LIHUE — Robert “Bob” Schleck was a walking library with a witty mind and a big heart, known throughout Kauai as a preserver of history and a friend to all.
He was director of the Grove Farm and Waioli Mission House museum for 20 years and served twice as president of the Kauai Historical Society.
“I’m going to miss everything about him,” said Barbie Kennedy, who worked with Schleck at Grove Farm museum for nearly 20 years. “He became a good friend.”
Bob Schleck passed away Oct. 15 after a battle with leukemia. He was 72.
Schleck moved to Kauai from Wisconsin in 1969 and formed a fast friendship with Mabel “Miss Mabel” Wilcox, the daughter of sugar planter and cattle rancher Sam Wilcox.
Third generation in a missionary family, Miss Mabel was the youngest of six children and worked with her sister Elsie to preserve the family’s history and homes.
At the age of 92, Miss Mabel announced her plans to preserve Grove Farm as a museum and historic site and she did just that with the help of a companion named Sophie Cluff, Barnes Riznick and Schleck. In total, he worked at the sugar plantation homestead for nearly half a century.
Schleck promised Miss Mabel when she died that he’d preserve the legacy and that preservation was his life’s work.
“He was devoted to Miss Mabel, who saved these sites for the community,” said Julie McLeod, who also worked alongside Schleck for nearly 20 years. “All of his interests were community-minded. He loved Kauai — the people and the culture — and he really wanted to bring the local community here to Grove Farm.”
With his dedication to Miss Mabel’s dream came a fastidiousness about how the mission house and Grove Farm museum were furnished, and he was meticulous about upkeep on the property.
“He had an impeccable memory and had an extraordinary attention to detail,” McLeod said. “He retired a year and a half ago and I still talked to him every week or so to ask him something.”
His efforts made a difference and his influence will be felt for generations.
Now, Waioli Mission House and Grove Farm are listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places and locals and visitors alike can tour the buildings and see what life was like in the early 1900s.
McLeod isn’t the only one who turned to Schleck for answers, advice or just to talk story.
Friends knew of his house as “Hotel Schleck” and his table was overflowing with gifts from everywhere when holiday season rolled around.
“He was one of the most beloved people,” Kennedy said. “He had friends and knew people from all over the world.”
While mourning the loss of a beloved friend and mentor, Kennedy said she’s already found herself mirroring some of his actions and taking extra care when she’s working with Kauai historic preservation.
An animal lover, friends said Schleck resembled a Pied Piper or St. Francis, with frequent visits from animals wherever he happened to be.
“He was a giver,” McLeod said. “It all started with Mabel Wilcox and he was here for 46 years. He knew it all and he knew it all by heart.”