Robert Paul Leary

NO. 17514  •  27 October 1927 – 20 March 1969

Died 20 March 1969 in Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, D.C., aged 41 years.
Interment: Cataumet Cemetery, Cataumet, Massachusetts

0N 20 MARCH 1969, just a little over two months after receiving his promotion to Colonel and taking command of Signal Group 22 in Mannheim, Germany, Bob Leary died in Walter Reed Army Hospital at the age of 41, of acute leukemia.

As his wife Joan expressed it so well, "God wished for him to be part of His perfect existence." Everyone who knew Bob can realize how well be would fit in such a plan, for perfection was an inherent part of him. In everything he did, be applied his scholarly mind and all his energies to a perfect execution of any task or challenge, and undergirding his quest for excellence, and adding to it a higher dimension, was his strong Christian faith. Perhaps his family and friends can reconcile themselves to his premature death by remembering the words of St. Paul to the Romans: "All things work together for good with those who love God and are called according to His purpose."

Colonel Robert Paul Leary was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, on 27 October 1927, the son of Joseph and Mary Leary. He was graduated from Watertown High School in 1945, and from West Point in 1950. His graduation from West Point did not end his formal education or his association with the Academy. After three years in Germany as platoon and company commander of signal units, he attended Syracuse University and received a Master's Degree in Business Administration in 1955. From that time until 1957 he was Chief of the Automatic Data Processing Branch of the Signal Supply Agency in Philadelphia. He went next to the Advanced Signal Officers Course, and after graduating, he returned to West Point as an instructor in Economics, International Politics, and U. S. Government.

After the completion of his West Point tour, Bob went to the Command and General Staff College before assuming command of the 4th Signal Battalion in Korea in 1963. Then in 1965, he graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College, in Norfolk, Virginia, and in 1967, from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair in Washington. His last assignments before he assumed command of Signal Group 22 were at the Pentagon as Capabilities Plans Officer of ODCS-Log, then as Chief of the Logistics System Design Branch of ODCX‑Log, Headquarters USAREUR, and finally Chief of the Systems Engineering Division, USACOMZ, EUR S&MA.

Bob was a two‑time recipient of the Army Commendation Medal, and a holder of the Legion of Merit (first oak leaf cluster). One of his fellow officers, Colonel S. A. Bush, Commandant of UASECOM in Philadelphia, said of him, "Bob always epitomized to me the perfect example of what a top notch regular Army officer should look like, sound like, think like, and be. He was a natural born leader and commander, as well as a deep feeling and thinking person."

Many of these qualities of "a deep feeling and thinking person" could be observed in his family life. His pride in his career was great, but his family was the most important thing in Bob’s life. He was happiest when with Joan and their four cbildren­ - Mark, Robin, Sarah Kate, and Michael. Bob was a father who was never too busy to join in his children's activities. His keen sense of humor and his many interests enabled him to enjoy each child in a special way.

It was fitting that Bob's funeral was held at Cape Cod. It was here that Bob experienced his happiest times. It was at Cape Cod that he spent his summers as a boy. It was here that he and Joan were married in July, 1950, and it was here that he came for family reunions and vacations between his assignments.

The simple and beautiful Requiem Mass in St. John's Church, Pocasset, and the burial in the lovely cemetery in Cataumet were a fitting tribute to a fine man, a good friend, a loving husband and father, and a life well lived.

-Tom Tullidge