Robert K. Caulk, Jr., an avid tennis player and 32-year IBM executive, died Feb. 9, 2019. He was 87.
Known as “Bob,” he lived most recently in Woodstock, Ga., with his wife, K. Geraldine Caulk; and they celebrated 67 years of marriage shortly before he died. They had five children, 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, with another on the way when he peacefully drew his last breath.
He was born in Pen Argyl, Pa., to Robert K. Caulk, Sr., and Dorothy Lane Caulk, and he was preceded in death by his brother, Richard. Bob had a dozen family members at his side when he died at Kennestone Hospital in Marietta His greatest priority in life was the well-being of his family – a passion that became increasingly all-consuming as his family members multiplied. He was intimately involved in all levels of their lives, generously sharing his time and advice whenever anyone had the need. He loved sports and especially enjoyed watching his children and grandchildren in their various competitions.
He was uncommonly active even at an advanced age, especially on the tennis court. The New York Daily News featured him at age 39 as the oldest college player (NCAA) in the nation. He had enrolled at Pace College (N.Y.) fulltime to complete the course work that he abandoned 19 years earlier (more on that later), and he graduated from Pace with cum laude distinction. Even while attending school (as part of an IBM residence-study program for promising employees), he was supporting his wife and five children.
He grew up in New Jersey and spent decades in various parts of the Northeast U.S., as dictated by the various promotions he received at IBM. But he found the home he truly loved when IBM transferred him to Atlanta, and he discovered that he could play tennis year-round. At one point in his 70s, he was listed as Georgia’s third-ranked tennis player in his age group. He played ALTA (league tennis), and he averaged four sessions of doubles competition per week with his buddies at Eagle Watch in Woodstock until he was 84, when his impaired sense of balance made the hobby dangerous. One of his most cherished possessions was a photo of himself with tennis hero Pete Sampras.
A natural athlete, he performed as a high jumper at Pitman (N.J.) High School, where he was also class president. He met “Gerry” in high school, and they married in 1952 only days before he had to head out for his USAF assignment in Okinawa. He also served in Biloxi, Miss., and San Diego. The Air Force trained him in radar technology, which ultimately laid the groundwork for his long, successful career with IBM.
Post-military life was not a smooth transition. He held numerous unrewarding jobs until his father mentioned a company he had read about called IBM – it seemed to hold some promise! Bob took IBM’s entrance exam and performed miserably. He lacked the appropriate training, and he had spent only a semester at Juniata College after high school because funds had run out. But an IBM supervisor’s instinct told the supervisor that this poor-performing kid with the radar background had potential, so Bob got a second chance. The rest is history. He served as a customer engineer, field manager, branch manager, manager of business practices, and regional manager, among other positions; and he finished his career as manager of service operations in Atlanta.
Other cities of residence included West Chester, Pa.; Palatine, Ill.; Camp Hill, Pa.; New City, N.Y.; Endwell, N.Y.; East Brunswick, N.J; and Blackwood, N.J. His original home in the Atlanta area was Dunwoody.
Other than tennis, some of his other hobbies included gardening, pinochle, ping-pong, softball, pickleball and reading the Sunday “funnies.” He loved to take long hikes with his family. In his late 60s, he climbed the 14,000-foot Gray’s Peak in Colorado.
He is survived by his wife, Gerry; his children, Steven, Thomas, James, Barbara (Bell), and David; his grandchildren, Jennifer (Jackson), Katherine, Robert, Lianna, Stephanie, Alexander, Benjamin, Emily (Brown), Jack (Bell), Caitlin (Bell), Tyler, Jon and Lane; and his great-grandchildren, Henry (Jackson), Amelia, Madeline and Alexander (Jackson). No list of survivors would be complete without his cherished daughters-in-law and son-in-law, Bernadette Holland Caulk, Elizabeth Tinsley Caulk and Joel Bell.
His family wishes to thank the Heritage of Sandy Plains assisted living home for their kind and attentive care of him in the last nine months of his life
Memorial service details
The cremated remains of Robert K. Caulk will be interred at Greenlawn Cemetery in Roswell Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 in a family-only graveside service. Attendees are asked to assemble at the Roswell Funeral Home, 950 Mansell Rd., no later than 3:15 p.m. The service will begin promptly at 3:30.
A family-only memorial service and celebration of Bob’s life will follow, beginning about 4 p.m., at the Martin’s Landing River Club, 1221 Riverside Drive, Roswell, GA.
The services will be simple, and the family requests that anyone wishing to pay tribute to Bob make a donation to the American Heart Association, in lieu of flowers.
Questions? Please call Steve Caulk, 720-839-3194.