Robert “Bob” Riner Hellenga, 78, died on July 18, 2020, at home with his wife by his side. He faced death with humor, bravery and the determined resistance typical of his irascible nature.
Bob was born on Aug. 5, 1941, in Milwaukee, to Marjorie (Johnson) and Ted Hellenga. He was raised in the small town of Three Oaks, and spent his summers in Milwaukee, where his father was a produce broker. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where he met his future wife, Virginia Killion. They were married in 1963 and immediately set sail for Belfast, Ireland, where he had a year-long fellowship at Queen’s University. He received his master’s degree at the University of North Carolina and his doctorate at Princeton University. He and Virginia moved to Galesburg in 1968, where he began his lifelong teaching and writing career as an English professor at Knox College. Bob authored eight fiction novels and an as-yet unpublished poetry anthology, “Prognosis For Survival—Not Good.”