Obituary of Robert A. Sleiertin
Robert A. Sleiertin, a resident of Newport for 40 years, passed away on October 29th, 2019 at the age of 88. He is predeceased by 2 of his sons, Stephan and Kenneth, as well as his wife, Barbara Ann Sleiertin. He was referred to as ‘Bob’ by his friends and family, ‘Dad’ by his surviving children Robert & Diana, ‘Opa’ by his grandson Zachary, and ‘Umberto’ by Barbara Ann.
Bob was raised in Long Island by his loving parents Svend and Margaret. Bob began his very distinctive life very early. At the age of 12 he convinced his older sister Margaret to bring him to visit the site of the sinking of the S.S. Normandie at NYC’s Pier 88. However, they would not let him near the site to observe. So ‘Bobby’ wrote to President Roosevelt for permission. The President not only gave his permission but sent a car to deliver Bobby and Margaret to Pier 88 and get the ‘back-stage tour’. Thus, began Bob’s passion for the Navy. He graduated from Malverne High School and went on to the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point where he received his Bachelor of Science degree with honors. Bob served as Lieutenant Commander in the Navy during the Korean Conflict aboard the USS Bremerton and continued in the Naval Reserve as an educator/trainer for 20+ years. Bob was a Silver Member of the United States Naval Institute.
Bob had asthma as a teenager and decided to overcome it by joining the track team. It worked, and his asthma was gone for good. Bob continued running track while at Kings Point and added boxing to his repertoire. Perhaps the boxing was in his blood, as his father was an amateur boxer. One day on board the USS Bremerton, to improve the spirits of the crew, Bob organized a boxing match and did something unheard of at the time: enlisted men could box with officers!
Bremerton brought Bob more than a ship on which to serve his country. Bob met Barbara Ann, a United Airlines flight attendant, during his regular commute flights. Barbara Ann happened to be Miss Bremerton! They were married on a spring day in 1964, which Bob always called the luckiest day of his life.
Bob had a passion for skiing. He was a competitive skier and member of the United States Eastern Amateur Association. Bob instilled his love for skiing in his children, all of whom learned to ski by the age of 5.
Bob had a successful career as a marine engineer and naval architect working for Alcoa, Sperry and Raytheon. He also continued working in the Maritime industry as a consultant and headhunter. He was a life-long member of SNAME, the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.
Locally, Bob volunteered on the Board for the Newport Council for International Visitors. Bob was an active member of St. Augustin’s Church where he coordinated the altar servers and ran the Catholic Educational program. He participated each year in the March for Jesus, a cross-denominational food drive. Bob and Barbara Ann sponsored visiting families from the War College and teamed up volunteering with the Girl Scouts.
Bob always enjoyed a little showmanship. As part of a grammar school comedy troupe, Bob and his friends memorized the ‘50 Russian Composers’, a Danny Kaye routine which he performed at every occasion. His daughter Diana and grandson Zachary memorized and this routine and performed it at Bob’s 80th birthday party to honor him. Bob had another unique performance. He was able to fold his ears inside themselves, and when you pushed his nose, the ears popped out! He worked with SNAME’s Swedish Viking Boat, powered by modern Raytheon equipment, for their New England tour. As the boat sailed into Fort Adams, Bob greeted them dressed in full Viking regalia. Bob represented the entourage at the Viking Hotel in his Barbara Ann-made costume, signing autographs as the ‘Danish Viking’.
Most will remember Bob for his rapier wit, love of history and knowledge, as well as his mischievous side. Fondly remembered are the stories of when he would turn his overcoat backwards, put soap cakes in his boots and jokingly approach his shipmates as though he were Frankenstein. Bob constantly pranked Barbara Ann and even his children. He had a great desire to share his knowledge, often with a comprehensive litany of facts and puns. He owned an extensive collection of periodicals and magazines which kept him so well informed. He had an endearing habit of clipping pertinent articles for friends and family. Bob maintained his beautiful sense of humor and mischievous glint in his eye to the very end.
Bob’s capacity for friendship was amazing. In high school, he and 3 friends, Frank Springer, Reinhold Tohver and Paul Savior banded together as a comedy team called ‘The Four Horsemen’ and remained friends for their entire lives. Following this theme in recent years, Bob formed the ‘Over-the-Hill Gang’ with friends Martin and Nina Cohen and Phil Dickenson and terrorized Block Island on mopeds. Bob cherished his long-term friends in Newport and credits them for helping him through the loss of his Barbara Ann in 2001. Bob did not have ‘neighbors’; he had ‘my close friends in the neighborhood’.
Bob’s capacity for love was an inspiration. An avid workaholic, he always came to his children’s bedside every night when he returned home from work, expressing his love for each. During the misadventures of his children’s teenage years, Bob described his relationship with Barbara Ann as “Back-to-back, swords drawn, us against the world, including our own children if necessary.”
Bob spent his final days in the presence of his friends and his family, repeatedly telling them how much he loved them, holding his grandson Zachary’s hand in his final moments.
Calling hours will be held Tuesday, November 19 from 4:00 – 7:00pm at the O’Neill-Hayes Funeral Home, 465 Spring Street, Newport. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated Wednesday, November 20 at St. Augustin’s Church, corner of Carroll & Harrison Avenue, Newport at 10:00 AM.
Military honors ceremony and Celebration of Life luncheon will follow at 12 noon on the Newport Navy Base - Officer’s Club, 95 Perry Road, Newport. RSVP is required for access onto the Navy Base. Please RSVP to Diana Sleiertin 315-558-1261.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Visiting Nurse Home & Hospice, 1184 East Main Rd, Portsmouth, RI 02871 or by visiting www.visitingnursehh.org/
Mass of Christian Burial
Military honors ceremony and Celebration of Life luncheon
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations
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