On December 27th, Robert De Gree, father of our first professed married brother from California, John De Gree, passed away.  His father was an exemplary man in every way.   We publish the article written by John along with a picture of his large family.
Robert Joseph De Gree
September 6, 1930 – December 27, 2019
Robert “Bob” De Gree lived a life of love, sacrifice, and forgiveness. He offered his life to his beautiful wife Joyce (married for 66), his eleven children, 27 grandchildren, and 17 great grandchildren. He also was a loving father to all of his children’s spouses, all of his grandchildren’s spouses, and to anyone who was blessed to know him. A true “Depression Baby,” Bob worked hard and lived frugally, always thinking about his wife first, his children second, and himself last. He is a man who gave much love to others and made his and others lives rich and bountiful.
Bob was born on September 6, 1930 in his parents’ home in Renville, Minnesota, a small rural community. Starting at the age of 12, he lived and worked on another’s farm every summer for three months, six days a week, sunup to sundown. The farm he worked on had no electricity and no running water. Upon graduating from high school, his mom packed him a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and with 25 cents in his wallet, he hitchhiked nearly 500 miles to a dam construction site in North Dakota. With his summer’s earnings, he paid for St. John’s College of Minnesota. After another summer of working on the dam and attending college, again, Bob left school to enlist in the Navy.
Then, after a visit to California, he entered the Navy, where he served in the Korean War from 1951-1955. In 1953, home from the war on leave, Bob fell head over heels for Joyce Cook, who had a teaching job at the local elementary school. They married and moved to California.
For the next 40 years, Bob devoted himself to raising a family with Joyce, serving students and others at his work, and working a number of jobs to pay the bills for a family of 11 children. Bob worked as a Postman full time and attended the university full time. After becoming a teacher, for the next 28 years, Bob worked as a middle schoolteacher of history, then a Vice Principal, and at the same time worked as an engineer on a steam engine train at Disneyland, and as a supervisor for a trade school in the evenings. Bob was an insightful historian and had a clever way of expressing knowledge to others, making the difficult seem simple.
Bob De Gree’s faith sustained and nourished him and encouraged others. Growing up in the pre-Vatican II era, Bob lived his faith quietly through his marriage, his family, and his daily interactions with others. When one of his sons was dying at the tender age of 33, Bob and his wife Joyce took him into their home and sat by his side for half a year. When the son would say something hurtful, Bob would tell others, “He has suffered enough. Let him say whatever he wants and just be there for him.” In his professional life, Bob was the first Roman Catholic teacher to be hired in his school district, at a time when misunderstanding and anti-Catholicism was rampant.
Bob was an avid reader, greeting everyone with a smile, and always had words of encouragement. He constantly heaped praise and admiration on his wife, Joyce, and he embarrassed his children-in-laws with glowing complements. His grandchildren and great grandchildren had special relationships with him, writing letters while they attended college, keeping in touch with him on their special occasions, bringing to him their fiancés and asking him advice in important life issues. Unbeknownst to all but his wife, he prayed the rosary at least once a day, offering a decade for all those in his care. The physical pain he endured in his last years did not keep him from caring for others. In fact, he and his wife Joyce always had their door open to others, offering a free room for stays, food for visitors, a warm smile to all, and financial gifts to family members.
Perhaps the greatest gift he left to those who knew him was the example of how to love one’s wife and family, how to work for one’s family, how to be a good neighbor, and how to serve others despite personal pain and discomfort. He was a father for all seasons.

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