Robert L. Wirth, of Ithaca, N.Y., died on Oct. 18, 2023, at age 92. A man of stoic endurance, he was active and living independently almost to the end.
Born in 1930, Bob grew up on a family farm in central Michigan along with his five sisters. The Depression had little effect on his childhood because the farm provided for the family’s needs.
Given his long life, Bob witnessed many astonishing developments. He remembered when electric lights went on for the first time at home thanks to FDR’s rural electrification. The one-room schoolhouse he attended gained its first indoor plumbing during his time there.
He served in the army in Korea in 1952–53, attaining the rank of sergeant. After his return, he married Shirley Brooks, a girl from his hometown, in 1957. They lived in Lansing, Mich., for three years as he finished his master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Michigan State University. While they were there, their first son, Eric, was born, in 1959. They had a second son, Randy, three years later.
In 1961 Bob accepted a position as engineer at the National Cash Register Company, in Dayton, Ohio. Known later as NCR, the company produced business machines. Bob worked on improving the dot-matrix receipt printers built into cash registers and ATMs. He received many patents for his innovations in this area.
Bob had a genius for invention. He was always devising mechanical solutions to improve life at home. His main hobby was restoring a 1924 Maxwell car he had inherited from his parents. He disassembled the car down to the last bolt and restored each piece, seeking out vintage replacements for those that were unsalvageable.
In 1973 the family moved to Ithaca when NCR transferred Bob’s job there. He retired around age 60.
Bob was a gentle man without a trace of selfishness. Uncomplicated and contented, he was liked and trusted by all who met him. His rock-solid sense of duty was demonstrated when his beloved wife, Shirley, developed dementia. He cared for her at home without complaint for over three years, including during the COVID lockdown, until her death in 2021.
Bob is survived by his sons, Eric and Randy, and his granddaughters, Caitlin Carmellini and Emily Wirth. Funeral services and burial in Pleasant Grove Cemetery, Ithaca, will be private.