MADISON—On the day of the Holy Innocents in 1948, Bob Esser was born to Marie (Flamme) and Andrew Esser of Cross Plains. He was the fourth of their seven children. His early life revolved around his family and the quiet small-town life of Cross Plains.

The first major decision in Bob’s life was to attend Holy Name Seminary. There he met many people who would become lifelong friends. After a year at Edgewood College, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a B.A. in English. He ardently opposed the Vietnam War and obtained conscientious objector status. After a year in Tucson, he returned to Madison to complete his teaching certification. Later he added an M.A. in English.

Not looking forward to teaching in a middle or high school, Bob got a job teaching English as a Second Language to adults at the Spanish-American Organization (OHA) in Madison. When he started, he knew nothing about teaching ESL, but he kept improving. During this time, he began a relationship with the Employment and Training Association that would last for about 40 years. After teaching at OHA for six years, he was hired by Madison Area Technical College and remained there for 25 years. Teaching was a job, but it was seldom work. He made friendships with refugees and immigrants from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil, Afghanistan, Colombia, Russia, South Korea, and Somalia to name just a few countries.

Aside from the classroom, one of Bob’s favorite places was a dark room watching a movie, especially a foreign film. A second favorite place was at a table playing cards—bridge or solo. He played solo with family when he was young and bridge from the 1970s on, mostly at the Bridge Club of Madison, making many friends there. And he made more good friends at A and B after the bridge games. Right, Cookie?

Besides traveling to places such as Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, Auschwitz and Turkey, Bob also appreciated a wide range of art (especially the Frick), opera, ballet, and music. He reluctantly enjoyed golf, but was never very good, though he did score an ace on number 14 at Door Creek. Will and Larry saw it!

Bob was preceded in death by his parents; brothers-in-law, Ron Severson and Gary Denner; and friend, Marie Monica. He is survived by his son, Matthew (Julie Brunner) and daughter, Ariel (Todd Sack); and special friends, Brad and Dana Neuhauser and their children Lizzie, Joshua and Sarah. In addition, he is survived by his brothers and sisters, Jim (Darlene), Don (Sharon), Ruth Severson, Fran Denner, Lisa (Mike) Blum, and Mark; nieces and nephews, Jim, Jacki, Judi, Renee, Shawn, Janese, Brett, Boyd, Jay, Jenny, Heather, Jared, John, Aaron, AJ, Carley, and many other relatives and friends.

Time, the unrepentant thief, stole Bob on July 10, 2019. A celebration will be held on July 22, from 4 to 7 p.m. at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 6021 University Ave, Madison, Wis. At five, Jim McGonigle will discuss Bob, others are invited to join in.

Memorials can be made online or by mail to the Cambodian School Project ( or the Employment & Training Association (

Listen up!

Sign up for our Podcasts email!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.