Robert “Bob” Whitney, 89, most recently a resident of the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol, Rhode Island, passed away on February 1, 2023, of a non-COVID coronavirus respiratory infection, complicated by heart disease and slowly advancing Alzheimer’s disease.
Bob was born on July 18, 1933, to Tillie (née Quant) and Clifford Whitney on Tuckers Corners Road in Belmont, New York. After graduating from Belmont Central School in 1950, Bob worked briefly as a gandy dancer for the Erie Railroad and on a State Forest tree planting crew before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1953, working as a radar technician on the U.S.S. Joyce, based in Newport, Rhode Island. He served in the Navy and Naval Reserve until 1961. He studied industrial arts education at Buffalo State College, SUNY Oswego, and SUNY Alfred. While in the Buffalo area, he also worked for Wurlitzer in North Tonawanda.
Bob married Hilda Doerler, the younger sister of his childhood friend, William Doerler, on August 15, 1959, in Wellsville, New York. They had five children.
He taught “shop” and coached sports in Friendship and Scio, New York, before moving to an industrial arts instructor job at Belmont Central School where he continued coaching basketball. In 1970, he changed careers to work as a test floor and electrical design technician at Worthington Steam Turbine Division in Wellsville, New York (later Turbodyne, Dresser-Rand, et. al.). Bob described himself as a farmer, having operated a sheep and hay farm with his wife, Hilda (Doerler), for more than 50 years.
After retiring from Dresser in 1995, Bob continued farming, gardening, and cutting firewood for heating the old farmhouse, which he renovated and expanded. He was an avid reader, sports enthusiast, and fisherman. Bob and Hilda frequently attended school sporting and musical events well after their own children and grandchildren’s participation. He was a Boston Celtics fan, especially following his return to Rhode Island, where he lived since 2016.
Bob was predeceased by Hilda, his wife of 56 years, his sisters, Genevieve Mott and Helen Winterhalter, brother-in-law Frederick Mott, sisters-in-law, Ilse (née Doerler) Kitchen and Mary (née Monroe) Doerler, and by an infant grandson, Lief Whitney. He is survived by his children, John (Laura), Kathryn (William III) Lucey, Donald (Sharon), James (Patricia), and Michael, as well as grandchildren, Aleah (Michael) Kirchner, Brian Whitney, Bradley (Shannon) Whitney, William Lucey IV, Tucker Lucey, Jacob (Hannah) Grisewood, Joseph (Haley) Grisewood, Benjamin Whitney, and Simon Whitney, great-grandchildren, Cameron, Miles and Riley Kirchner, and Mortimer Grisewood. Also surviving are his older brother, Clifford “Bud” (Carol) Whitney, and brothers-in-law, William “Bill” (Patricia) Doerler, John “Jack” Winterhalter, and John “Al” Kitchen. He was also much loved by his many nieces and nephews.
The Belmont Central School 1967 yearbook was dedicated to Robert Whitney with an inscription that concluded, “Mr. Whitney’s kindness, patience, and helpfulness have won him the admiration and respect of the entire student body,” a sentiment shared by family, friends, and colleagues throughout his life.
Bob donated his body to the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University. A celebration of life will be held at a future date.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Western New York Land Conservancy (https://www.wnylc.org/donate).