BERLIN, VT – Robert Norman Mullen, 85, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 at his home in Berlin. Robert (Bob to many, Norman to family) was born on August 27, 1934 in East Berkshire, Vt., the son of A. Barbara (Combs) and Robert J. Mullen.
He and his younger sister Mary Lou also spent parts of their early years in nearby Franklin, Derby and Richford with many wonderful summers spent at the family camp on Lake Carmi in Franklin. After graduating from Richford High School, Bob studied at the University of Vermont, where he received both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Dairy Sciences and played trumpet in the UVM Concert Band. Mary Lou has fond memories of the night the band came to Richford and played a concert at the high school, which included an amazing trumpet solo by Bob! It was during these UVM years that Bob married his hometown sweetheart Peggy Ann Lawliss (on September 7, 1954) and they began growing their family in 1955, with six children arriving over the next 12 years.
Bob began his professional career at Idlenot Dairy in Springfield, Vt., as an Assistant Plant Manager, and the young family lived across the Connecticut River in Charlestown, N.H., where many wonderful memories were made. Within 6-7 years Bob moved on to the Vermont Department of Agriculture in Montpelier, where he worked for the Dairy Testing Lab as the Laboratory Director. The family relocated to Berlin at that time (1967) where Bob and Peggy lived happily for over 50 years at the end of a dirt road with plenty of room for kids, horses and dogs.
Late in his career Bob transferred to the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration, where he traveled the state as a Safety Inspector working with companies to help keep their workers safe. Bob retired from his State of Vermont career in the late 1990s and very much enjoyed his retirement years. Bob also volunteered in the community, before and after retirement, which included teaching Sunday School at the Berlin Congregational Church, helping to start the Future Farmers of America program at Union 32 High School and doing trail work at both the North Branch Nature Center and Hubbard Park in Montpelier.
Bob had numerous interests and hobbies, which in his early adult years included canoeing, skiing, camping and helping Peggy raise horses (and attending horse shows with his two youngest daughters). His retirement years also included wildlife and landscape photography (requiring many trips around Berlin Pond and beyond), several photos showing up on the WCAX evening news, and staying up to date with the latest tech devices. Watching Red Sox games on his tablet and staying up on current events via his favorite news websites and podcasts were part of his routine as were his almost daily visits to the Wayside Diner. “Coffee Bob,” as he fondly became known, was a regular there for 50 years where he made many friends and was beloved by the staff. For the past few years he very much enjoyed breakfasts and lunches with good friend Don Walker. Constants over the years were his love for music and animals (especially dogs) and an interest in aviation, which included landing planes at airports all over the world (via the flight simulator on his home computer).
Bob and Peggy have had health challenges over the past few years, but Bob did everything he could to keep Peggy home as long as possible. When she finally needed to move to nearby Woodridge Nursing Home in 2018 he made daily visits part of his new routine and there he made many new friends and residents and staff enjoyed seeing him every day. While facing his own challenges Bob never complained and was constantly impressing his family, friends, doctors and nurses with his cheerful attitude and resiliency. He was truly an inspiration to all of us.
Robert is survived by his wife, Peggy Mullen of Berlin; his children, Anne VanBenschoten and her husband John of Green Cove Springs, Fla., Gail Pelkey and her husband Charles of Waterbury, Vt., Linda Mullen of Berlin, Vt., David Mullen of Barre and Jeffrey Mullen and his wife Leslie of Richmond, Vt.; and his sister- and brother-in-law, Mary Lou and Homer Campbell of Brighton, Ontario; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his daughter Judith Marie.
There will be no calling hours. A funeral service will be held 11:00 on Monday, March 9, 2020 at the Berlin Congregational Church. A reception will follow in the church hall following the service.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Berlin Congregational Church, 1808 Scott Hill Road, Berlin, VT 05602 or to the Central Vermont Humane Society, 1589 VT Route 14 South, East Montpelier, VT 05651.
Those wishing to express online condolences may do so at www.guareandsons.com.