Robert "Big Bob" Karhan

Obituary for Robert "Big Bob" Karhan

November 30, 1948 - June 22, 2021
Cleveland, Ohio | Age 72

Loving Husband, Father, Grandfather, Cousin


Lifelong Clevelander Robert "Big Bob" Karhan, 72, passed away June 22, 2021, peacefully and surrounded by his loving family after a short illness.

Bob was born to Robert and Virginia Karhan on November 30, 1948. He was cherished by his family, and as he grew, so did his personality and penchant for mischief. When Bob was just six years old, he lost his mother to a sudden illness. Not long afterward, his father remarried to Martha Manas, who devoted the rest of her life to raising Bob and eventually lavishing that same love on her future grandchildren.

After graduating from Brooklyn High School, Bob attended LeTourneau College in Longview, Texas. A math major by day, a prankster by night, he relished any opportunity to stir up good-natured mischief and have fun in what was a boring, one-horse town. On one occasion, he dressed up in military fatigues and paraded around town impersonating a certain Cuban revolutionary, much to the shock of the locals. Later in life, Bob recounted these grand stories of mischief to his children, who would frequently ask him to repeat them. Anyone who knew Bob understands that repeating a favorite story was one of Bob's greatest joys.

When Bob met Kathy in 1971, his life was instantly enriched. Bob's true match of wills and wit, Kathy gave Bob more meaning and joy to his life, as well as a path to new adventures and a broader palette. They married on September 1, 1973. Within a few years, they grew their family and shared three children: Kim, Steve, and Karen.

Bob became a doting father, and devoted himself to his children. He was passionate about their individual interests, spending his time and energies on the kids by taking them to auto shows, athletic events, music lessons, Civil War road trips, and much more. Bob always made sure his kids had the best tools and equipment to pursue their interests - from baseball bats and gloves to a trombone he traveled to South Bend, Indiana to buy for his daughter. When he was a boy, his dad insisted that he use a baseball glove that Bob found embarrassing since it didn't serve the function of actually catching a ball. Bob gave his children the best experiences available, though his children will often joke that they rarely went on actual vacations; rather, Bob would bring the family on trips to weightlifting meets that would bore his children to tears, even while he set world records for his favorite lifetime hobby.

Weightlifting was Bob's favorite hobby. He competed for many years for the Olympic Health Club of Cleveland. Other hobbies Bob enjoyed included cars, darts, music, reading, and anything else that captured his imagination, which which was expansive.

A man of many passions and a thirst for adventure, Bob eagerly took any opportunity to try something new, explore a new place, or make a new friend. He had a special gift for engaging anyone in conversation. One of his friends accurately said that "Bob could get a chair to talk." His ability to connect with people and his unfailing kindness and generosity resulted in innumerable friends from many places. There wasn't a place Bob was afraid to explore, or a person too intimidating for Bob to befriend. One of Bob's longtime passions was ministering to prisoners through various ministries. Over decades, Bob poured time, energy, and love into prisoners across the state of Ohio. There wasn't a person in prison who was too tough or intimidating for Bob to engage in conversation. He genuinely cared for people in prison, and those he was lucky enough to meet could sense his true care and concern for them. Bob also poured his time, energy, and resources in other ministries in downtown Cleveland for many years. He was humble about his efforts, living out his faith by pouring himself into "the least of these."

Second to becoming a father, becoming a grandfather was Bob's greatest joy in life. Just as he did with his children, he savored the interests of his grandchildren. A large and muscular man on the outside, on the inside, Bob was just a big teddy bear, and his grandchildren knew it. Known as "Grampy," he delighted in the arrival of each new grandchild and appreciated their unique personalities. Bob lavished love and attention on Lucas, his first grandchild, by whisking him away on adventures around Cleveland and nurturing his interest in sports. His next grandchild, Emmett, thrilled Bob when he revealed his own giftedness in math and hinted at future interest in weightlifting. Bob found great delight in his last grandchild, Eleanor, who often lit up his face with a smile. To build a stronger connection with her, Bob took on her interest in Calico Critters dolls, even purchasing his own doll to entertain her on video chats in recent months. Eleanor rewarded him with many belly laughs as a result.

We know Bob will be missed because he was a good and loyal friend to everyone he met, generous to a fault. Bob will be sorely missed and survived by Kathryn, his loving wife of 47 years; daughter, Kimberly (Leigh) Jackson; son, Steven; and daughter, Karen (Ryan) Hansen; three grandchildren: Lucas, Emmett, and Eleanor; numerous loving cousins. Bob was preceded in death by his mother, Virginia (Toth); stepmother, Martha (Manas); and father, Robert M.

A private graveside service took place with family. Memorial service will be planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Light of Hearts Villa Benevolence Fund, 283 Union Street, Bedford, Ohio 44146.


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