Robert John DeBakker, 98, Oak Ridge

Robert John DeBakker, age 98, a resident of Oak Ridge, TN, passed away Thursday, April 27, 2023. Mr. DeBakker was born March 16, 1925, in Iron Mountain, MI, and in 1930 moved with his family to Norway, MI where he spent his childhood. He then relocated to Oak Ridge in 1954 where he became a longtime member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Mr. DeBakker first and foremost was a loving father and husband. He valued his faith and family above all. This, along with his many other admirable qualities, made him a role model to his family.

Mr. DeBakker graduated from Norway High School in Michigan in 1943. In February of the same year, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force at the height of World War II. During his time with the Air Force, he took preflight training courses, radio communications classes, and attended gunnery school. After Mr. DeBakker’s time in the service, he pursued a higher education by attending Omaha University and the University of Nebraska where he received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. When he moved to Oak Ridge, Mr. DeBakker began his career working as a Field Engineer in the Plant and Equipment Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he later became a Lab Shift Supervisor. He then began working as the Supervisor of Maintenance at the High Flux Isotope Reactor. After a long and commendable career, Mr. DeBakker retired from Y-12 National Security Complex as a senior staff member.

Mr. DeBakker had a wide range of hobbies, which included golfing, hunting, fishing, and playing bridge. He loved the outdoors, working in his wood shop, crossword puzzles, circus peanuts, and most of all he loved his large family. In 1946, Mr. DeBakker married the love of his life, Ruth, in Council Bluffs, IA. He and his wife raised 6 children and he had the opportunity to see his family expand through his 98 years. Mr. DeBakker taught his family so much by example.

Mr. DeBakker was preceded in death by parents, John and Lena Guilianni DeBakker; brothers, Donald DeBakker and Clarence DeBakker; wife, Stella Ruth Corning DeBakker; and grandson, Matthew DeBakker.

Mr. DeBakker is survived by his six children, John DeBakker, of Oak Ridge, Catherine S. DeBakker of Oak Ridge, Diana DeBakker Ridlehoover, and husband, Jerry of Myrtle Beach, SC, Debra DeBakker of Oak Ridge, Robert M. DeBakker, and wife, Catherine of West Linn, OR, and Mary Ann DeBakker Borum and husband, Albert of Coalfield. He is also survived by grandchildren, Johnathan, Jennifer, Nicholas, Taylor and husband, Steven, Madeline and husband, Erik, Carsten, Bret and wife, Annie; great-grandchildren, Reagan, Reid, and Kennedy; as well as many nieces, nephews, and other close family and friends.

The family will receive friends 9:30-11 am Monday, May 1, 2023, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. A funeral mass will be held at 11 am with Father Michael Woods officiating. Interment will follow at 12:30 pm at Oak Ridge Memorial Park. The family requests, in lieu of flowers please make donations to St. Jude’s Research Hospital. An online guest book is available at

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