Robert William “Nisky” Niskala of Ely, MN was unexpectedly taken from us on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at the age of 68. He was born in Winton, MN on April 5, 1952 to Russell Niskala and Shirley (Ranta) Niskala. He graduated from Ely Memorial High School in 1970 and then enlisted into the United States Marine Corps at the age of 18, where he proudly served as a machine gunner in the Vietnam War. His service to our country went on to inspire his passion for all things military.
After returning to Ely from the service, Bob received his millwright apprenticeship at US Steel in Virgina, MN. He then moved on to work at Reserve Mining for a short time. With the opening of Inland Steel Mine in Virgina, Bob began the greater part of his career, and retired from there after thirty-plus years.
Bob was an active member of the VFW Post 2717, serving as Commander for three terms, and held other various positions within the organization. He remained active within the VFW until his death. He was also a member of the Ely American Legion Post 248. He played a key role in the opening of the Ely Veterans on the Lake Resort and was always proud of his annual Veterans fishing trip.
For more than 40 years Bob led the Ely Honor Guard in service to veterans and their families. Bob spent countless hours coordinating events for Memorial Day Services, parades, especially calling cadence in the Fourth of July parade, the Marine Corps Birthday, and private family services. Bob remained quick to act and was very proud and thankful of his fellow “troops” for their dedication and commitment, whenever and wherever they were needed. Along with many others, Bob played an instrumental role in the creation of the Ely Veterans Memorial, all which made him very proud.
He was an active member of his community and sincerely enjoyed extending a helping hand to anyone that needed it. Bob was a patriot, leader, and true gentleman. He continuously put others first. He regularly visited people in the Ely nursing home, was quick to drop his plow for anyone, and was always “on call” for the community.
In the summer Bob loved spending time at the lake. He was happiest opening the cabins in the spring, captaining the pontoon boat full of friends and family, and taking the first spring swim with the grandkids. Bob stayed busy all summer maintaining his favorite places. In the winter Bob enjoyed watching his grandsons play hockey and going on deer patrol to count and feed the deer with his brothers and friends.
Bob is preceded in death by his father and mother. He is survived by his wife, Donna of 45 years, son Kevin (Sarah), daughters Nicole (Jeremy Engen) all of Ely and Natalie (Clint Tiffner) of Blaine; seven grandchildren, Parker and Nolan Niskala, Audrey and Hayden Engen, Graham, Emma and Emery Tiffner and baby boy Tiffner on the way. He is also survived by his siblings Gary (Reenie), Gerald (Patty) of Ely and Cindy (Clive Mitchell) of Houston, TX, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Bob will be deeply missed by his family, friends, fellow veterans, and the entire community of Ely.
The Niskala family would like to thank everyone for their condolences and out pouring of sympathy.
A private family service will be held on Friday, January 22 at 11 a.m. at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Ely. The service will be live-streamed on Facebook.
Following the service, please respect the family’s privacy at the graveside committal. Then join the family as military funeral honors are performed by the Ely Honor Guard near the flagpole at the Ely Cemetery at 12:15 p.m. COVID guidelines will be followed.
There will be a celebration of life this summer.
Family arrangements have been entrusted to Kerntz Funeral Home of Ely.
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