Robert F. Birney, age 77, died on Sep. 25, 2018 at his home in Oak Park, Ill., with his wife Hilda at his side just short of their 50th wedding anniversary.

Bob was born in Cambridge, Ohio to the late Foster and Bernice (West) Birney and raised in Freeport. Throughout his youth, he helped his grandfather and father run the nearby ancestral family farm, a turkey ranch near Deersville. During his high school years, he also worked part-time at the local newspaper, Freeport Press, and at Baker’s Food Market. It was during these early years that he also developed his remarkable ability to fix anything and everything — a skill that made him the “just ask Bob” resource for his neighbors and friends.   

In 1962, he graduated with a degree in Journalism from Kent State University where he served as Vice President of the Student Council for 3 years; President of the Interfraternity Council; Chair of the Student Faculty Union and member of Phi Gamma Delta social fraternity.  While a student he also worked part-time as a reporter and photographer at the university and for several area newspapers. 

With a Kent State scholarship and graduate assistantship, Bob went on to study Political Science at the University of Vermont. Later he held a full-time position there in Institutional Research. This led to a post at SUNY Albany, New York where he launched his life-long career in designing computer-based information systems. While in New York, Bob served in the National Guard and met his future wife, Hilda. They were married in 1969 in her hometown of Troy, New York.

Bob and Hilda settled in Oak Park in 1972 where he held leadership positions at DePaul University; American Hospital Supply-Baxter International; Phillip Morris-Kraft Inc and became a Consultant for Deloitte & Touche managing corporate and government engagements, locally and nationally.     

Bob loved to travel here and abroad. He was an avid reader; news follower (especially the NYT); and stock trader. Feeding his life-long knowledge and inquisitiveness in how things worked, he was a relentless collector of hand tools and found objects that he restored or repurposed or used for construction projects and repairs in the house and garden. Socially he was a mesmerizingly humorous storyteller. 

Bob is survived by his wife, Hilda and his brother, Stanley of Morgantown, W.Va. 

A Memorial Service will be held on Nov. 2 at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home in Oak Park with visitation beginning at 3 p.m. followed by the Memorial Service at 5 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, 230 East Ohio Street, Suite 500, Chicago, 60611 (;  or the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory, P.O. Box 1096, Oak Park, 60304 ( or to a charity of your choice are appreciated.