Also known as “Skippy” or “Skipper”, Bob was born December 29, 1935 in Plainfield, NJ and “flew west” on December 16, 2023 in Oakland, TN. For those of you trying to do the math, he was just 13 days shy of 88 years old. Being an East Coast type of guy, more than once he wondered how he ended up in Memphis, TN but the simple answer is: Federal Express!
Bob graduated from high school in New Jersey, then joined the Air Force hoping to fly. That hope was dashed when they told him he was not qualified to fly because he couldn’t pass their tests. Instead he became an instrument mechanic. That (and many other jobs) kept him afloat while he instead learned to fly the civilian aviation way. Along the way, he extruded plastic, worked for a major airline as an instrument mechanic (where they fired him for producing too much), flew “penny a pounders”, taught flying, taught driver training and a myriad of other jobs. And he did it in a variety of locations from New Jersey to Michigan and Ohio.
When he finally got to fly “the big jets”, he worked for “no sked” airlines flying freight and/or passengers, and flying a wide variety of airplanes, one of his favorite being a C-46. Then one day while on a layover, he chatted with another pilot about this new outfit in Little Rock called Federal Express. They had Falcon jets and Bob asked how many they had. In January 1973 that answer was “three”. When Bob asked how many they were going to have the answer changed to 32. So he applied, and the next thing he knew he was teaching Basic Indoctrination in Little Rock, with a hire date of February 1973.
The rest, as they say, is history. He flew the Falcon, then the 727, then the DC-10. He put his own gas in the plane in the early days, and got that famous note asking employees not to cash their paychecks yet. When international opened up, he flew the world: Thailand, the Philippines, China, Frances, Germany, Italy, England, Malaysia, Brazil, Belgium and many more. He loved flying more than anything. He reluctantly retired from FedEx in December 2000. The guy that was “too dumb” to fly for the Air Force spent 27 years flying for FedEx as a flight engineer, Captain, Training Captain and Check Airman.
After retirement he spent 2 years sitting around before he decided he needed something to do. He went to work for the local Kroger working in the fuel center. Bob called it “passing gas.” He worked there until October 2023 (19 years!), when cancer finally forced him to call it quits.
He learned to cook out of necessity (divorce), then found out he liked it. He attended more than a few cooking classes and became quite the gourmet chef. The presentation was as important to him as producing a fabulous meal – and it was indeed fabulous.
While he loved flying, he also loved golf, sailing and racing his sailboat, baseball, Tiger basketball, his wife Elaine, his kids and grandkids and his dogs – not necessarily in that order! He definitely considered himself blessed. He worked hard, earned what he got and had a wonderful life.
He is survived by his wife Elaine; their son Tom and wife Meredith and grandkids Lola and Lucas; daughter Karen and grandkids Micah, TJ, Melissa and Ryan; son Dan and wife Sandy and grandkids, Dan, Dorothy and Kimberly; son Jeff and wife Lisa and grandkids Cory, Katie and Alex (deceased); daughter Jennifer Mahnken and husband David and grandkids Cynthia and Jeremy; sons Bob, Greg and Don; a bunch more grandchildren and great grandchildren; and his three dogs, Beau, Tug and Dew.
At Bob’s insistence, there will be no memorial service. In lieu of flowers make a donation to your favorite charity or play a round of golf or go for a sail or walk your dogs or have a drink with friends. Or go for an airplane ride – you never know, Bob might be flying along with you.