Robert “Bob” (Benedict) Bezin, 75, of Viroqua passed away Thursday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, following a stroke, surrounded by family and close friends.
He was born in Chicago, Jan. 5, 1942, to Walter and Frances (Zaremba) Bezin. He grew up in Chicago, attended St. Paul’s Elementary School, Holy Trinity High school, and Chicago Teachers’ College. He spent his summers on his grandparents’ farm in Floodwood, Minn.
He moved to Readstown, in 1973, with his first wife, Carol Linden and daughter, Beverly, and then Bloomingdale, with second child, Benjamin, where he farmed dairy cows. He divorced in 1975 and in 1980, married Karen Lerch, founding teacher of Pleasant Ridge School in Viroqua. They started goat farming on High Pasture Farm in Readstown and helped found the Southwest Wisconsin Dairy Goat Association. They were also founding members of the Kickapoo Exchange Food Coop in Gays Mills.
In 1987, Bob and Karen converted to the Russian Orthodox Christian faith and were given the saints’ names Benedict and Philothea. In 1988, they gave birth to their son, Anton. They have been faithful members of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Blue River.
From 1990 to 2000, he worked in icon production at St. Isaac of Syria Monastery in Boscobel. In 2001, he began an independent painting business with Rob Drew, called “Silent Brush.” He retired around 2008 and has spent his time hobby farming, fixing tractors, working with the Viroqua Bluegrass Gospel Association, motorcycling, and playing music with friends at area nursing homes. He found his earthly home in southwestern Wisconsin in 1973 and never left.
Bob was a talented musician, playing classical sitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, fiddle, balalaika, and mandolin in Chicago. He was in numerous bands in the area: Rock ‘n Roll with the “Electric Sidewinders,” Bluegrass with “Ocooch Mountain Grass,” Cajun Music with “Sioux Bayou” and string and folk music for 25 years with “The Jubilee String Band,” in which Philothea was his long-time music partner. He wrote several songs which were frequently requested: “Bald Tires on the Pickup,” “I Like the Old Time Way,” and “It’s Hard to be a Piggy.” He set up a professional recording studio, where he recorded dozens of local musicians. At the age of 50, he took up the Cajun accordion.
He was a creative, self-made Renaissance man who was able to live on a shoe-string and turn the simplest activities into fun. He studied paleoanthropology, history, and the Russian Language. He was well-known as a creative cook and gourmand. He loved to butcher his own livestock and make sausage. He grew grapes and made some good wine. He built his family home with help from friends. From his youth he loved motorcycling, and he and Philothea made numerous road trips across the country. He participated in fur-trade era Rendezvous re-enactments throughout the state for over 30 years.
His funeral was held Monday, Dec. 11, at St. Isaac of Syria Orthodox Monastery in Boscobel, Wis., with Fr. Thomas Kulp officiating, followed by a home burial midst a dramatic snowstorm, and a reception at the Gays Mills Kickapoo Culinary Center.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Frances and her siblings, Stella, Walter, Dan, Mary, and Tom Zaremba of Floodwood, Minn., and his brother, Tom Bezin originally of Chicago. He is survived by his wife, Philothea of Viroqua; and ex-wife, Carol Bezin of Adams-Friendship area; sister-in-law, Cher Bezin of Chicago area; son, Ben Bezin and wife, Danielle of Adams; daughter, Bev Bezin Morrow and husband, Matt Morrow of Adams; son, Anton Bezin of Viroqua; niece and nephew, Kristy Bezin Steiner of Phoenix area, Scott Bezin of Chicago area; and four grandchildren, Alex, Yusef (world wanderers), Anastasia, and Teegan of Adams.
“His soul shall rest with the blessed.”