Robert “Bob” James Friauf was born to Helen Cox and James Friauf in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. His family, including his younger brother Walter, moved to Milwaukee Wisconsin when he was 4 years old, and to Arlington Virginia when he was 14. Bob attended Washington-Lee High School and graduated in 1944 as valedictorian of his class. Written by his photo in his senior yearbook, “Shhh. Genius at work.” He went immediately into the Navy V-12 Program which was a very coveted and competitive Officers Training Program to get into. The program sponsored his college education at Duke University on an accelerated track. He graduated in 1947 and stayed in the Navy Reserve for 4 more years. After Duke he moved to Chicago for graduate studies. He studied with some of the giants of 20th century physics including Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller, and had many entertaining stories to tell about them.
In the Summer of 1948, Bob and his brother went on an amazing cross country bicycle trip of 3300 miles from Arlington, VA to Seaside, OR. The trip included many difficult challenges and exhilarating experiences that the brothers shared.
In Chicago he met his future wife Betty Schroer. They were married on September 10, 1949. He completed his PhD in Physics, Summa Cum Laude (highest honors) from the University of Chicago in 1953. His first daughter was born that year and they moved to Lawrence, Kansas a month later. There he began his long career with the University of Kansas as a professor of Physics, Astronomy and Western Civilization. His graduate thesis and subsequent research was on Ionic Conductivity in Silver Bromide (the photographic process), and he developed this into a lecture that he gave over 30 times in the US and Europe. He gave this signature lecture for his retirement in 1994 as his swan song to the physics dept, and felt, “I was going out in a burst of glory”.
Bob was very active with many interests throughout his life. From his childhood years spent in Milwaukee, he was an avid lifelong Green Bay Packers fan. Once in Lawrence he became an enthusiastic fan of Jayhawk Basketball. He also loved camping, backpacking, photography and rode his bike every day to work. Later in life he took up snow skiing, sailing, and square dancing with the Happy Time Squares. He had a lifelong love of playing the clarinet. He started playing in 4th grade, played in the Cadet Corp in highschool and continued through graduate school. He joined the Lawrence City Band in 1975 and was a founding member of the New Horizons Band in 1996. Soon after this band began, Bob started the Clarinet Quartet, which rehearsed before every band practice and performed at every band concert. He delighted in playing regularly in the bands right up to his death.
Bob is preceded in death by his wife Betty and his friend Lila Wrigley. He is survived by his brother Walter (wife Ida), daughters Ann (wife Kari), Barbara, and Nancy (husband Sean), grandchildren Chelsea (husband Juan), Adrian, Sophia and Dara, great granddaughter Sofia, niece Linda (husband Paul) and nephew Ken (wife Anjanette),
grand nieces and nephews Grace, Anthony, Christopher and Helen. Bob was devoted to his family and loved each person in it tremendously. He spoke often about how much he enjoyed the wonderful family weekend gathering to celebrate his 90th birthday.
In honor of Bob’s strong commitment to respect for the human rights of all people and appreciation for the beauty and wonder of nature, the family suggests that memorial donations be made to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Planned Parenthood, and the National Park Conservation Association, organizations that Bob was a member of.
A Memorial Service to honor and celebrate the life of Robert Friauf will be held on February 3rd at 11:00am at the First Presbyterian Church in Lawrence, Kansas. A luncheon reception will follow at the church.