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1923 - 2017
Vice Admiral Robert B. Baldwin, Gig Harbor, Washington Robert Bemus Baldwin, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (retired), passed away on April 7, 2017 at St. Anthony's Hospital in Gig Harbor, Washington. Bob had an esteemed career and was a very kind and gentle man, much loved by all. His story follows. Vice Admiral Baldwin was born on April 24, 1923 in Minneapolis MN. He was the last of five children born to Dr. and Mrs. William P. Baldwin. He was orphaned at age seven and raised, in Fargo North Dakota, by his appointed guardians Dr. and Mrs. William H. Long close friends of his parents. He graduated from Fargo Central High School in June of 1941. Shortly thereafter Bob was sworn in as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1945 with the ambition to become a naval aviator. (The Class of 1945 actually graduated in June, 1944 due to a wartime acceleration.) At the Academy Bob wrote sports news for The Log, the student publication and played on the varsity soccer team. His first assignment after graduation was to the cruiser USS Birmingham in the Western Pacific combat zone. In May 1945 the ship was hit by a kamikaze attack off Okinawa. For his actions in fighting the resulting fire and flooding, then Ensign Baldwin was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. After the war Bob entered flight training, receiving his wings at Pensacola FL. in 1947. There he began what became a classic career in naval aviation. He served several squadrons including the first carrier-based unit capable of delivering an atomic weapon. He commanded Carrier Air Wing SIXTEEN and made deployments to the western Pacific on three different aircraft carriers. As a Captain, he took command of the fleet oilier USS Chipola during the Vietnam war, operating in the Pacific fleet in the Tonkin Gulf. He also was privileged to serve a tour as Commanding Officer of the great Carrier USS Forrestal. In shore duty assignments Bob was a graduate of the Navy's Test Pilot School at Patuxent River and served in the Tactical Test Division and on the Test Pilot School staff as an instructor. He also did four tours of duty in the Bureau of Naval Personnel. As a Vice Admiral his assignments were Commander Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet, Commander SEVENTH Fleet, and Chief of Naval Personnel, from which he retired in August 1980. His service awards include two Navy Distinguished Service Medals, two Legions of Merit and numerous letter citations. After leaving active duty, Bob lived in Rancho Santa Fe, CA for several years and was involved in management of real estate partnerships as well as consulting assignments. He also was active in the Naval Academy Alumni Association, serving as it's President from 1989 to 1992. In 1950 Bob married Stanford University graduate June Wilson. They had three children and subsequently moved numerous times coast to coast, Hawaii, Japan and the Mediterranean when Bob was assigned alternating sea and shore-based positions. That marriage ended in the mid-nineties. At then end of 1999 Bob married Sally Fleck, who preceded him in death. In 2002 he married Corinne Helgeson, a native of the Seattle area. They were married fourteen years residing in Gig Harbor, Washington. He maintained an avid interest in golf. He is survived by his wife, Corinne, sons Scott and Jared, and daughter Sylvia, grandchildren Denton, Lindsay and Caitlin, great grandchildren Brooks, Bailey and Tyler and Corinne's son Tim and wife Corrine, grandchildren Riley and Trey, daughter Teri and husband Jack. The funeral service and interment will take place at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, May 11, 2017 at 10am. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation at 291 Wood Rd, Annapolis, MD 21402.
Published in News Tribune (Tacoma) on Apr. 21, 2017
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