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Robert E. Kimmel Sr.

1915 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Robert E. Kimmel Sr. Obituary
USAF (retired)

On January 9, 2018, America lost one of her truly remarkable World War II heroes when Colonel Robert E. Kimmel, Senior, USAF (retired), passed on to a well-earned rest.
Colonel Kimmel was born on June 10, 1915, in Rockford, Ohio, to Ralph and Fannie Kimmel. His father was a successful farmer/businessman who kept young Bob and his four wonderful siblings busy and productive on the family farm. With six horses, two mules, and one tractor, the family worked 150 acres. It was not an easy life, but it was also not a bad life, and Bob would tell many funny stories of those years on the farm.
At a time when few of his generation went to college, Bob was hungry for more education and obtained his associate's degree. Unfortunately, the premature death of his father in 1934 required that Bob manage the farm while going to school. The lessons he learned about honesty, integrity, commitment to a job done well, and service to others were foundational values for him and guided every decision he made throughout his long life.
As World War II loomed on the horizon, Bob entered the Army Aviation Cadet Program in October 1940. After earning his wings, he served as a B-17 instructor pilot and was one of the first members of the 97th Bomb Group, later made famous in the movie, Twelve O'Clock High. They were part of the first contingent of American bomber pilots to go to England's defense in 1942. This was during some of the darkest hours of the war, when England was almost brought to its knees and as many as 10% of the U.S. heavy bomber aircraft would be lost on some missions. Day after day, these young men would get back into airplanes and defy death with unflinching courage. It is difficult to comprehend that America alone lost over 90,000 airmen KIA, MIA, and POW in the European Theater of Operations
Bob survived 50 combat missions. He was awarded the Silver Star in 1942 for gallantry in action for saving a crippled bomber from German fighters. He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism and earned the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters. He continued to fly the B-17 in both the European and Pacific theaters until the war's end. His extraordinary aviation skills, ability to inspire his crews in the midst of chaos, and his remarkable bravery are documented in several scholarly books from that time period.
During those dark days of the early war years, there were also bright spots. He flew with (then) Major Paul Tibbets of Enola Gay fame; frequently "bunked" with Major General Jimmy Doolittle; briefed Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Dwight Eisenhower; flew with Major General Ira Eaker; and met and dined with President Roosevelt in North Africa. Bob crossed paths with every major player of that era and never changed his humble, down-to-earth appreciation of all people, regardless of station or role in life.
After completing his combat missions, Bob was selected to be the Chief Pilot and Executive Assistant for General Carl Spaatz, who later became the first Chief of Staff of the newly created U.S. Air Force. It was the most enjoyable five year assignment of his career.
On November 17, 1945, Bob married Marie Annette (Anita) Yale of New York City. They began their married life in Washington, DC, where their first son, Bob, Junior was born. Second son, Jim arrived while his dad was finishing his degree at Ohio State University.
When his military adventures came to a close, Bob retired in Riverside and began a long real estate career with Sam Armstrong Realty. His integrity and professionalism made him a natural in this field. He delighted in helping people find the perfect home and he loved working with his second family at Armstrong. He retired from that career in 2008.
On November 4, 2014, Bob was honored to have his wings added to the famous Flyers' Wall of the Mission Inn, in Riverside. It was a wonderful tribute and he was deeply touched to be recognized. Duty, honor, and service to his country were deeply ingrained in his soul, and he flew a lighted American flag every day and night outside his home.
Whether on the farm, in the war, selling homes, or being a friend, when Bob had a job to do, he did it quietly, completely, and phenomenally well.
Golf was his passion and he delighted in his time at the Victoria Club. During his lifetime, he scored three holes-in-one. If heaven has a golf course, that's where Bob is, complete with a very low handicap.
The family wishes to thank Mrs. Jill Bruneau, Mr. Tom Cain, and the staff of Sunrise Assisted Living who lovingly and devotedly assisted Bob during the last years of his life. They would also like to thank Dr. Minho Yu, DO, and the devoted doctors, nurses and aides at the Riverside University Health System-Medical Center, who provided the finest possible care to Bob during his final days.
Bob was predeceased by Anita on February 6, 2017. He is survived by his two sons, Lt Col Robert E. Kimmel, Jr., USAF (retired) and his wife, Col Karen D. Kimmel, USAF (retired) of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Lt Col James W. Kimmel, USAF (retired), and his wife Karen Sue Kimmel of Fountain Hills, Arizona; two granddaughters, Stacey E. Kimmel Gearhart and her husband, Mark, of Charlottesville, Virginia, and LCDR Stephanie V. Kimmel Thomas, USCG, and her husband, CDR Steve Thomas, USN, of Norfolk, Virginia; two great-granddaughters, Virginia Eleanor Gearhart and Ella Grace Thomas; and one great-grandson, Hugh Robert Gearhart.
A celebration of this wonderful man's life will be conducted on Wednesday, January 24th at 11:00 am at the Victoria Club. A private burial with full military honors will be conducted at a later date at the Riverside National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to in Bob's name.
Published in Press-Enterprise from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21, 2018
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