April 20, 1836, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.
September 13, 1922, Yutan, Nebraska.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Omaha, Nebraska.
Robert was the son of Jacob Weidensall.
He graduated from Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania, intending to be a minister. He attended seminary in Gettysburg, but was unable to complete his studies due to ill health.
After teaching for almost two years, he went to Washington, DC, in the spring of 1863, where he worked as a carpenter in the army quartermaster’s. Later that year, he joined the railroad construction corps, serving six months with the Army of the Potomac and nearly a year with the Army of Cumberland and Tennessee.
In 1866, after working a few months at blacksmithing in the Pennsylvania oil region, he returned to Hollidaysburg, where he helped to organize a Young Man’s Christian Association (YMCA). That same year he went to Omaha, Nebraska, where he was a superintendent in Union Pacific Railroad’s car shops. While there he became active in the Omaha YMCA and was elected its vice president in 1868. Later that year he was made a YMCA employee as its first field secretary to organize YMCA’s along the Union Pacific line.
In the course of 54 years of service,
Uncle Robert, as he was called, pioneered the YMCA movement in schools and colleges, proposed general secretaries associations and training schools for secretaries, canvassed the South, and developed state work in the Midwest. Rural work was a special object of his attention. He proposed and laid the foundation for successful county work and organized the first rural YMCA association in DuPage, Illinois, in 1873.