Robert L. "Bob" Johnson, 83, of Granite City, Ill., born Oct. 29, 1932, in Carbondale, Ill., passed away Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, at Edwardsville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Robert graduated from Carbondale Community High School in 1950. He enlisted in the United States Navy in March of 1951, attended Fleet Destroyer School in San Diego, California, and graduated from Fleet Sonar School, Key West, Florida, attaining the rank of SoSn. Robert served on the USS McGowan, DD 678, a recommissioned WW II Fletcher Class Destroyer for Korean service. His service aboard the USS McGowan earned him the United Nations Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with two battle Stars, the South Korean Presidential Unit Citation for service in Wonsan Harbor, North Korea, the Navy European Operations Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon. He served with the 7th Fleet, performing shore bombardment, plane guard duty for our carrier forces and radar picket duties.
After detachment from the Korean Theater of operations, the McGowan participated in DesRon 20's Around the World Good Will Tour. This fleet of eight destroyers was the second largest American Fleet to circumnavigate the globe. Having already sailed to Panama, Hawaii, Midway, Okinawa, Japan and Korea, the destroyer squadron went on to Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore where they crossed the equator; there Robert was initiated into the Ancient Order of the Deep, becoming a hardened salty Shellback. The McGowan went on to sail to Calcutta, Colombo, Ceylon, Pakistan, Arabia, and through the Red Sea, the Suez Canal to Naples, Italy; Cannes, France; Gibraltar; then across the Atlantic to Newport, Rhode Island, its 7-month cruise ending in April, 1953. In September 1953 the McGowan was deployed on NATO Fleet Exercises to the North Atlantic for anti-submarine warfare exercises. In heavy storms the ship heavily damaged her sonar dome and retired to the Malta for dry dock repairs, before cruising to Lebanon, Greece, Crete, Italy, Gibralter, Germany, Denmark, England, Holland, France, Newfoundland and finally arriving back in Newport in February, 1954. During 1954 the McGowan operated out of Guantanamo Bay for anti-submarine exercises. Robert was discharged from the Navy in 1955 with the rank of Sonarman Petty Officer 2nd Class.
Robert earned his MA in History from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. In 1958, he was hired by Granite City School District 9 where he taught high school American history and government and was yearbook sponsor for 30 years until he retired in 1988. Throughout his career, he was active in local 743, American Federation of Teachers and served in its leadership roles. As chairman of its Salary and Policy Committee, he co-authored the first collective bargaining agreement at district 9. From 1972-74, he was vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO and concurrently held a seat on the executive council of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. He was a member of the USS McGowan Reunion Association, Tin Can Sailors Association, Navy Memorial Association, VFW Post 1400 Kansas City, Mo., and Korean Veterans Association. He published some personal experiences in his three books: Out of Egypt, Fletcher Destroyer BlueJacket, and Three Innocents Abroad in Dixie! Throughout his life, Robert held dear his family, his pets, and his former students.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Orville Ralph and Bess, nee Worthen, Johnson.
Robert is survived by and will be missed by his wife, Teresa, nee Marzluf, Johnson; his daughters, Christine M. and (Charles) Oettle of Granite City, and Candice E. and (Christopher) Valencia of Panama City Beach, Fla.; his granddaughter, Ava L. Valencia of Panama City Beach, Fla.; nieces, nephews and other extended family members and friends.
Memorials are suggested to the veterans
, Renee's Animal Rescue or the Barnes Jewish Foundation.
Visitation: Friends may call from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, at Irwin Chapel, 3960 Maryville Road in Granite City, Ill.
Funeral: In celebration of his life, services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, at the funeral home with Pastor Clint Wisdom officiating. Burial will follow with military rites at Sunset Hills Cemetery in Glen Carbon, Ill.
IRWIN CHAPEL, Granite City, Ill.
Published in Belleville News-Democrat on Aug. 28, 2016