Joseph A. Bauer Jr.

Joseph A. Bauer Jr.

December 4th, 1931 April 27th, 2020

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Obituary for Joseph A. Bauer Jr.

Joseph A. Bauer, Jr., of Somerville, formerly of Newton, MA and Brunswick, ME, April 27th, 2020. Beloved husband of the late Mary Brown Parlee. Devoted father of Christopher L. Bauer of Westwood, his late wife Angela, Wendy Bauer of Springfield, Joseph A. Bauer IV of Framingham and the late Bridget Bauer. Stepfather of Elizabeth Parlee of Somerville, and her children, Samuel and Theodore Kahn. Loving grandfather of Christopher W. Bauer, Tanya Bauer Williams, Jessica Leigh Bauer Cheney, Kelvin Bauer, Diana Bauer, Hali, Max and Emily Castleman. Loving great grandfather of Angela Leigh Rossner and Michael Joseph Rossner. Brother of Helene Magruder, and her husband Alan of Iowa. Uncle of Kathy Magruder and Amanda McGruder Christensen of Iowa. Late US Navy veteran of the Korean War. All services will be private. For directions or to leave a message of condolence, visit

Our dad was well known for having a serious beard, being incredibly generous, and making lists using the 3 x 5 index cards and purple felt pen he kept in the pocket of his flannel shirts. He’d jot down to-dos, and check them off as he went. He did a lot of jotting and checking.

We’re not sure when the list-making began, but it probably wasn’t during his childhood as a “jazz-mad youth”, living in St. Louis with his sister Sissy (Helene), and their parents. More likely it followed him from the University of Wisconsin, where he did graduate work in psychology with Harry Harlow, to MIT where he became an experimental psychologist working in the E-10 building; a position he held until he retired. The lists must have helped with a busy family life, as he:

Married his high school sweetheart, Patricia Ledbetter
Had 4 kids: Bridget, Chris, Wendy and Joe Bauer the fourth
Nursed Pat as she died of cancer
Remarried, to Stella Ross
Remarried again to Mary Brown Parlee who he loved every minute for so many years, and who took such good care of him as dementia set in
Had a stepdaughter, Elizabeth Parlee, who he adored
Had 10 grandkids: Max, Hali, and Emily Castleman, Sam and Theo Kahn, and Christopher, Tanya, Jessica, Kelvin, and Diana Bauer
Had 2 great-grandkids: Angela and Michael Rossner

We, his kids, had a sense that he was unusual, as he was consumed by the things that interested him. Kites caught his eye, and soon he was building and flying them to heights over a mile, where they’d become invisible to the naked eye. People would pass by, look up, and see only string going up into the air. He took us to the beach and tried to fly one to Europe, tied to a bucket acting as a sea anchor.

He loved woodworking and crafts. He designed and built our kitchen in the house on Centre St. in Newton; every cabinet and even the counters, which he made of maple hardwood flooring. That kitchen lasted 45 years until the house was sold. He taught us to make Christmas ornaments using balsa wood, scalpels, colored cellophane, and exotic adhesives. He was a true do-it-yourselfer.

He also loved working at MIT. He often took us with him to the Lab, and made us subjects in his vision experiments. He found his closest friends there, like Ed Walker, Alan Doyle, and others who were brilliant but approachable like he was. The place smelled like floor wax and acetone and freshly machined Plexiglas, and it fit him like a glove.

But his most passionate interest was The Island, a little cabin in Wayne, ME that sat on a sandy spot half-surrounded by marsh, and half by water on a pond with only 5 other cabins. One of those was owned by his friend, and far-into-the-future wife Mary Brown Parlee, who told him about The Island when it came up for sale. He bought it on the spot in 1972, and it had no electricity or insulation, running water only if you pumped it up from the pond, an iffy toilet, spectacular fishing, and an unlimited number of home improvement projects. We went every chance we could, and Dad was happier there than anywhere in the world. When they were much older, he and Mary would shuttle back and forth between their cabins, watching the loons, cooking, “tweaking” their cabins, seeing plays in town, and demonstrating why Maine’s motto is “the way life should be”.

At the end his beard was full and white so that everyone who saw him thought of Santa. But his belly was gone, and his hands were clenched from the dementia, and he had long ago given up his suspenders, passions, and lists. But on the Big List we’re sure there’s a note that says, “Be loved by the people that matter most”, and it’s safe to say he can check that one off.

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Kathy Magruder

The world is a little less bright without Uncle Joe. Possibly my favorite memory was being with him at a car rental place. The clerk asked him if a Toyota would be OK. Without missing a beat he said, “Well, if you don’t have a real one.” My love to all of you.
Comment | Posted at 09:40pm via Condolence

Bob Krier

J.B., Chris, and Wendy:

I am so sorry to hear about your Dad. I have so many fond Newton Corner and Wayne, Maine memories, thanks to your father. The one that distinguished him and the Bauer family as one of the coolest families ever to be met involved actual, real, live Rhesus (?) monkeys in the house! My parents recall your Mom stopping by our house with a monkey on her shoulder! That one continues to come up in Krier conversations, even after all these years. While that one certainly made the headlines, it is the smaller stories and memories that make me smile when I think about your father and your family: his love of Jazz and that cool, futuristic turntable he bought, the garage with his amazing set of tools and gadgets, the aquariums and turtles, the wall to the basement, his calm (contrasted with my absolute fear) when arriving in the dark in Maine and walking on those rickety boards out to the boat, the Island’s water pump, my introduction to Durkee’s famous sauce … far too many amazing childhood memories to recount! But above all, as I think about all the antics in Newton and in Maine, I remember his good-natured chuckles at all the craziness and that wonderful twinkle in his eyes.

Sending condolences on behalf of all the Kriers,
Comment | Posted at 12:10pm via Condolence

simon j Rickaby

am sorry for the loss of stepdad and your father..had the best times as a teenager at the island in maine.would like to hear from my step brothers and simon..978-985- 4767..
I live in Oregon and am sorry I cant make it back to attend services
Comment | Posted at 10:53pm via Condolence

Erin Sullivan

What a great tribute to a very interesting man. It’s obvious that he was loved! Peace to you all in this especially difficult time.
Comment | Posted at 08:59pm via Condolence

Brenda McRobbie

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May the cherished memories help you through this difficult time.
Comment | Posted at 07:33pm via Condolence

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