‘If my ship sails from sight, it doesn’t mean my journey ends, it simply means the river bends.’
-John Enoch Powell
Robert Lee ‘Bob’ James Jr., age 83, passed away peacefully on Dec. 13, 2016.
He was a native of Mobjack, Virginia, and a longtime resident of Bena, Virginia.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert Lee James Sr. and Katherine Oliver James and his youngest sister, Carolyn Elizabeth James.
He is survived by a large loving family including his wife of 33 years, June Mitchell James; his sister, Mary Katherine Mason; his brother, David Nowell James; his children, Robert Lee James III, Scott Culp James and his wife Susan, Clayton Wellington James and his wife Ginger, and Elizabeth James Longest and husband Greg. He is also survived by four grandchildren, Kathryn and Drake James and Blake and Caroline Longest, as well as his loving and devoted black Labrador retriever named Katie.
Bob James was both driven and adventurous. At the age of 16 he sparked an interest in flying and used his savings from odd jobs to purchase his own private airplane, a Piper J-3 Cub. When he graduated from Mathews High School his aspirations landed him at Georgia Institute of Technology. In 1955, he graduated from Georgia Tech as a loyal Yellow Jacket and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa with a B.S. degree in aeronautical engineering.
Bob’s career honored his passion for adventure and flight. He was first employed by the Martin Company where he was hired to develop missile technology. In 1959, he became one of the early pioneers of space exploration by taking a position at NASA Langley Research Center. During his almost 30-year career as an aerospace engineer at NASA, he worked on countless projects on the forefront of spaceflight and aircraft design, most notably Skylab, Nimbus G, and LDEF (Long Duration Exposure Facility). In 1988, Bob retired from NASA to enjoy sailing, fishing, hunting, tennis, and golf.
Coming from a family of mariners, Bob’s life was highly influenced by nature and the sea. He was a self-taught sailor who learned by sailing small dinghies in the Mobjack Bay and surrounding rivers. In his late 20s and 30s his adventurous and competitive spirit propelled him into international sailing competitions. The pinnacle of his sailing career was competing in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City with his brother David where they raced the Flying Dutchman. In 1972, Bob and several close friends founded the Ware River Yacht Club. He was a dedicated member of the WRYC community and served as Commodore and Race Committee Chairman on and off for many years. It was there where he could channel his passion for sailing into helping local youth learn the sport.
Bob’s biggest legacy is the love and appreciation of the water and the outdoors that he has bestowed upon his children and grandchildren. He relished sharing his knowledge about the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries and the sustenance it provides. He took every opportunity to teach his family everything he knew about the rivers and the Bay, about the wind patterns, and the mystery of the tides. He understood and appreciated the course of life and the role that nature plays in it. The moments where we learned from him will be the ones we miss the most.
A service for the immediate family will be held at Providence Cemetery in Mathews, Virginia, in January 2017 (date not yet disclosed).
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Labrador Retriever Rescue Organization for the Mid-Atlantic or to any charity you prefer. Labrador Retriever Rescue, Inc., P.O. Box 11971, Burke, Va. 22009. Donations can also be made online to the Labrador Retriever Rescue Org. at www.lrr.org.
Andrews Funeral Home & Crematory is in charge of arrangements.