Robert Joseph Hansberry, Sr., passed away peacefully on May 16, 2011 in St. George, UT after a long illness. He lived a remarkable life filled with pride in his military service and his love of God and country. He had a deep respect for his Veteran brothers; his treasured friends.
Robert was born July 1, 1935 to Joseph Johnson Hansberry and Evelyn M. Kelley in Jersey City, New Jersey.
He married Machiko Donnahara in 1955 and together they had four children. They later divorced. Robert married his “angel,” VaLoy (Val) Mathews Hansberry on June 7, 1975, later solemnized in the St. George LDS Temple.
As one of America’s youngest warriors, Robert enlisted in the United States Navy in September, 1951, at the age of 16, in Tampa, Florida. While in the Navy, Robert completed high school and began his college studies, while serving on an Attack Troop Transport (The USS Cavalier, APA-37) and Attack Cargo Transports (The USS Skagit, AKA-105) and (The USS Okanogan, AKA -220) in Korea and Vietnam.
Upon discharge from the Navy, Robert enlisted in the United States Army, where he furthered his education, working on a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance. He continued serving his country in the Cold Wars and in Vietnam, as an Electronics Technician and later as a Hawk Missile Technician. He served in Vietnam in the Army Signal Corp. 40th Triple A Brigade, Camp Zama.
After an honorable discharge in 1962, Robert worked for the Dept. of the Army at the Signal Long Lines Facility in Davis, CA. Later he transferred to two different positions at the Nevada Atomic Test Site in Mercury, NV.
After several years of service, he accepted a position with the F.A.A. in Las Vegas, NV where he ultimately completed his education.
In 1996, Robert retired due to disabilities from his military service, which remained with him throughout the remainder of his life. Robert’s strength and determination would not allow him to be idle. As such, he became entrenched in Veteran’s Issues. Robert was a long-time member of American Legion Lester Keate Post 90 and served as Adjutant of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Dixie Chapter 7. He was the Sr. Vice Commander of the DAV Utah State Department in Salt Lake City. Robert was to assume a position of Commander of the DAV Utah State Department and was scheduled to take office in June.
Robert was proud to be a Veteran of Underage Military Service, (VUMS) having selflessly raised his hand to defend freedom at the tender age of 16. He, along with thousands of other underage Veterans received a Presidential pardon, having been declared a “Patriot” for having served his country at such a young age. He was later elected as the Utah State Commander of the nationwide VUMS Organization. He worked hard towards his goal of creating awareness of this largely unknown organization, committed to helping other underage Veterans learn; they too, had been pardoned. Robert remained active in his role as an advocate for Veteran’s Issues and was instrumental in obtaining the donation of vehicles for the transport of Veterans in need of medical attention to the VA Facility in Salt Lake City.
Besides having had his “angel” Val by his side for so many years, Robert’s most prideful achievement came as he lay confined to a hospital bed. He was the first person in Washington County to donate $4,000 to the ‘Adopt a Room’ Campaign established by the Veterans Coalition of Southern Utah as a way to raise the necessary funding to assure far “better than average” furnishings would adorn the rooms of the Veterans Nursing Home which ultimately will become a reality. Mayor, Chris Hart of Ivins, UT personally extended his wishes to Robert that he be well enough to attend the scheduled groundbreaking for the facility in July, as a guest of honor.
Though Robert will not physically be present on that momentous day, his glorious spirit will be, as will the first plaque engraved with his name, designating the first room of a facility which, until recently, had only been a dream of many Veterans who together worked hard to make that dream come true. This achievement fits nicely with what Robert often said in deference to those who might feel otherwise: “To heck with Florida or any other place, Southern Utah is the Holy Land!”
Surviving family include his wife, VaLoy (Val) Mathews Hansberry of St. George, UT; children, Daniel J. (Camelia) Hansberry of Las Vegas, NV, Jeanne Mari (Brett) Peterson of Las Vegas, NV, Robert Joseph Hansberry, Jr. of Philadelphia, PA and Janis Ann Hansberry of Las Vegas, NV, a stepdaughter, Donna Denison (Peter) Bates, Spanish Fort, AL; 7 grandchildren; a brother, Dr. William E. Hansberry, Fernandina Beach, FL and a sister, Joan E. Guthrie, Perry, GA. He is preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Evelyn and his in-laws, Ross and Orma Mathews.
A celebration of Robert’s remarkable life of service will be held in the Spilsbury Mortuary Chapel, 110 South Bluff, in St. George, Utah on Monday, May 23, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. There will be a viewing on Sunday, May 22, from 6 – 8 p.m. and Monday, from 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. prior to services both held at Spilsbury Mortuary. Interment will be in the Tonaquint Cemetery with Military Honors.