Robert J. Kaelin, aged 85 years, having been born at home in Southold, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 1934, the son of Riverhead natives George H. and Grace (Nugent) Kaelin, passed away peacefully on Sunday, April 26, 2020.
Known either as Bob or by his nickname since childhood, “Duck,” he was a 1952 graduate of Southold High School. Bob attended Villanova Catholic University for three years and the Charles Morris Price School (of the Poor Richard Club) and worked as a copywriter in the Philadelphia area before enlisting in the army in 1956. Robert J. Kaelin was a graduate of the Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, Md., as well as the Army Language School at Monterey, Calif., and served for two years as an agent of the 66th CIC in Offenbach and Frankfurt/Main Germany. Fluent in German, while there Bob was the only American member in the Frankfurt Flying Club, where he forged several lifelong friendships.
Following his military service Bob returned to the East End of Long Island and worked as a technical writer and editor at Grumman Aerospace for 11 years. He left Grumman to join a newly formed John Deere farm machinery dealership in 1973 and remained in the employ of that agency for the next 40 years. Bob was a lifelong practicing Catholic and a member of St. Isidore Parish in Polish Town since 1961.
Bob was well known for his 1930s-era light airplanes, which included a 1936 Aeronca, which he restored and flew during the 1960s, followed by a 1938 Taylorcraft, which he flew for 20 years after that. Bob was a member of the Railroad Museum of Long Island, the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society and the Long Island Antique Power Association, working on the repair and restoration of old gas and oil engines for many fellow club members. Among recent projects was the very same old orchard sprayer engine that he had previously repaired 60 years before, when he was still a teenager in high school.
In later years Bob participated in the restoration of the Horton Point Lighthouse in Southold as well as the 1927 LIRR caboose at Greenport, N.Y.
Bob never married and was predeceased by a sister and brother. Several cousins, six nieces and one nephew survive. Through his life, Bob was fortunate to enjoy the companionship and good humor of many fine friends.
Private burial will be held at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Southold. Arrangements were entrusted to McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead.
This is a paid notice.