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Robert Lehnhausen

September 11, 1919 March 5, 2018
Robert Lehnhausen
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Obituary for Robert Lehnhausen

PEORIA - When Lt. Colonel Robert Lehnhausen’s B-24 Liberator was shot down over the Mediterranean, he wasn’t sure he’d live to see another day. At 23 years old, he figured he’d had a good life, but there was a pretty girl named Liz waiting for him at home, and he wasn’t ready to go just yet. So he said a Hail Mary in hopes that the Blessed Virgin would hear his prayer and intercede on his behalf: Please, God, let me get out of this alive. The plane he was piloting crashed into the sea, but Robert survived with barely a scratch.

Robert, “Bob” or “Lenny” to those knew him, died at his home, on Monday, March 5, at the age of 98.

Surviving are his wife of 72 years, Elizabeth (Waugh) Lehnhausen; his seven children Mary Jo Lehnhausen (Arun Pinto), Phillip (Teresa) Lehnhausen, Ann (Jack) Burtelow, Tom Lehnhausen, Kay (Scot) Ironside, Steven (Karen) Lehnhausen and Dave Lehnhausen; 13 grandchildren Navin (Jennifer) Pinto, Kiran Pinto (Cory Morris), Anjali Pinto, Timothy Lehnhausen (Stephanie Haas), Tobin Lehnhausen, Matthew Lehnhausen (Priscilla Varela), Tina (Mike) Miller, Jeff (Abby) Burtelow, Elizabeth (Mike) Bauer, Jim (Mallory) Ironside, Meredith (Mike) Steininger, Michael (Patricia) Lehnhausen, Stephanie Lehnhausen (Scott Shaw); 16 great-grandchildren; brother-in-law Fr. John Waugh; sisters-in-law Kathleen (Phil) Harney and Freddie Waugh; and many loving nieces and nephews. Robert is preceded in death by his parents, his brother Clark Lehnhausen, his infant son Robert Lehnhausen, daughter-in-law Cathy (Shannon) Lehnhausen and grandson Jacob Johnson.

Born September 11, 1919, to Frank and Florence Lehnhausen of Peoria, Robert was destined to become a leader. As a high school student at Spalding Institute, he was senior manager of the athletic department. A write-up in a 1937 edition of The Institute, Spalding’s student newsmagazine, read: “During that period, Room 1 was improved 100%. Having Spalding’s best interests always in mind, Bob averted many possible losses, financial and otherwise.”

In May of 1941, he was drafted into the Army where he volunteered for the Army’s Aviation Cadet Program. After the successful completion of his pilot training, Robert, joined the 44th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, and for the next 27 months, he served as a combat bomber pilot and squadron commander in Europe and North Africa. For his heroism and exemplary service during WWII, the U.S. Armed Forces honored Robert with medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, a Purple Heart, the Soldier’s Medal, a European Theatre of Operations medal with nine campaign stars and the French Croix de Guerre.

Even after separating from active duty in 1946, Robert returned to Peoria but continued to serve in the Air Force Reserve until 1969. By day, he helped his father run the family drapery shop, all the while becoming increasingly interested and involved in community affairs and local government. Robert was elected to the Peoria City Council in 1953, and he served as mayor from 1965-1969. Following his single term in office, Robert went on to head the Illinois Housing Authority and the Illinois Department of Local Government Affairs. In 1973, Robert left local politics to take on a new role as an officer at Peoria’s First Federal Savings Bank, where he worked until he retired in 1985.

Robert may have been a savvy businessman, decorated war hero and a well-known and respected member of the Peoria community, but at home he was simply “a great dad.”

“He was a curious man and so very bright,” said his eldest daughter, Mary Jo.
“He loved to read and was always looking for and pursuing new interests.”

For example, over the last several decades of his life, Robert turned his attention to the stock market, learning as much as he could, refining his investment strategies and passing along his knowledge to his family and friends.

His stories were second to none. At weekly Sunday dinners, Robert had family and friends hanging on his every work as he recounted in precise detail some of his most memorable encounters during WWII or tales about how he met and wooed his beloved wife and partner, Elizabeth.

Robert was a devout Catholic, and alongside Elizabeth, an active member of St. Cecilia Parish and later St. Jude Parish. In 1995, Peoria Notre Dame High School awarded Robert with its Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award. In a letter to Robert, school principal Ronald Dwyer wrote: “You truly serve as a model Catholic man, a role model for our young people in so many ways.”

Robert’s Funeral Mass will be held 12:00 Noon, Saturday, March 10, 2018 at St. Jude Catholic Church, with visitation starting at 10:30 AM until time of service. Fr. Patrick Henehan will officiate and entombment will follow at Resurrection Mausoleum in Peoria.

In lieu of flowers, Robert’s family requests that donations be made to St. Jude Catholic School, 10911 N. Knoxville Ave., Peoria, Ill., 61615; or Sophia’s Kitchen, 103 S. Richard Pryor Place, Peoria, Ill., 61605.

Friends and family may sign the online guestbook or send private condolences to

Previous Events





10:30 AM 3/10/2018 10:30:00 AM - 12:00 PM 3/10/2018 12:00:00 PM
St. Jude Catholic Church

10811 N. Knoxville Ave.
Peoria, IL 61615

St. Jude Catholic Church
10811 N. Knoxville Ave. Peoria 61615 IL
United States

Funeral Mass




12:00 PM 3/10/2018 12:00:00 PM
St. Jude Catholic Church

10811 N. Knoxville Ave.
Peoria, IL 61615

St. Jude Catholic Church
10811 N. Knoxville Ave. Peoria 61615 IL
United States

Cemetery Details


Resurrection Cemetery & Mausoleum Final Resting Place

7519 N Allen Rd
Peoria, IL 61614

7519 N Allen Rd Peoria 61614 IL
United States

Memorial Contribution

St. Jude Catholic Grade School

10911 N Knoxville Ave
Dunlap, IL 61525

Sophia's Kitchen

504 Fulton St
Peoria, IL 61602

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