Robert Lee Bethke, founder and president of PRB Associates, an Eastern Shore manufacturing consulting firm, and a Vietnam War veteran, died of lung cancer Jan 11 at Memorial Hospital at Easton. He was 54.
Mr. Bethke was born in Baltimore and raised in Highlandtown. He was a 1968 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and studied manufacturing management at Antioch College while working at Maryland Glass Co.
He enlisted in the Army in 1971 and served as a ranger with the 82nd Airborne Division in Vietnam. He was discharged in 1975.
Returning to Maryland Glass, he worked as human resources manager and labor relations negotiator until becoming professional staffing manager at Gould Electronics Corp. in Glen Burnie in the 1980s.
He was later director of government affairs for Cardinal Industries Inc., executive vice president of Data Chromatics in Columbia and plant manager of the Wheaton Glass and Tubing plant in Easton. Since 1998, he had owned and operated PRB Associates.
He enjoyed working on home-repair projects, walking his dogs and restoring vintage Mercedes-Benz automobiles.
A recovering alcoholic, Mr. Bethke was looking forward to celebrating 20 years of sobriety in June, family members said.
He was a member of Third Haven Friends Meeting House in Easton, where a memorial service was held yesterday.
Mr. Bethke is survived by his wife of 13 years, the former Paige Russell; three sons, Jeffrey R. Bethke of Seattle, Todd C. Bethke of Perry Hall and Brandt S. Bethke of Easton; and three brothers, William A. Bethke Sr. and Philip H. Bethke, both of Baltimore, and Peter A. Bethke of Edgewood. His marriage to the former Janet Gilpin ended in divorce.