CPT Robert E. Gates Jr. USA (Retired)
Cadet Company: F2
Date of Birth: December 18, 1943
Date of Death: October 30, 2011
Died in Portland, OR
Interred: Willamette National Cemetery, Portland, OR - View or Post a Eulogy
The nation, the Army, and the Class of 1965 lost a dedicated professional and friend in Robert Emerson “Bob” Gates when he had a low blood sugar episode that caused him to fall down a flight of stairs. He suffered an untreatable brain stem injury that proved critical and died 14 hours later.
Bob was born on Dec 18, 1943, in Pasadena, CA, the son of Robert and Jeanne (Bosca) Gates. As a child, Bob lived a military life, residing on various U.S. Army posts throughout the world. His family settled at Ft. Lewis in Tacoma, WA, where he graduated from high school. Bob started his military career at West Point, with the Class of 1965. He was graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1965 and commissioned as a second lieutenant of Infantry.
While Bob was deployed to Vietnam, serving both with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), he was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor, two Army Commendation Medals, and the Purple Heart for wounds, and also received the Combat Infantryman Badge. On his first tour he was seriously wounded and spent nine months in Veterans Administration hospitals for surgery and physical rehabilitation. He volunteered for a second tour that was cut short by the after effects of those wounds, and he was deemed not “combat fit,” ending his cherished career. This was shortly after he had directed a gunship’s fire using strobe lights in the attack on Fire Base Airborne in May 1969. He wanted to continue his service, but the lasting effects of the wounds prevented that from happening. Those wounds continued to cause pain and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder episodes until his death. He was medically retired from the Army on Dec 9, 1969 at the rank of captain. It was not his injuries that caused his PTSD, but memories of all the friends and men under his command who were injured or died.
Bob always displayed a sense of humor, often caustic, regardless of the situation. Bonds of friendship came easily to him. As Steve Ganshert remembers, he had the pleasure of meeting Bob during cow year when they lived across the hall from each other. During that period, both had received a number of hours on the area and two months confinement (for different infractions of rules) except for required formations: classes, meals, parades idle time can create novel situations.
A couple of instances: the Corps received notice that their beds and mattresses were being replaced. On the night before we they were to be taken out on the stoops (covered porches of the barracks), Bob and Steve Ganshert decided to do a toboggan run. Each took their mattress, curled up the front, and rode down a flight of stairs on their respective “toboggan.” And during an evening study break, Bob and his cohort Steve were wrestling out in the hallway. They knocked over a ladder that fell and hit Bob on the ear; requiring stitches. We can only wonder what he told the doctor at the dispensary.
Bob remained close to several classmates and was always caring. Other classmates who also had medical problems or physical rehab often received frequent calls to “get with it,” all with his usual caustic humor. The Class of 1965 feels honored to have had Bob as a classmate, friend and dedicated soldier.
On Jul 21, 1978, Bob married Susan Hayes on the island Curacao in the Caribbean. They had met in Houston, TX, where he lived at the time because of his job with Shell Oil Company. Before Bob accepted his job at the head office in Houston in 1994, Shell had relocated Bob and Susan to Detroit, Chicago, and other cities. Bob retired from Shell in 1998, and the couple moved to Sandy, OR, in 2005. They both loved the beauty of Oregon and the many wonderful friends they made.
Bob was a devoted husband. He enjoyed building computers, woodworking, ham radio and Sudoku. He also had a special place in his heart for the couple’s cats and the many birds he fed extravagantly. Bob is survived by his wife Susan; father, Robert Gates, Sr. of Tacoma, WA; brother, Cass Gates; and niece, Michelle Christenson, of Washington. Bob will be sorely missed for his service, humor, and devotion. He is credit to the Long Gray Line and well deserving of our fond wish, “Be thou at peace.”
—Steve Ganshert, classmate