Bob Hess, a proud veteran of the United States Air Force, dedicated husband, father, grandfather, great‑grandfather and friend passed away on 5 August 2023 in Colorado Springs surrounded by family. The son of Chief Warrant Officer (CW‑4) Clarence and Genevieve Hess, Bob grew up as an Army brat in Baltimore, Maryland, Munich and Heidelberg, West Germany and Fort Knox, Kentucky. He was born 9 September 1934 in Washington, D.C. and graduated from high school in West Germany, where he excelled at sports. He was highly recruited to play college basketball; unfortunately, he contracted and beat polio when he was only 18. While this setback cut short his basketball career, it opened the door for the Air Force and a lifetime of Service.
On 28 January 1954, he reported to Lackland AFB to begin Aviation Cadet training. He was commissioned a 2Lt and awarded Navigator Wings at Harlingen AFB on 22 March 1955. Bob received a second Aeronautical Rating as a Radar Observer at Moody AFB on 31 October 1955. While at Moody AFB, he was interviewed by the newly designated Vice Commandant of Cadets, Colonel Ben Cassiday, who selected him to serve as an Air Training Officer at the fledgling Air Force Academy. 2Lt Bob Hess reported to Lowry AFB on 15 May 1956 as the youngest of 134 ATOs, where he helped establish the highest standards, customs and traditions for cadets that set the strong foundation for every single graduate of the Long Blue Line.
Bob earned his 3rd Aeronautical Rating and Pilot Wings on 22 November 1958 at Webb AFB, where he also served as an Instructor Pilot. During his flying career, Bob flew 6,002 hours in aircraft including the T‑29, B-25, T‑34, C-47, T-28, F‑89, T‑33, T-37, T-38, T-39 and C-123.
During his service to the nation, Bob served with distinction in South Vietnam, Korea and bases across the United States. In Vietnam, he spearheaded testing on night, low-level, blacked out paradrop tactics in support of US Special Forces in Southeast Asia using modified C-123s. As the Director of Plans and Programs at USAFA, he wrote and executed the plan that brought women to the Academy in the Class of 1980. Also, while at USAFA, Bob served as Gen Chappie James Chief Pilot and flew Bob Hope to the Academy to perform one of his famous USO shows. In his last assignment, he helped stand up US Central Command in the aftermath of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Following his military career, Bob continued to serve his community for 22 years as a realtor, where he won Colorado Realtor of the Year honors for Coldwell Banker and was Vice President of Sales and a Distinguished Service Award winner for Moore and Company.
Bob is survived by his wife of 66 years, Kaye Hess; three children, Derek (Barb), Daren (Jayne), and Diana (Ron); eight grandchildren, Austin (Kat), Amanda (Rob), Alex (Sami), Rob (Jordan), Joe, Mike, Seiler (Claire), and Cullen; and two great-grandchildren, Holly and Mei. His loved ones will remember his dedication to duty, leadership, integrity, and love of his large close-knit family. In lieu of flowers, the family requests you consider donations to the Parkinson’s Foundation, the American Diabetes Foundation, or the Friends of the Library at the Air Force Academy.
A service honoring the life of Colonel Robert C. Hess will be held at the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery on 31 August 2023 at 1000. A Celebration of Life Reception at the Falcon Club at his beloved Air Force Academy will follow immediately after his interment.