Robert (Bob) Gene Colleen was born in Jamestown, NY on October 30th 1930, the second of three sons born to Millie (Carlson) and Frank Colleen both of Swedish descent. Bob showed an early love of painting and drawing and enjoyed hunting and skiing in the forests surrounding Jamestown. As the Korean War began, Bob enlisted in the Army and went through boot camp at Ft. Polk in Louisiana. His first job after the service was as a draftsman at Hope Window Co., in Erie, PA, where he met his first wife Louise (Winter) who was working as a bookkeeper at the company. Louise encouraged Bob to pursue his love of art by enrolling in Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids, MI where he graduated in furniture design. While at Kendall, Bob was mentored by Ray Weidenaar a now famous Michigan painter. In 1959, Bob’s Beidermeier-inspired modern chair design won the “Chair of the Year” design award from Better Home & Gardens magazine.
After school, many of Bob’s class mates formed the core of the modern furniture design movement here in Grand Rapids, while others joined the long tradition of classical furniture design. Bob found his first and only furniture design job at Kindel Furniture, now the only surviving maker of fine traditional furniture in this area. Entering the company as a junior draftsman, he rose through the ranks to become chief designer, head of advertising and eventually Vice President. During these years, Bob also served as president of the Furniture Designers Association and as a Board Member of his Alma matter Kendall School of Design.
In 1958, Bob and Louise had a son David. The couple greatly loved traveling together, golfing, skiing, and sailing and was well known for their love of hosting parties at their home. In 1973, they relocated to their Cascade home on the Thornapple River. In 1999 Louise passed away from cancer after 47 years of happy marriage.
In 2000, Bob met and married Sandra Byrne of Forest Hills. Soon, he found himself in the company of Sandra’s larger family and nine grandchildren! They greatly enjoyed their time together including frequent travels. Sandra encouraged Bob to resume painting and his photography of flowers. Bob taught Sandra to play golf and encouraged her love of gardening, gourmet cooking and entertaining.
Bob left us last week unexpectedly after a brief stay in the hospital. He is survived by his wife Sandra, his son David and his two brothers Jack and Gordon.
In keeping with the Colleen family wishes, a private service has been arranged.