The Eulogy for Robert Seaman

10
May

The Eulogy for Bob Seaman

 Bob Seaman was born on July 22, 1923, the only child of Robert Warren Seaman and Bess Louise Mattocks.   At the time of Bob’s birth his father was an Episcopal priest, in Florence Township in southern New Jersey, but shortly thereafter the family moved to Stamford, Texas where his father would serve a parish.  Bob’s mother was raised in Rockaway, New Jersey, and it is there that she returned with Bob when he was five to live in her parents home on Union Street, leaving Bob’s father behind in Texas.  Although Bob’s father was charming and highly intelligent, Bob’s mother had become fed up with his lack of a work ethic.  Bob would have no contact with his father for almost two decades.  In Rockaway, Bess would support her son by working as a piano teacher.

 

Bob was a very active boy who made a lot of friends.  Bob’s best friend was Bill Richards whose father was a local banker.  Mr. Richards became a father figure for Bob, including him in many of the family outings.

 

Bob was an excellent student, and upon his graduation from Rockaway High School in 1941 he began attending Stevens Institute in Hoboken to study engineering.  After three semesters of studies, Bob enlisted in the Navy on December 8th, 1942 to serve his country during World War II, serving on ships in the Pacific as an engineering officer.

 

Bob had met Lois when she was still in high school and working at the Five and Dime store in Dover.   They had become engaged prior to Bob’s departure to join the Navy.

While on leave from the army, Bob and Lois were married in the Methodist Church in Dover on May 9, 1946.  Unfortunately Bob’s mother was gravely ill at the time with breast cancer, and wasn’t able to come to the service.  Bob and Lois and the rest of the wedding party stopped by the house afterwards so Bess could get to see them.  She died shortly thereafter.

 

Bob was discharged from the Navy on July 29, 1946.  He made the upstairs of his family’s home the residence for him and his new bride, while the downstairs was rented out to friends.  With help from the GI Bill, Bob returned to college graduating in 1948.  Bob felt a profound sense of gratitude for having the opportunity to study at Stevens Institute and up until the last year of his life he would make an annual contribution to the school.

 

Ruth had known Bob since childhood because they attended the Rockaway Methodist Church together.  Ruth looked up to Bob who was six years her elder.  It was during Ruth’s senior year of high school at a New Year’s Eve party in 1946 that Ruth first met Bob’s new bride.  That night Lois shared the secret happy news that she was pregnant.  That night Lois and Ruth began a close friendship that would last throughout their lives.

 

On July 25th, 1947 Bob and Lois rejoiced at the birth of Terry.

 

Following his graduation from college Bob began working for a division of Reaction Motors located there in Rockaway.   That year they also moved into a new home on Sedgefield Drive in Morris Plains, adding a pool in the back yard a few years later.

 

Bob and Lois were blessed with their second son, Glen who was born on June 26th, 1951.  By then Ruth had married Vern Davenport and Ruth had given birth to her son Jerry, and the two families would share vacations together.  Gerry and Sue’s wedding reception was held in the backyard by the pool of Bob and Lois’ home on Sedgefield Drive.  The two couples enjoyed boating together, and eventually they teamed up together to buy a beautiful old big sail boat made out of mahogany that they gave the name “Fantasy”, docking it at a marina at the Jersey shore.  Bob, Lois, Ruth and Vern would work hours on end together on their boat.  A painting done by Terry of his parents peacefully sitting in the stern of the Fantasy will be on display at the reception.

 

Bob and Vern became quite active in The New Jersey Sail and Power Squadron, where they would teach courses in sailing and marine electronics.

 

When their sons were young Bob and Vern served as their Indian Guides at the local YMCA.  Bob was the “chief” with a beautiful Indian feathered head piece he made.

Bob had a love of model trains which he shared with his two sons.   Together they spent endless hours building lengths of tables in their basement upon which they constructed elaborate train courses with careful landscaping.

 

Over the years Bob’s career led him to be a part of 22 years of the history of the rocket propulsion industry.  He was the Project Engineer for the XI airplane engine, the chief engineer for the design and developments of the X-15 Plane rocket engine, the director of engineering for Reaction Motors, Division of Thiokol, the Director of Engineering for Rheem Systems, Vice President of Engineering of Gourdine Systems, and Manager of Engineering with Tenny Engineering.   He was a member of the American Rocket Society.  Six rocket engines are on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Exhibits for which he was project engineer, two of which were for the X-15 and the X-1.  These are displayed in their aircraft in the main foyer with the Wright brothers flier and Lindbergh’s Spirit of Saint Louis.  The other engines are from the Surveyor, 2000, the Viking, and the lifting body of the MX-777.

 

The men who were supervised by Bob held in him the highest respect and affection.  Bob’s work would take him out west to the sights where the X – 15 was tested.

 

Bob and Lois enjoyed any opportunity they had for travelling, and when she could, Lois would accompany Bob on his business trips to Europe.   They enjoyed travelling to see Terry and Heidi in Seattle.  On one occasion Ruth and Vern were able to join them.  Together they enjoyed the itinerary Terry and Heidi had created from them to visit all the points of interest in the Seattle area.

 

Bob and Lois joined the Parsippany Methodist Church where Bob would serve in a variety of leadership positions, including as the chairman of the building committee for the construction of a new million dollar sanctuary.

 

At some point Bob’s father was married to Marguerite who was a professor at John Hopkins University.  Together Lois and Marguerite conspired together to reconcile Bob and his father.  Marguerite would end up living long beyond Bob’s father and remain an enduring blessing in the lives of Bob and Lois and the boys.

 

Marguerite had a cottage in Spruce Wall, Boothbay Harbour, Maine and it became the setting of many happy family vacations in the company of the Davenports dating back to when the boys were quite young.  The cottage needed a lot of work and Bob and Vern were always working on some home or land improvement project.

 

At some point the Fantasy was moved to Maine.  In 1972 with a crew of Bob, Vern, Lois and Ruth the Fantasy took second place in the Mark Island Race at the South Port Yacht Club.

 

After Terry and Glen had grown up Bob and Lois moved to a townhouse in Morristown.  About the same time they purchased their own house up in South Port which became the new setting for summer vacations.

 

Glenn married Barbara and before long Sally, a granddaughter came along, followed by two grandsons, Andrew and Daniel.  Bob deeply appreciated the opportunity to have his  three grandchildren close at hand to witness grow up.    Later he Bob would take delight in the birth of three great grandchildren, Manny, Eli and Maya.

 

In 1988 Bob retired, at which point Bob and Lois moved permanently to Maine.  They became very active in the South Port United Methodist Church, which is stone’s throw from the house. Soon Bob was the man to call when there was a problem needing attending to with the building.  He served as the head of various committees, including the Trustees and as church treasurer.

 

Bob was brilliant, with a great dry sense of humor.  He could see humor in just about every situation, and never got discouraged.  He would set out to analyze any problem he was confronted with in order to choose the best course of action. He was strong, physically and mentally.  He was the kind of person who would do whatever he could to help another person in need.

 

In December of 2005 after 59 years of marriage Bob endured the heart break of Lois’s death just three months after she was diagnosed with leukemia.

 

In December of 2006 Bob and Ruth were married.  When in early 2013 Bob was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Ruth cared for Bob through his difficult decline until his death from dementia on September 4th, 2014.