Milton Robert “Bob” Wirthlin, Jr. passed away on January 1, 2023, at the age of 90. He was joined by his wife Joan Krieger Wirthlin, who passed away at the age of 90 on January 6, 2023, after 68 years of marriage. Bob was born July 13, 1932 in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Milton Robert Wirthlin Sr. and Margaret Frances Clark. Joan was born August 29, 1932, in Oakland, California, to Reginald C. Krieger and Aina E. Bodinson.
Bob and Joan met at Hayward High School, where they graduated in 1950. They both subsequently attended the University of California, Berkeley. Bob enrolled in pre-dental studies, then transferred to UCSF and graduated with a DDS degree in 1956, earning numerous academic honors including the Milton F. and Mary L. Gibbs Prize in Dentistry and the American Academy of Dental Medicine Certificate of Merit. After two years at Berkeley, Joan enrolled at UCSF, where she earned a B.S. degree and a Certificate in Dental Hygiene in 1954. Joan and Bob were married on August 1, 1954, at the chapel Star of the Sea at the U S Naval Station, Treasure Island.
Bob’s first position was with the Naval dispensary in San Francisco, where their first son Michael Robert was born in 1956. The family relocated to Yokohama, Japan where Bob took an assignment at the Yokosuka Naval Base. Joan studied the Japanese art of flower arrangement, ikebana. Their children Steven Louis and Laurie Sue were born there in 1957 and 1959. Bob was subsequently appointed Division Officer at the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island, WA, where their son David Russell was born in 1960. The family moved extensively in the ensuing years, as Bob served on the USS Coral Sea, CVA-43, two tours of duty in Vietnam, as well as at various naval dental centers at home and abroad. Their daughter Aina Margaret was born in Oakland, California in 1966. Bob retired from the Navy in September 1985 as a Captain, with 30 years active duty. He was highly decorated, with military awards including the Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V, Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with Marine Corps Device, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnamese Presidential Unit Citation, and Combat Action Ribbon.
Alongside his naval career, Bob was an accomplished academic who contributed meaningfully to our knowledge of periodontology, the study of the oral structures that support the teeth and the diseases that affect them. Following his DDS from UCSF, Bob continued his postgraduate studies at the Naval Dental School, Bethesda, MD, eventually earning a Master of Science degree in Oral Biology, and a Certificate in Periodontology from UCSF in 1968. He worked in a research capacity at several of his naval appointments, including as Commanding Officer and Scientific Director at the Naval Dental Research Institute, Great Lakes, IL, where he led and conducted experiments in epidemiology and periodontal regenerative surgery. Following his retirement from the navy, Bob became an Associate Professor at University of Pacific Dental School for a year, before returning to his alma mater UCSF. There, he was appointed a Clinical Professor and Director of Postgraduate Periodontology, overseeing the training and education of countless students in addition to continuing his own research endeavors. In 1999 he stepped down as Director, but continued on as Clinical Professor, Emeritus, a volunteer instructor and researcher. In total, he authored over 40 scientific articles, including a highly cited work on gingivitis, methods for decontaminating dental equipment from antibiotic-resistant bacterial biofilms, and the interaction between periodontal health and cardiovascular disease. On top of all this, Bob was also proud to have earned distinction as a Master Model Railroader from the National Model Railroad Association. His model train layout encompassed an entire bedroom of their home, and was amazingly detailed, with many of the buildings built from scratch.
Joan was the cornerstone that held the family together wherever they lived and traveled, raising their five children with warmth and laughter. She was a talented cook, pianist, and collector, with an impeccable sense of direction, traits many of her children and grandchildren inherited. She loved to tend her garden, attend performances of the San Francisco Opera, and was a gracious host when they entertained friends in their home. She also gave of her time and talents to volunteer organizations in the community, including the food pantry at their church, Hillcrest Congregational Church in Pleasant Hill, CA. Joan and Bob are survived by their five children Michael of Fremont, Steven of San Diego, Laurie of Palm Springs, David (Terri) of St. Louis, MO, and Aina Ferro (Joe) of Pioneer, CA; four granddaughters, Morgan Emily Wirthlin of Seattle, WA, Kara Bane (Adam) of Mahomet, IL, Erica Culpepper (Josh) of Toronto, Canada, and Stefanie Courtney (Dennison) of Lakewood, CO, as well as one great-grandson Wyatt Samuel Bane (b. 2019). They are, and were deeply loved, and will be greatly missed.
Friends and family are invited the funeral services 1:00 PM, Thursday, January 19, 2023 at OAK PARK HILLS CHAPEL, 3111 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, CA 94597 and to visit one hour prior to service from 12 noon at the chapel. Burial with military honors will be at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery 5810 Midway Rd., Dixon, CA 95620.
In lieu of flowers, may we suggest a donation to Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which helps military veterans and first responders with home needs. The web address is https://t2t.org/donate/, and they have a Facebook page as well.
To join the memorial service through Facebook Live, please use this URL: https://www.facebook.com/events/721987752629162/
For more information, visit www.oakparkhillschapel.com.