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Robert  Louis "Luigi" Folk

Obituary for Robert Louis "Luigi" Folk

June 4, 2018
Austin, Texas


Robert Louis (Luigi) Folk was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, George, grew up on a farm in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, then became a lawyer in Cleveland. His Mother, Marjorie, came from a long line of settlers in SE Ohio and was an accomplished pianist and painter. The family lived on Grenway Rd. in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Robert attended Shaker public schools where he was very shy. In July, 1943, he entered Pennsylvania State College and became a member of the Nittany Co-op, a student organization that changed his life. He came out of his shell and first became interested in (although not successful with) girls. In March 1946, he finally met a new Co-oper, Marjorie Thomas of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. They got engaged in a month and married Sept. 7, 1946 (slow starter, then fast worker)

Bob began collecting pretty rocks around age five. His interest in rocks only grew as he got older, so it was not unexpected when he entered the Geology program at Penn State. He went straight through the program there, graduating with a Ph. D. in 1952. While at Penn State, he spent the summer of 1945 working for Gulf Oil in Fort Worth, Texas. In the fall of 1951, his family, now numbering three, moved to Houston, Texas to start work on modern sediments with Gulf Oil Research, and a little later to a field project in Pascagoula, Miss., where his daughter was born. It wasn't long before he decided that he preferred to teach, so in September 1952, he accepted a position as assistant professor in the geology department of the University of Texas, with a starting salary of $4200 a year.

Luigi (as his students and colleagues knew him) retired from teaching in 1988, but due to his passion for geology, he continued doing research right up until just before he died. He authored over 100 research papers in international scientific journals and professional volumes. He won several teaching awards and international medals for his work in sedimentary rocks, which included beach pebbles of Tahiti, desert sands of central Australia, sandstones of West Virginia and Texas, limestones of Texas, Yucatan, and Italy, and the Caballos Novaculite in west Texas. He was also involved in research in archeological geology in Yugoslavia, Israel, southern Italy, and Egypt. From 1973 to 2008, he spent every summer in Italy doing field work under one excuse or another, students and/or family often accompanying him. A major accomplishment was his discovery of dwarf forms of bacteria (or nannobacteria) in fresh deposits of the hot springs of Viterbo, Italy. These are the kinds of creatures which NASA later found fossilized on the meteorite from Mars. His work with nannobacteria influenced the Mayo Clinic, who later found them to be the cause of arterial plaque. However, biologists scoffed at this radical down-scaling of "life."

Bob had many hobbies. He created a very complicated dice baseball game system, which he maintained starting in 1944, right up until last year. He enjoyed history, particularly Civil War (both great-grandfathers were in the war), also non-realistic painting, and collecting rocks, stamps, coins, etc., and amateur astronomy. He also learned a smattering of several languages, but was quasi-fluent in Czech and Italian.
He liked to dance with his wife and/or students at the Broken Spoke, loved country music, as well as Grand Opera, and Symphony, and popular melodious music. Marge and he were members of the Wedding Ring class at First Methodist Church from 1954 on. They enjoyed almost every weekend at their log cabin overlooking Lake Travis. Bob was also an accomplished pasta chef (sauces only).

He was predeceased by his parents; older brother, George Kinkead Folk; his beloved wife of 70 years, Marjorie; as well as their two sons, Bobby and Mark. He is survived by daughter, Jennifer and her husband, Steve Mann of Austin; four grandchildren, Jessica, Elena, Heather and Trevor; and great-grandchildren, Miles and Aurora.

The visitation is at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home on South Congress Avenue, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Friday, June 8.

The memorial service is at 1:00 pm, Saturday, June 9, at First Methodist Church in Austin.

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Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home South

2620 S. Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704
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