Robert (Bob) John Ennis passed away peacefully at home on October 2, 2013, in Houston, Texas, after an 8-month-long battle with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Bob was a selfless man, loving husband and most nurturing father—despite having lost his own father at the age of 7. Bob had humble beginnings in rural Wisconsin, growing up on a farm without indoor plumbing and began his academic career in a one-room school house where he was the only student in his first grade class. But by the time Bob retired from United Space Alliance at the age of 71, he had made substantial contributions benefiting humankind—including the design, coding and testing of the air traffic control system's Conflict Alert Collision Warning System as well as the design, coding and testing of the guidance, navigation and flight control software for the Space Shuttle's onboard flight computers.
Bob was born on July 22, 1940 to Andrew and Genevra (Snow) Ennis. Family legend has it that Bob's Mother cried the first time she saw him because his head seemed too large for his body, and she feared he might have water on the brain. Later she would understand that he simply needed a head that size to accommodate his impressive intellect. In high school, Bob was a National Merit finalist, class salutatorian, and revered member of the debate team. Marquette University awarded Bob a scholarship to attend college where he earned both Bachelor's and Master's degrees. He also appeared on national TV as a member of Marquette's GE College Bowl team.
During the Vietnam War, Bob volunteered for the draft, but the Army quickly recognized it would be better served by utilizing Bob's analytic skills and assigned him to the Pentagon as a statistician. After discharge, Bob accepted a job offer from IBM to work on the space program at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The space program would go on to play a major role in his professional life, just as his newly-assigned office mate by the name of Priscilla Hinkle would soon play a major role in his personal life. They married and went on to enjoy the final 43 years of Bob's life together.
Later, Bob would join IBM's Federal Systems Division in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he would work to make contributions to the Enroute Air Traffic Control System and become father to John Christopher in 1973 and Amy Elizabeth in 1976. Soon afterwards IBM relocated the family to Houston, Texas, where Bob would spend another 18 years with IBM as a programmer and systems analyst in support of human space flight. In 1994 after 25 years at IBM, Bob retired from Big Blue, but did not retire from working as he took a contract job running a two-man programming department that designed, coded and tested programs at Exxon's Baytown Plant, the second largest oil refinery in the United States. Many contract renewals followed, but Bob chose to leave Exxon in 2000 to return to his career passion, work in support of human space flight. Starting a new job at age 60 with United Space Alliance, Bob would add more prestigious awards to his collection and work until the end of the shuttle program in 2011, then retire to more fully concentrate on his favorite role as loving grandfather (Pop-pop).
Bob was an active member of St Paul The Apostle Catholic Church, including being a member of the Parish Council, a frequent lector, and Eucharistic minister. He was also a founding member of the Clear Lake "Philosophy" Club, which was—in fact—a small group of dedicated menfolk that convened at area cafes to discuss politics, religion and current events. Bob was heralded as a deeply intelligent, kind, and gentle man by all those who had the privilege to know him.
Bob is survived by his loving wife Priscilla, proud son John Christopher Ennis and wife Elizabeth Cecilia (Betsey); honored daughter Amy Elizabeth Achaibou and husband Abdelkader (Kader); four grandchildren, Grace Elizabeth (4), Andrew George (8 weeks), Kenza Claire (2 1/2), Zara Rose (1); Brothers Thomas Andrew of Solvang, Ca, Richard Francis of Fairfax, Va and Sister Kathleen Margaret Mooney and husband Darrell of New Freedom, Pa. Nephew Patrick Andrew Mooney and wife Debbie and their son Colin of Laurel, Md; niece Courtney Nicole Mooney of Elkridge, Md. Sister-in-law Elizabeth Joyce (Betsy) Harrison and husband Glenn of Colorado Springs,Co. His parents Andrew and Genevra Ennis preceded him in death.
The family received friends at the Crowder Funeral Home on Monday evening, October 7. A Funeral Mass was held on Tuesday at St. Paul's Church and Bob was laid to rest in the Houston National Cemetery.
Those wishing to make a memorial donation in Bob's honor may do so to St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church for a new computer system.