On Sunday, April 25, 2021, Robert Howard Gregory, Sr., loving husband and father of two children, passed away peacefully at the age of 95. Robert, also known as “Bob” and “Howard” by his family, was born on November 20, 1925 in Blackshear, Georgia, as the seventh of ten children of Albert and Mary Gregory.
Mr. Gregory served his country for over 32 years in both the military service and civil service. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II as a 40mm point gunner on Landing Ship Tank (LST) 721. He later recalled that the “paint was still wet” when LST 721 was rushed down the Mississippi from Jeffersonville, IN. From the Port of New Orleans, LST 721 sailed along the Gulf of Mexico, through the Panama Canal, and on into the Pacific theater, participating in multiple beach landings, by both U.S. and Australian troops, in the Philippine Islands as well as occupation duty in Japan. He remained on LST 721 throughout World War II and afterwards on the ship’s journey back to the United States during which LST 721 passed under the Golden Gate bridge when returning to the Port of San Francisco after the war.
Following World War II, Chief Petty Officer Gregory served primarily in “salvage” and “experimental” units as a diver for the remainder of his U.S. Navy career. He attained the rating of “master diver” and performed numerous dives under extremely hazardous conditions. He performed diving duty at depths greater than 300 feet and in other hazardous conditions that involved working underwater with explosives, near and inside of underwater airplane and ship wreckage. Throughout his time as a diver, he made dives in the vicinity of Iceland, Norway, and other regions, to include diving in the Patuxent River in Maryland. He served throughout the Mediterranean, in North Africa, and once journeyed north of the Arctic Circle. He also served in the U.S. Navy Experimental Diving Unit and U.S. Navy School of Deep Sea Diving during which he helped the U.S. Navy refine diving techniques using a mix of helium and oxygen. He retired from the U.S. Navy on September 21, 1962, after performing diving duties in the vicinity of Cuba during his last U.S. Navy assignment. His U.S. Navy decorations, badges, and medals include the Good Conduct Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, China Service Medal, National Defense Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Master Diver Badge.
Following retirement from the U.S. Navy, Mr. Gregory continued to serve his country as a civil service officer, initially in the Department of Navy working on weapons development and testing for Naval Ordnance Systems Command at Indian Head, Maryland, and later in the Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, supporting projects associated with the Washington Aqueduct. Originally constructed 1859, the Washington Aqueduct today produces drinking water for approximately one million people who live, work, or are temporarily present in the District of Columbia, Arlington County, Virginia, and other areas in northern Virginia to include portions of Fairfax County. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commended Mr. Gregory for special achievement during the period of November 1976 to March 1977 for his work in cramped spaces and in “unusually cold temperatures” to dismantle, maintain, and reassemble a water booster pump ensure uninterrupted supply of water to Washington, D.C. The 1977 citation states: “the pump is now expected to operate efficiently far past its designed lifetime.” The pump remains in operation to this day.
Mr. Gregory retired from active federal service in 1979. In 1981, he moved from Washington, D.C., to Dublin, Georgia to escape city life, be closer to his family roots, and continue to be active with non-government work and hobbies, which included welding custom ironworks, farming, collecting guns, repairing guns, hunting, competition shooting, and fishing. He was an active member of the Middle Georgia Gun Owner’s Association.
Mr. Gregory’s first wife, Arenthia, died of cancer in 1970 and is buried in Arlington, Virginia. He and his second wife, Kim, had a daughter, Michelle, who currently resides in Seattle, Washington, with her husband Kurt Van Dyke. He is survived by his third wife, Engracia, with whom he had a son, Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. “Bobby” Gregory, Jr., who resides in Northern Virginia with his wife Christina Fishback. Bobby is currently assigned to the State Department in Washington, D.C. Robert H. Gregory, Sr. is also survived by his granddaughter Amber Michelle Gregory, great granddaughter, Gabby, and younger sister, Dorothy Pearce, of McDonough, Georgia.
A memorial service for Mr. Gregory will take place at East Dublin Dayspring Worship Center on May 16, 2021 at 2:00 p.m. with a reception following at the same location. Mr. Gregory will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date with a separate military funeral honors ceremony.
Townsend Funeral Home is in charge of funeral arrangements. In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes donations to the Hospice Foundation of America: https://hospicefoundation.org/Donate.
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