan Garzon) of Stillwater, OK and Peter Michael (Donna Barr) of Indianapolis, and sister-in-law Elizabeth Michael of Iowa City, as well as nephews James Prior and Skyler Michael. His parents and an infant sister preceded him in death.

The family would like especially to thank Dr. Chris Schuster of Mercy Family Medicine and the staff who cared for Bob at University Hospitals, as well as staff at Iowa City Hospice, for their kind and committed care.

For those who wish to make a memorial, we encourage you to perform a service or send a donation to a charity you feel will help the world. Although Bob did not always speak of it publicly, the underlying principle that defined his life was his desire to know and serve God and his fellow man, and he died with a smile in his eyes, looking into the next stage of that journey.

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Robert W. Wennerholm, please visit our Tribute Store.

Previous Events





5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Lensing Funeral & Cremation Service -- Iowa City

605 Kirkwood Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52240





10:30 AM
First Mennonite Church

405 Myrtle Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52246

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