Robert Farris
Robert Farris
Robert Farris

Robert Farris

AFRH-W resident highlight – Robert Farris

By PK Knor | AFRH-W Resident

Born on April 28, 1931, in Chicago, Robert Farris considers Alabama his home state. During that period in the United States, people had to travel wherever they could to find work, and Bob’s father was no exception. William “Kay” Farris (from Alabama) and his wife Elizabeth (from Pittsburgh) traveled between Alabama and Chicago, where they had family, seeking employment! At one point, Bob’s dad was the head meat carver for a Chicago restaurant! (He was the man in the white chef coat who would stand in the restaurant's window and ‘finely’ carve the meat to show off his skills to the public.)

Bob and his two older brothers, William “Bill” and George “Bud,” were raised in Elba, AL. They lived there until Bob was a junior in high school and then moved to Montgomery, AL, where Bob graduated. He immediately joined the Navy, just like his brothers.

Basic training took place in San Diego, and then to San Francisco, where he boarded a ship for reassignment to Guam in November 1949. (In December of that year a typhoon hit Guam, what luck!) As it turned out, the motor pool was full, so they sent him to the carpenter shop, where he learned his job from a Guamanian carpenter. What Bob remembers from that tour was that everything seemed to be reversed! The deer were two-feet tall, the lizards were five-feet long, and the fruit bats were huge!

In 1951, Bob reported to San Diego as a carpenter, where he commissioned the USS Frontier AD-25. This ship toured Japan for six months and then returned to Long Beach. That year, for the Christmas holidays, Bob visited a friend in Van Nuys, where he met his future wife, Betty, on New Year’s Eve. Then he returned to San Diego for his first discharge from the Navy. While out of the Navy, Bob traveled around the country from California to Chicago, New York, Alabama, and Pennsylvania to see Betty!!

When Bob rejoined the Navy, after 87 days, he was assigned to the carpenter shop on the USS Hornet CVA-12, in Brooklyn. On the Hornet, he proceeded to Gitmo for touch-and-go training, then to Bremerhaven, GE, and France for brief stays. He was ready to take his “first” around-the-world cruise, when his previously applied for shore duty was approved. So, he and Betty married and lived in Annapolis, MD for two years.  (Their marriage lasted 35 years and produced two beautiful children, Joanne and Robert!)

On his next assignment, on the west coast, Bob commissioned the Thetis Bay CVHA-1, which was the first helicopter assault carrier. From here he attended electronic school in San Francisco, which drew an appointment to Yorktown, VA, for four years at the Naval Mine Depot. There he loaded ships with missiles, restocked and refueled them!

Bob’s next tour took him to Boston, MA, where he commissioned the USS Long Beach CGN-9 (the first nuclear-powered surface ship), which was waiting to take him on two Mediterranean tours. On the day the Long Beach was prepared to leave with the fleet on the “second” around-the-world cruise, Bob was again transferred back to Yorktown, VA, promoted to chief (E-7), and stationed at the Naval Weapons Station, for two to three years.

His final tour was aboard the missile cruiser USS Columbus CG-12 on a cruise of the Mediterranean, and then retired in Yorktown, as a chief after 19.6 years.

As a civilian, Bob spent 19.5 years in civil service, mostly at the Defense General Supply Center in Virginia.

One highlight of Bob’s life was a trip he took with his church to Egypt and Israel.

Bob moved to Georgia, where he met his second wife, Carolyn. They were married for 25 wonderful years until she passed away.

Aware of the Armed Forces Retirement Homes, Bob visited both locations. He ended up in DC because (1) there is so much more to do and (2) his children live in Virginia. Bob is involved in numerous projects at AFRH-W. He loves making wooden toys from kits, working at the library, reading books, watching movies and playing pool.