Robert was born in April 5, 1926, to Clarence and Jennie Kehlenbeck in Shelton, Conn.
He is survived by two of his five siblings, Janet and Tom; stepchildren, Kathy (Tom) Nowak, Michael (Maureen) Matusewic, Jeannie (John) Endrizzi, and Fred (Donna) and Dave (Linda) Matusewic; and grandchildren.
Robert joined the U.S. Navy in April of 1943, when he was 17. In 1944, Robert was on the USS Gambier Bay in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, off Samar in the Philippines when it became the only American carrier to be sunk by enemy shellfire. His task unit received the Presidential Unit Citation for "extraordinary heroism in action against powerful units of the Japanese Fleet." 896 of his shipmates died and 1,120 of them drifted some 20-30 miles before they were rescued. Bob received the Purple Heart for his injuries. He often wore a WWII vet hat and would humbly, sadly share his memories of this battle. Bob was a patriot to the end, who died on the 4th of July.
After the war, he married Maria and had two girls, Yvonne and Linda. After their divorce, Bob lost contact with his girls. He spoke of them the week before he died.
In the late 1970s, Bob put a personal ad in the newspaper and met Lorainne Ciatti Matusewic, who became his loving wife of 33 years until her death in 2012. He kept the original personal ad that brought them together close to him until his death. Bob and Lori enjoyed their life and love very much. They lived in Florida and Wisconsin, he working as a security guard and truck driver and she as a nurse. When they retired, Bob and Lori travelled the U.S. with their cats in the campers they called "Thumper 1" and "Thumper 2." They brought a lot of laughs to the people who knew them.
Bob missed his Lori very much the past year and a half. He especially enjoyed reading mystery novels, watching the Detroit Tigers, and spending time with family. He was a thoughtful, caring man who kept a picture of his parents, Lori, and the Gambier Bay on his bulletin board.
On a Navy's Facebook page, Bob's grandson, Eric Matusewic, gave a tribute to Bob upon his death. In a fitting send off, more than 600 "shellbacks" wished Bob safe travels, citing this poem: "Recalled to Duty - The Eternal Voyage!" Bon Voyage to those who've set sail. We bid them farewell as we man the rail. Let us be joyous and let us not weep, for those who have now crossed over the deep. When a sailor's last roll call is made, his final embarking shant be delayed. So lower the colors, let them be furled, each time a sailor disembarks this world. ... And when he's weighed anchor for the last time, We'll honor his memory so sublime. We'll all reminisce and hoist a brew In a toast of honor to the crew. Rest easy, warrior brother, we have the watch!
A graveside memorial with a veteran's send off will be held in September at St. Mary's Cemetery in Hurley. We will be having Bob's favorite foods at Mike Matusewic's afterwards. All are welcome.
Range Funeral Service and Crematory and Ketola-Burla Funeral Home are in charge of arrangements.