Robert Allen MacDonald, known affectionately as “Smilen Bob”, 90, of Fish Creek, passed away peacefully on March 29, 2019 while residing at Scandia Village in Sister Bay.
Bob was born September 29, 1928 in Sturgeon Bay, the son of the late Ranald and Ruby (Zettel) MacDonald. After finishing high school at Green Bay West, Bob served his country with the U.S. Army Airborne Division 11, stationed in Japan as a radio operator and a trained paratrooper. He was a proficient translator of Morse Code. After his service, Bob worked at Platten Radio alongside his father, “Mac” repairing radios and installing the radio wiring at City Stadium for the Green Bay Packers. He then worked his way into the field of paper engineering and quality control at Hoberg Paper Company and the Procter & Gamble Charmin Plant. In 1951, Bob eloped with his lifetime partner, Elaine J. Selissen and made their home on the west side of Green Bay just blocks from his parents, sisters and aunt and uncle. Bob and Elaine lived for their family, taking summer camping trips to Door County with their six kids in tow and accompanied by extended family and friends. In 1975, he and his wife Elaine took a leap of faith and purchased Bayside Tavern and Cottages in downtown Fish Creek. Together with their children, they would turn the business into a Northern Door Landmark with Elaine’s business skills and Bob's warm and quirky personality being their formula for success. Their customers became part of their huge extended family. Smilen Bob became known for his award-winning Chili, which has become an iconic Door County food, and after 44 years of hard work and hospitable business, the Bayside Tavern that he was so proud of was named “Wisconsin’s Best Small Town Bar”.
Bob’s unique personality and mischievous grin have earned him the nickname "Smilen" Bob which he often stated was a tough name to live up to, but always managed to pull off naturally. In addition to his passion for the Bayside and Door County, he was an avid automobile enthusiast, buying, selling, tinkering on and showing his various vintage and collectible cars. Bob and Elaine founded The Bayside Corvette Club after Elaine purchased her first Corvette, prompting Bob to quickly follow suit. The club blossomed to include many close friends and soon he and Elaine could be seen leading the pack in their matching 50th anniversary Corvettes.
He advocated for and supported historic preservation and truly loved nature, animals, and listening to the birds, especially his beloved crows which he fed daily with leftovers from Bayside. He enjoyed motorcycling and his Harleys, camping, boating and snowmobiling. He also loved music of all kinds, and was often seen dancing “The Smilen” (big grin, chin and elbows up, chest and butt out) to live music at the Bayside, helping Freddie Kodanko spin his polka records, and was always at the front of the crowd at every Steel Bridge Songfest and his son Pat’s live concerts. He loved to be with his family and friends and was always there for his grandkids’ milestones beaming with pride. He enjoyed his weekly breakfast meetings of the “Romeos” (Retired Old Men Eating Out) with some of his best buddies. He had a perpetual charm and wit that was magnetic up until the very end and made people feel special just by being in his company.
Smilen is survived by his partner in life and business, Elaine MacDonald (Michael Steele) of Fish Creek; his children, Pat (Melaniejane) MacDonald (Jessica and Devin) of Sturgeon Bay, Christie Weber (Cody and Carley) of Sturgeon Bay, Ronald (Lisa) MacDonald (Connor and Lena) of Sister Bay, Robert (Barbara) MacDonald (Lauren and Olivia) of Fish Creek; (Karen’s children Dylan, Dustin, Landon and Camryne); daughter-in-law, Debbra MacDonald of Valmy; twelve grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; his dear friend, Fran Rickard, Green Bay; four sisters, Lois (Bill) Yates of Green Bay, Patsy (Paul) Janowski of Green Bay, Cheryl MacDonald (Jon) of Madison, and Mary (James) Becker of Santa Fe, NM.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Ranald Isaiah and Ruby Muriel (Zettel) MacDonald; brother, Bill McDonald; son, William A. MacDonald; daughter, Karen A. MacDonald; and his companion at Scand, Sharon Adams.
Funeral services will be held Friday, April 5, 2019 at the Stella Maris Parish-Fish Creek site, 4012 State Highway 42, with Pastor Frank Kauzlarich, of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Juddville, officiating. Friends may call at Stella Maris Parish-Fish Creek site on Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. The funeral will follow at noon with military honors to conclude the services at the church. Burial will then take place at Blossomberg Cemetery in his beloved Peninsula State Park. A Celebration of Smilen’s Life will take place at Alexander’s from 1:00-4:00 p.m. Out of respect for Smilen, Bayside Tavern will be closed for business during the day of the service, re-opening at 4:00 p.m.
Smilen’s family would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the wonderful care provided by Scandia Village over the past 4 1/2 years, his many special friends for their continuous love and support, and to his doctors, nurses, and aids who helped him to survive his many health issues.
A memorial fund will be established in his name.
Casperson Funeral Home in Sister Bay is assisting the family.