October 22, 2021
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Robert Burdette West

1932 – 2021

A service with Military Funeral Honors was held for Robert Burdette “Bob” West, 88, of Lake Fork in Emory, on August 9 at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. On August 5, the flag of the United States of America was flown over NASA Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center in his honor.

Mr. West died on July 28, 2021. He was born in Versailles, Missouri, on December 6, 1932, to Charles Lawrence West and Gertrude Virginia Lewis West. He moved to California when he was 11, and his family lived near an airport where he discovered his love of flying. He was a member of the Civil Air Patrol at Castro Valley High School and volunteered to clean planes in exchange for opportunities to fly. He attended California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) where he earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1956. 

During college he worked as a firefighter for his housing at the fire station where he also cut hair in a back room for spending money and flying lessons. His summers were spent working for the railroad, an orchid nursery … anything to afford the next year of college. He joined Cal Poly’s first flying club known as The Mustang Flying Association. He was also active in the ROTC program, the Glee Club, and the Marksmanship Club where he won awards for collegiate rifle competitions. 

He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army and was assigned to the Transportation Research and Engineering Command at Fort Eustis in Virginia. He continued his flight training and spent three years flying both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. He enjoyed competing and excelling in military marksmanship competitions. There he met his wife, Ann, and they married on July 9, 1960. 

In early 1962, NASA offered an opportunity to join its team of engineers who were creating The Johnson Space Center. During his career at NASA, he was involved in many space programs, including Gemini, all of the Apollo flights, Skylab and the Space Shuttle. He was later a consultant for Orion. He was the Subsystem Manager in charge of the Earth Landing System (ELS) for the Apollo programs. The team effort of the Apollo 13 program earned Mr. West and the Mission Operations Team at NASA the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He retired in 1992 as the Deputy Chief of the Mechanical Systems Safety Branch, created to coordinate the flight safety of the Space Shuttle Launch Stack Assembly – Space Transportation System. 

After retirement from NASA, he and his wife traveled the world. While their adventures took them all over the world, Mr. West’s absolute favorite place to be was wherever he was surrounded by family. He was his happiest in a noisy room full of family and friends with everyone talking, laughing, chasing children or dogs, playing music and games. He would quite often just sit in a chair with a smile watching the chaos whirl around him. 

He was very active at St. Philips Episcopal Church in Sulphur Springs and volunteered his time in many capacities from serving on the vestry to mowing the lawn. He was always willing to help. 

Mr. West is survived by his wife; daughters, Ann Gough and husband Greg, Janet Reznik and husband Randy, and Terry Fleitman and husband Ron; son, Robert “Bobby” West Jr. and wife Laura; grandchildren, Katherine Gough, Robert Gough, Alarie Reznik and husband George Clark, Laney Reznik, Emilie Reznik, Elizabeth Fleitman, John Fleitman, Kaitlyn West, Kathleen West and Robert “Robby” West III; and many nieces, nephews, and dear friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents; and brothers, Lawrence and Charles West.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation or the Alzheimer’s Association.