Robert Litchfield Buelteman
Born in Detroit, Michigan, on June 23, 1921, as the son of Esther Litchfield and Herbert O. Buelteman, he enjoyed a lifelong love of travel and exploration, whether it was from behind the windshield of one of his many beloved automobiles or from 35,000 feet at 570 MPH as Captain of a Pan American 747.
He was predeceased by his wife Betty in 1996, his daughter Lisa in 1997 and his brother Herb in 1999. In 1949 he married the love of his life, Betty Virginia Dampier, and together they raised four children, Anne, Jane, Robert Jr. and Lisa.
Bob retired in 1981 as Senior Check Pilot for Pan Am following a long and celebrated career.
Like many other Pan Am pilots, he flew for the Air Transport Command in WWII, flying 50 missions from the US to the war zone before turning 25.
Famous for both his skill and his fairness, his grave and laconic style with announcements from the cockpit prompted more than one passenger to inquire whether John Wayne was flying the plane. (This comparison to a personal idol delighted the Captain.)
The same year he retired, he flew Pan Am’s inaugural flight to Beijing, which had been closed to American traffic since 1949.
Even after he retired, his wanderlust could not be quenched. At age 80, he drove a Buick Skyhawk to the Arctic Circle and back – one of a string of innumerable road trips.
He served as moderator at the Woodside Village Church, where a memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 26, with a reception to follow in the Guild Hall at the church. He was also very involved with Rotary Club of Woodside.
Bob loved the great outdoors and imbued the lives of his children with his reverence for nature by taking them camping regularly from an early age, and feeding them authentic flapjacks wherever available.
His loyalty to and love of his wife Betty was a source of inspiration and respect from friends and family alike. Their mutual love of music spurred them to introduce piano lessons at an early age to their children; Lisa would become piano performance major in college.
He and Betty had wonderful singing voices and were devoted choir members for many decades. The family sang so much that Betty had to lay down the rule, “no singing at the dinner table.” It didn’t usually work; in fact Anne would become a professional singer and stage actress.
Their love of the arts – Betty was a skilled artist and designer herself – inspired Rob’s career in photography, Lisa’s in fashion design, and Jane’s in writing. While he was a demanding parent, his devotion to his children made their lives shine.
He also loved his pet cats and dogs, several of whom he buried on their three-acre property in Woodside.
Though short in stature, he was an agile athlete, especially on the tennis courts. Known as “Bullet Bob” during his decades of playing time – and for one brief but memorable period, “Double Fault Bob” – he honed his game over decades of international travel when tennis was the only truly international sport, winning the Woodside Men’s Invitational on one occasion.
He is survived by his Mary Lunis of Idaho; sister-in-law Chris Peeples of Miami, Florida; brother-in-law Charles Dampier of New Port Richey, Florida; brother-in-law Harry Fillmore Dampier of Lakeland, Florida; and son-in-law Terry Spazek of Salt Lake City. He was a beloved grandfather to Theo Spazek, Erin Ganahl, and Skyler and Robert Buelteman III.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Woodside/Portola Valley Rotary Club http://wpvrotary.orgRotary
The family wishes to express special thanks to The Lodge at The Sequoias in Portola Valley for the years of outstanding care they provided for our Dad.