Robert C. Preston: 1929-2017

Sep 12, 2017

His wife, family and Michigan football – the things Robert “Bob” Cecil Preston loved most in his life, though, depending on the day of the week in the fall, you’d forgive him if after a win over Ohio State his beloved Wolverines briefly supplanted all others.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Bob and his family would soon move to Long Island where, from a young age, he would learn to love the New York Giants – the baseball team, mind you. He spent countless days at the Polo Grounds with his father, Robert, taking the train to upper Manhattan, developing his love for the game.

When it came to picking his college, there was only one natural choice: the school his family for generations before and after would attend. Columbus, Ohio, was too far from home, his father said, but Ann Arbor, geographically further west, is just the place.

Bob graduated from Michigan in 1951 with degrees in industrial and mechanical engineering, but instead of going into the private sector right away, he joined the United States Navy in an effort, he said, to help him see the world.

He’d spend the next four years based at Keyport on the Kitsap Peninsula, but the lack of world travel would have a benefit. At an officer’s club in Bremerton, he’d meet his future wife, Helen, despite the fact that she’d come to the club with someone else.

No matter. The two danced that night and, two years later, were married.

Bob left active duty just a couple years later, and the two would spend the next decade crisscrossing the country: stops in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Belpre, Ohio; Bellevue, Washington; and Huntsville, Alabama, before eventually settling for over half a century at their home in Edmonds.

It was a home later established to be the second oldest in Edmonds. Bob added a new kitchen, garage, utility room, a bathroom and basement too, with some much needed elbow grease from his sons and daughter.

Throughout his career, Bob would help send men to the Moon and build revolutionary passenger jets that shrunk the world. In Huntsville, he helped develop the Saturn V rocket, which put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969. Back in the Seattle area, he continued to work for Boeing where, as one of the original Incredibles, he helped build the 747.

Later, he would build and pilot the Patrol Hydrofoil Pegasus and develop the commercial Jetfoil, a job that took him and Helen around the world to Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

All the while, he spent time in the United States Naval Reserve, retiring from a more than 35-year career in 1989 as Commander. A few years later, he retired from Boeing and would fill his free time with his beloved Ham radio (W7TSQ). He was very active with ESCA, the Emergency Services Coordinating Agency.

He also enjoyed being a Sports Car Club of America official starter, and spending time with his eight grandchildren.

Always a lover of baseball, especially Les Capitales de Quebec, football, cars (though probably none more than a 1962 MG Midget) and a long story over a glass of Yukon Jack.

Bob passed away peacefully in his sleep at Swedish Edmonds in April. He is survived by his wife Helen, his children Robert, David and Kathleen, and his grandchildren Michael, Kelsey, Adam, Jesse, Noah, Joshua, Elizabeth, and Hannah.




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