Robert Barker Brack, 83, of Concord, formerly of Natick, died suddenly on Wednesday, September 8, 2021.
Bob was born in Newton on July 11, 1938 as the son of the late Robert and Evelyn (Barker) Brack. After graduating from Natick High School in 1956, Bob continued his education at UMass Amherst where he earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1960 and later completed his Master of Education at Northeastern University. He married his high school sweetheart, the late Joan Haskell Brack, in June of 1960. Bob and Joan lived in Natick and had three children Virginia, Kenneth, and William. Tragically, Joan died in 1999 from ovarian cancer. Bob married his second wife, Janet Bailey in 2001.
Bob leaves behind his three children: his daughter, Virginia Brack, her husband Clay Block, and their children, Maxwell Block and his wife Nicole Dayhoff and Samuel Block; and his two sons, Kenneth Brack, his wife Denise, their children, the late Michael Brack, Christopher Brack and his wife Megan, and Amanda Brack and her husband Andrew Lowrey; and William Brack, his wife Jessica Ladd, and their children, Benjamin and Isabel Brack. He was the adopted father of Eric Cooper and his daughter Kiara Mundy. Bob also leaves behind his second wife, Janet, and her two children; David Rossini, his wife Molly Chafetz, their children Eliza and Gabriel; and Katherine Dennis, her husband Joshua, and their children Thomas and Miles Dennis. He leaves his brother, Harold “Skip” Brack and his wife Judith Bradshaw-Brown, and his sister, Beverly Droz and her husband Thomas, as well as several nieces and nephews. Bob was also the brother-in law of Steve Haskell, step-brother-in law of William Thompson and step-sister-in law Lisa Pearson.
In 1960, Bob joined the family business, Barker Steel Company, as the third generation following his father Robert and his grandfather, Harold Barker, who founded the company in 1920. Bob left the steel business briefly in 1963 to teach material science for one year at Wentworth Institute of Technology, before returning to Barker Steel in 1964 to stay. Bob became CEO of the company in 1976 and under his leadership Barker Steel grew from a small one-shop company in Watertown, Massachusetts to having 17 locations in 11 states and more than 600 employees at its peak. Bob was shocked, but very proud when his son Bill joined Barker Steel in 1995 representing the fourth generation of family in the business. Under Bob’s leadership, Barker Steel became one of the largest independent reinforcing steel fabricators in the United States and furnished reinforcing steel for concrete construction throughout New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Barker Steel fabricated reinforcing steel for thousands of projects large and small, both public and private. Barker Steel fabricated the majority of the reinforcing steel for the “Big Dig” – the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel (CA/T) project and helped rebuild New York City after 9/11, including furnishing the reinforcing steel for several of the World Trade projects and the Freedom Tower. Bob sold Barker Steel to Nucor/Harris Rebar in 2007 and he “formally” retired in 2012, never letting go of his life-long passion for the rebar business. Through his compassionate leadership and caring ethos, Bob touched the lives of thousands of families over his 50-year career at Barker Steel.
Bob was a “life-long member” of the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) serving as treasurer, executive board member and president of both the CRSI and the CRSI Education & Research Foundation. In 2012, Bob was awarded the first ever CRSI Distinguished Service Award which was prompted by Bob’s career-long dedication to both the reinforced concrete industry and the CRSI. Bob also remained engaged with his alma mater, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, serving on the Civil and Environmental Engineering Advisory Committee and supporting the establishment of the Robert Brack Structural Testing Facility at Tilson, among other roles and activities.
Bob was passionate about actively engaging in and supporting the communities he lived in. While residing in Natick, Bob was member of Eliot Church (including serving as church moderator), and actively served on the board of several local charities, including the Natick Community Organic Farm, Natick Service Council, and Foundation for MetroWest. Bob coached his sons in farm league baseball and later coached them in spring soccer and helped start the Natick Soccer Club in the mid-1970s. He enjoyed singing in the Eliot Church choir with his late wife Joan.
Bob also had an enduring love for and connection with Machiasport, Maine, where he and Joan bought property fronting Machias Bay. “Little Respite,” a cottage built in 1981, became a treasured place of renewal for themselves and their family. In later years Bob worked closely with Maine Coast Heritage Trust in establishing a contiguous preserve to help protect the area’s natural and archaeological resources.
After the tragic loss of his first wife Joan in 1999, Bob and his children Jinny, Ken, and Bill created the Joan H. Brack Charitable Foundation, with a focus to support ovarian cancer research and local community charities. Over the ensuing twenty years, Bob and the foundation provided support for numerous charities including the Dana Farber Cancer Institute; the Jimmy Fund Golf Program via the Joan H. Brack Charitable Golf Tournament; the Joan H. Brack Learning Center, a component of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) in Framingham; MetroWest Legal Services; Jewish Family Services of MetroWest; and Hope Floats Healing and Wellness Center, founded and run by his daughter-in-law Denise and his son Ken.
After moving to Concord in 2000 and marrying Janet in 2001, he joined First Parish with Janet and actively participated in many of the social justice and governance committees of that community as well as supporting additional local charities, including Family Promise MetroWest and Open Table. Bob was passionate about Open Table because it was started by The Women’s Parish Association at First Parish and addressed the critical problem of hunger in the MetroWest region. Janet was President of the Women’s Parish Association. Most recently Bob was a resident at Newbury Court in Concord where he had already made many friends and dinner companions.
Bob was always most at home on the sea, especially on Buzzard’s Bay. He was an avid sailor, sailing his 19-foot Corinthian, Embarker, for 54 years with his family and friends and participating in the Marion to Bermuda sailboat race several times. Bob loved swimming in Wareham (Parkwood Beach) and later Mattapoisett and was known for his world class freestyle backstroke. He enjoyed puzzles of all types, especially jigsaw and Sudoku. Perhaps most of all, Bob loved his grandchildren. He was their number one cheerleader, particularly in soccer, and was known for driving hours to see a game. He was very fond of having ice cream with them in the summer –in fact he was very fond of ice cream in general. Bob loved music of all genres, especially dramatic classical music such as Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler and Wagner. Bob was an avid runner and regularly participated in the annual Mattapoisett Road Race together with his children and grandchildren until 2013 when his grandchildren started beating his time and he retired his bib with a grin.
Due to safety protocols for COVID, family and friends will gather to celebrate Bob’s life during a private memorial service by invitation only at First Parish, 20 Lexington Road, Concord Center, on October 2, 2021 at 2:00 p.m. The service will be available to the public via live stream zoom link which will be posted on Bob’s obituary page at www.DeeFuneralHome.com when available. Bob will be laid to rest during a private burial service at Glenwood Cemetery in South Natick.
In lieu of flowers, contributions to honor Bob’s memory may be made to Hope Floats Healing and Wellness Center, P.O. Box 345, Kingston, MA 02364 (www.hopefloatswellness.org), The Joan H. Brack Charitable Foundation C/O Citizens Wealth Management Operations, One Citizens Bank Way JCB115 (please feel free to indicate the contribution is earmarked for cancer research), Johnston, RI – 02919, or Open Table (www.opentable.org/donate/).
Arrangements are under the care of Dee Funeral Home & Cremation Service of Concord.