EITEL ROBERT J

LTC Robert "Bob" J. Eitel was a potential VHPA member who died after his tour in Vietnam on 07/03/2013 at the age of 82.8
New Orleans, LA
Date of Birth 09/17/1930
Served in the U.S. Marine Corps
Served in Vietnam with MABS-16 in 65, MACV in 69-70
This information was provided by Sammie Williams

More detail on this person: LT. COLONEL ROBERT JAMES EITEL U.S. MARINE CORPS, RETIRED Robert "Bob" James Eitel died peacefully on July 7, 2013, in Las Vegas, Nevada, surrounded by the family who loved him. He was 82. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Sandra Makin Eitel; their son, Robert Scott "Bob" Eitel of Alexandria, Virginia, and daughter, Pamela Jean Hatty of Las Vegas; daughter-in-law, Nan Roberts Eitel of Alexandria; son-in-law, Ross Hatty of Las Vegas; grandchildren, Makin James Eitel, Taylor Lawrence Hatty, Henry Robert Hatty, and Molly Rose Hatty; brother-in-law, John Holmes Makin, and his wife, Gwendolyn Van Paasschen, and their daughter, Jane, of Washington, D.C.; a sister, Dolores Eitel; and a nephew, Steven Maviglio. Bob was a larger than life character, adored by friends and family for his great sense of humor, hearty appetite, straight-laced ways, manifest generosity, unerring bluntness, and resolute character. Born in Newark, New Jersey, on September 17, 1930, Bob was the son of hardworking German immigrants, Josephine, a beautician, and Emil, a house painter who had arrived at Ellis Island from the German village of Hinterweidenthal in 1923. Bob grew up in a German working-class neighborhood in Irvington, New Jersey, where he befriended for life Frank Rothenberg and Frank's future wife, Shirley Tanenbaum. An exemplary athlete, Bob graduated from Irvington (N.J.) High School and attended Adelphi College in Garden City, New York, on a football scholarship, where he lettered in five sports-football, baseball, lacrosse, track, and squash. Bob graduated from Adelphi with a bachelor of science in physical education in 1953. He then played football for the Third Marine Division and was selected for the All Marine Football Team in 1954. He continued his passion for sports throughout his life, later mastering handball, tennis, and racquetball. Adelphi inducted Bob into its athletic hall of fame in 2006, when football legend Al Davis, who coached Bob while a line coach at Adelphi, described him as "the prototype lineman of his time." In an interview that year with the Prescott Valley (Az.) Tribune about his award, Bob explained that weight lifting before it was popular was the secret to his success. "While everyone else was doing push-ups and sit-ups I was lifting weights," he said. Bob entered the Platoon Leadership Corps while at Adelphi and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in June 1953. After service in the infantry, Bob earned his "wings" as a naval aviator in 1957. A skilled and highly decorated helicopter pilot, Bob survived a crash landing of his carrier-based helicopter in the Caribbean Sea and volunteered for helicopter operations in Operation Blue Bat during the Lebanon crisis of 1958. Recognized for his flying skills, he piloted Marine One for Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy while stationed at HMX-1 in Quantico, Virginia, from 1959-63 and later served as the chief flight instructor at Pensacola NAS. After completing the Amphibious Warfare School in 1964, Bob served two tours in Vietnam (with MABS-16 in Da Nang in 1965 and MACV in Saigon from 1969-70). Bob flew 139 combat missions, including one during his second tour when his helicopter was shot down during operations along the Cambodian border. He was pursued under fire by North Vietnamese forces while he evaded capture for several days before being rescued. After returning home from Vietnam in 1970, Bob served as the assistant operations officer at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, California, and finally as a helicopter squadron commander at Santa Ana Marine Corps Air Station, California. Bob retired as a Lt. Colonel in 1973 to head the Marine Corps ROTC program at Jesuit High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Consistent with his valor, Bob received numerous distinguished medals and commendations, including the Bronze Star, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Air Medal (with four stars), the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, the Republic of Vietnam Medal of Honor (1st Class), the Presidential Service Badge, pistol and rifle expert badges, and numerous other decorations and citations. In 1975, Bob began a second successful career with Merrill Lynch in New Orleans, retiring in 1992 as a Vice President. Until almost the day he died, he loved studying investments and trading in the markets for his own accounts. Bob was an active member of the Rotary Club of the Westbank and was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation. Bob and Sandy later lived in Carriere, Mississippi, and Dewey, Arizona, before residing in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bob had a passion for Cadillacs, great fruit desserts (particularly those with whipped cream), gardening, and Siamese cats. In 1961, he lost his base driving privileges at Quantico for "one too many infractions" and turned over the keys to his Cadillac convertible to his new girlfriend--and future wife--Sandy. He died owning the red Cadillac he had always wanted. When in New Orleans, he had season tickets to the New Orleans Saints, even in the awful "Aints" years, and never wavered in his loyalty. He remained a Saints fan until the day he died. Bob's wonderful contradictions made him one of a kind--generous but thrifty; stern but loving; fair but a dealmaker. His children's greatest fear growing up were the words, "I've got a good deal for you." It was typically followed by some lopsided bargain that no child could ever refuse. But Bob's greatest passion was his family, especially his love of more than half a century, Sandy. Most of all, Bob was loyal--to his family, to his friends, to his country. His was a life well-lived, and he was a man well-loved. His family and friends will miss him more than he could ever know. Funeral services will be at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors in several months. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bob's memory to the Wounded Warrior Project, Inc., either online or by mail to P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, Kansas 66675.

Published in The Times-Picayune from July 24 to July 28, 2013

Burial information: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA

This information was last updated 05/18/2016

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Date posted on this site: 09/19/2018


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