Robert H. Small

February 20, 1929 ~ August 23, 2023 (age 94) 94 Years Old


Robert H. Small, age 94, passed away on 23 August 2023 at his home in Annapolis. MD. He was the husband of Ruth Small. A loving husband, devoted father and “pop-pop”, uncle Bob, a trusted shipmate and friend, he will be truly missed by all. Bob is survived by his two sons Richard and Andrew Small and their wives Margaret and Karen; his grandchildren Jacob and Rhianon Small; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

Bob was born on 20 February 1929 in Madison, IN, to George and Delight Small. A rare opportunity of growing up in Williamsburg, VA during the colonial restoration of the town in the early 30s, it was living near the Chesapeake that he developed a love of the Navy with unique opportunities from his Dad’s WW1 service aboard the Flagship Battleship USS Pennsylvania. A memorable experience he would fondly recall was having his hair cut aboard the Battleship Arizona when the Battle Fleet was transiting through Hampton Roads. Later when his family would move back to Indiana, he would learn a valuable trade working in upholstery shops during his high school years during WW2. His ability to turn broken and torn pieces of furniture into works of art was later enjoyed by both family and friends. He would also spend his summers at Culver Summer Naval School participating in activities such as rowing crew and playing French horn in the naval band.

A 1951 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Bob’s first assignment was aboard the USS K. D. BAILEY (DD-713) home ported in Newport, RI, where he met his wife, Ensign Ruth Klein, USN. They would marry in March 1953. Bob would serve aboard the USS NORFOLK (DL-1), USS PILOT (AM-104) and attend the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School followed by MIT, where he received a Master of Science Degree in 1958. A staff tour with Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet as the Missile Officer would be next; Navigator aboard USS OBSERVATION ISLAND (EAG-154) during early at-sea Polaris Missile firings; and then XO aboard USS ABBOT (DD-629).

After attending the US Army Command and General Staff College, Ft Leavenworth, KS and serving in the CNO’s office, Bob took command of destroyer USS DUPONT (DD-941) from 1966 thru 1969 firing over 30,000 rounds of 5 inch supporting US Marines and Army units during two Vietnam tours. During these tours he was awarded 3 Bronze Star Medals with Combat V’s. This was followed by a NATO tour with the newly formed Standing Naval Force Atlantic; attendance at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces; and surface nuclear power training. Bob assumed command of nuclear powered cruiser USS Truxtun (CGN-35) in 1973 and headed back to Southeast Asia for PIRAZ (aircraft-air defense deconfliction) duty in the Tonkin Gulf followed by a nuclear refueling and a move of the homeport to San Diego in 1975.

Heading back East in January 1976, and after an extended tour as the Director, Surface Warfare Systems Group at NAVSEA, Bob retired from the Navy in July 1981 and began working in the defense industry in the DC area. He would soon earn his private pilot’s license fulfilling another life dream. In 1988, he and Ruth moved to Annapolis and he returned to USNA to teach weapons and sailing to midshipmen. In 2007, Bob retired from USNA.

So often deployed during his Navy assignments, Bob was still very active with his church and with his son’s Boy Scout activities and camping adventures in Virginia and Washington State. Family vacations were often new adventures and travel explorations that were fondly reminisced.

Bob was very involved with his Naval Academy’s class board which included serving as class president from 2000-2003. He and Ruth organized reunions, sit down dinners and other class functions. Bob was very instrumental in obtaining the Class of ’51 support for the Academy Chapel’s organ restoration and upgrade, as well as supporting the USNA Museum’s Gallery of Ships, which is soon to be renamed in his honor. He and Ruth also were very actively involved in the Academy Chapel’s Chorale and made many lasting friendships.

Bob’s great enjoyment was spending time and breaking bread with family, friends and neighbors. Catching up with former shipmates at DUPONT, BAILEY and ABBOT reunions was a much-anticipated highlight. Both he and Ruth traveled all over the world via their Cunard cruises, English walking tours, and Caribbean and Mediterranean sailing adventures.

Bob will be terribly missed by family and the many friends he made over his full life of adventure. During these past months, he was especially grateful for the support and visits from family, friends, classmates, shipmates and his great neighbors. He is now at peace with his beloved wife.

Bob will be laid to rest on Tuesday, 5 September. A combined US Naval Academy Chapel memorial service for both he and Ruth will follow at a date to be determined.

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