Robert Vernon Garner Jr. (Bob), 84, of Hampton, Ct., died on December 26, 2019, at St. Joseph Living Center. He is survived by his beloved wife and best friend of 59 years, Elizabeth (Betty) Garner nee Abel, and by his much-loved children, son Henry James Garner and his wife Michelle (Missy) So Garner; daughter Anne Garner Curry and her husband Thomas Frederick Curry; son Robert Peter Garner; son David Brewster Garner; and by his adored grandchildren and great grand- children, grandson Brewster James Curry and his wife Julia May Ives Curry; their children, great grandsons, Rudolf Wallace Inman and Thomas Milton Curry; and by granddaughters, Alison Elizabeth Curry and Greta Halleniece Garner.
Bob was born in Montclair, New Jersey, and grew up in Westwood, Massachusetts, son of the late Robert Vernon Garner, Sr. and Halleniece MacKenney Garner and brother of the late Laura Nancy Garner de Langavant. He is survived by his brother-in-law Bernard de Langavant and by his five nieces and nephews.
Bob attended the University of Maine, especially enjoying the summer spent in the School of Forestry, but ended in choosing a career in aviation. This he began by joining the Navy Reserve and studying aircraft mechanics at Boston University. In 1957 he was commissioned a Naval Aviator and Officer and assigned to VP8, a patrol squadron on the East Coast. Because of his hope to become a missionary pilot, he left the active Navy and attended Gordon College to form a base for his missionary life. In 1960 he was married, graduated from Gordon and continued to study French at Middlebury Graduate School in Vermont. As part of that program he went to Paris for a year where he was joined by his wife and two very young children and (in spite of that) acquired a Master of Arts degree in Modern Language in 1963. Home again, he went on to a career in commercial aviation when he became a pilot for Pan American World Airways. He continued flying as a “weekend warrior” in the Naval Reserve. In the mid-sixties, upon hearing of an opportunity for helicopter training in the Army (and as he was being switched to “flying a desk” in the Naval Reserve), he enlisted in the Army, trained to fly helicopters, and joined the Rhode Island Air National Guard. In 1988 he resigned from his military service and retired from Pan Am.
In retirement he spent his time working the land at his home on Sunset Hill, keeping fit by walking or cycling each day, but mostly by supporting his wife in providing a home and ‘round-the-clock program for their two autistic sons. In other words, he kept busy!
He continued in seeming good health until 2018 when, on a seriously hot day in July while riding his bike, he blacked out and took a nasty fall. He came to while being life-starred to Hartford Hospital and upon seeing the pilot’s hand on the control, he knew where he must be and thought “uh oh, I must be in pretty big trouble!” He was! He had broken his neck, but surgery the next day was successful and at the end of the summer he was able to come home. In 2019 he was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma. In two hospitals and eventually at the St. Joseph Living Center, he spent time everyday with his wife and children, the high point of which was a first visit from Italy by his seven-month old great grandson, Tommy Curry. He was fortunate at that time in frequently seeing all three grandchildren, Brew and Ali Curry and twelve-year-old Greta Garner, who gave “O’Papa” extra-special, almost-daily care.
There are no calling hours. His Funeral Mass will be held on Saturday, February 1, 2020 at 11am at St. Joseph Church in Willimantic, CT. His burial will be in Westwood, Massachusetts.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bob's memory to: UNBOUND / unbound.org (1 Elmwood Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66103), or World Vision/ worldvisiongifts.org (P.O.Box 70359, Tacoma, WA 98481-0359). For an online memorial guestbook please visit www.potterfuneralhome.com.
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