Under heavy enemy fire, Private First Class Robert Troup, a fresh faced Marine Corps grunt, parachuted onto the island of Saipan in June of 1944. The young man from Danville, Illinois, knew somehow this day would be a defining one in his 24 years of life.
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With no other surviving officers to take command, a gravely wounded colonel gave Troup what turned out to be his final orders. The officer remembered him from basic training and felt PFC Troup had what it would take to get the remaining men to safety. His order? "Take my insignia, pin it on your uniform and lead these men the hell out of here!"
He emerged from the jungles, with his men, and joined up with the rest of the forces on the other side of the island. Initially, he was accused of impersonating a colonel, which earned him a trip to the brig. Eventually, the truth emerged regarding the incident and he was awarded an Honorary Colonel's rank for his actions. The moniker stuck with him through his life.
In the battle Troup suffered severe shrapnel wounds about his eyes. His very survival and his ability to lead others out of danger proved to the small town, mid-Western boy that he had the mettle to succeed in life.
Robert Troup died Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, in the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain. He was 92. The cause was pneumonia.
Certainly Bob Troup was one of the last survivors to have witnessed, in person, Babe Ruth's famous "called shot" at the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field. He was there with his dad and could recall the incident like it was yesterday.
As a young man he became a rep and traveling professional for Wilson Sporting Goods. During the late 1940's through the 1950's he regularly played tennis with, and was often able to beat, the likes of Bobby Riggs, Jack Kramer and Pancho Gonzales. Dog-eared and peeling black and white photos, ancient 78 record transcriptions of radio shows and a collection of tarnished trophies all attest to his sporting abilities and accomplishments.
His skills on the court stayed with him through middle age. When he was 53, he was the number one men's singles player in the "35 and over" age group in all of Fairfield County, .
Bob Troup attended Duke, as well as the Universities of Georgia and Illinois on the GI Bill. After graduating, he turned to television production. Troup was an advertising Vice President for CBS in New York. He later went on to co-found Reeves Industries, VHF Incorporated and RCT Productions.
His charming demeanor and the fact that his offices were located at 400 Madison Avenue in the early 1960's (the heart of what later became the setting for the series "Mad Men") granted him access and friendships with the likes of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Chet Forte, head of ABC Sports. Exactly what went down during their regular late night poker club meetings certainly would be fodder for "Mad Men" plot lines.
Troup's involvement with youth sports in New Canaan was, according to him, his greatest accomplishment. He was president of the Boy's Baseball Leagues for years, a director for the YMCA basketball league and of the Pop Warner football team as well as being a sponsor of many Junior Tennis programs.
He was an organizer for Big Brothers of America, President of Barrier Free Committee for the Handicapped, served on President Carter's National Finance Committee and was chosen to be Fairfield County's Man of the Year in 1975.
Known variously as "The Colonel" and "Papa Blue" (after his blue tinted eyeglasses), Bob earned a reputation as New Canaan's "coolest cat." His constant presence about town in one of a series of convertibles; scarf slung about his neck, top down in all manner of weather, with a German Shepard by his side, is an image that remains for many New Canaanites, their most vivid memory of him.
His wife of 51 years, the former Oleg Cassini model, Adele Bekeny Troup, lives in Washington Depot. He is survived by three children; Gail Meyer from his first marriage, a son Robert Jr. and a daughter Kristen Donaldson.
His online memorial site can be viewed at http://memorialwebsites.legacy.com/roberttroup/Homepage.aspx.
Published in Litchfield County Times from Nov. 30 to Dec. 7, 2012