Robert Calvin Watling passed away in Tacoma, WA on April 14, 2022. He was 89 years old.
Bob was born to John and Ruby Watling on December 15, 1932 in Monitor, Washington. Due to his father’s failing health, he joined the Washington National Guard in Wenatchee at the age of 16 to help support his parents and four siblings. He graduated from Wenatchee High School in 1951. It was there that he met the love of his life, Bobbie Cooper. They were married on January 23, 1953 and welcomed a daughter, Lori Corrine, on August 1, 1954. He and Bobbie were married for 68 years.
Bob’s enlistment in the Guard led to a distinguished military career of more than 40 years. He attended the Officer Fixed Wing Aviation Course at Fort Rucker, Alabama in 1964 and it was then that he discovered his love of flying. In 1966 he attended the Rotary Wing Qualification Course and received his helicopter pilot status. When Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, Bob was the Guard’s State Aviation Officer and, as such, was in charge of coordinating helicopter rescue flights into the devastated areas of the mountain. He always said the response to the eruption was the Guard’s “finest hour” and was extremely proud of all the pilots and staff who contributed to the rescue missions. Bob was passionate about teaching others about the mountain and spent many hours going to schools and community organizations giving educational presentations. Bob continued to move up through the ranks and in 1989 he retired from the Guard as a Brigadier General. Bob was known as a soldier’s general; he never forgot where he started. In the words of one family member, he was the “epitome of an officer and a gentleman.”
Bob was a devout Christian and always an active church member. He and Bobbie helped establish the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church on Fox Island, WA. He strove to lead others toward a Christian life through his example and encouragement. Along with his faith, the most important part of Bob’s life was his family. Family was everything and he made sure that all family members knew how much they meant to him.
Exercise was always important to Bob. In 1972 he started running and inspired others to join him in his quest for fitness. When knee issues forced him to stop running in 1987, he took up road biking. For several years he rode The Courage Classic, a fundraiser for Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. This was a three-day ride over Snoqualmie, Blewett and Stevens Passes. He never was the oldest rider, but came close!
Bob is survived by his daughter, Lori Thoreson (John), brother Tom Watling (Julie), granddaughters Hannah Dal Maso (Tony) and Ashley Armey (Wes) and great-grandchildren Allison, Jacob and Emily Dal Maso, and Carson and Grant Armey. He also leaves behind many beloved nieces and nephews. Bob was preceded in death by his wife, Bobbie, his parents John and Ruby Watling, sisters Virginia Thomason and Marge Watling, brother Ed Watling and granddaughter Jessica Thoreson.
The family would like to thank Dr. Stephen Kramp and the staff at Multicare Gig Harbor Primary Care, the staff at Harbor Place at Cottesmore, Gig Harbor, the staff at Eliseo Skilled Nursing Facility, Tacoma and the staff at The Weatherly Inn, Tacoma. A memorial service for he and Bobbie will be held at a later date for family and close friends. The family suggests making a donation in Bob’s name to a favorite charity.
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