In Memory of Robert T. Lukens


 

Note:This article originally appeared in the West Point Association of Graduates publication “Taps” in the May, 2004 edition.

 

 

Robert T. Lukens USMA ex-’42

3 Oct 1919 – 22 Jun 1976

Died in Plymouth, MI Interred in Riverside Cemetery, Plymouth, MI 

Robert Theodore Lukens was born in Hillsboro, OH, as the fifth of seven children born to William and Marie Lukens. At an early age, he showed promise in his leadership and academic skills, and became the first Boy Scout in Highland County, OH, to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. After a year at Ohio State University, “Bob” entered West Point. His admission to the Academy was a great honor for him and his family. 

Early on, Bob demonstrated his varied talents. He drew pictures and, on occasion, sketched humorous cartoons of cadet life for The Pointer. He was a fearsome boxer as a cadet, considered the top boxer in his weight group for the Class of ’42. While he had more of a taste for big band music, one of his roommates loved classical music and suggested Bob listen more closely to the great symphonies. He did so and soon was hooked, becoming a lifelong fan of classical music.

Bob left the Academy during Second Class year. It was a sad time for him, but his love for the Academy and the discipline he learned as a cadet remained with him for the rest of his life. He was commissioned in 1944 from Yale University into the Army Air Corps, from which he was discharged in 1945 as the war came to an end.

In 1952, Bob moved to suburban Detroit, where his career led him to a variety of engineering and management positions in the automotive industry. In 1953, he met Clara Broermann of Cincinnati and took her to an opera on their first date. They were married in 1954 and parented eight children.

Bob is best remembered as a family man with an ability to see humor in everyday circumstances. His love for music lived on, as he would set up speakers with our front yard Christmas display to spread holiday cheer to all who passed by. Like it or not, on Sunday afternoons, we would usually listen to one of his adored symphonies. His favorite was Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, which used the Trophy Point reveille cannon as one of its instruments.

He also loved photography and had a large slide collection of family pictures that we treasure to this day. We remember posing for those photos for what seemed like hours, sometimes with a few catcalls, while he tried to get the perfect adjustment on the focus and the light settings.

In 1963, Bob attended a church retreat. Clara says he returned with a deeper sense of peace, coming to take his faith more earnestly. He became active in his church in a variety of ways, serving on committees and often reading scripture in front of the congregation.

In the 1970s, he again was very active in Boy Scouts, this time as a Scoutmaster. His cadet bearing and leadership were great examples for his sons and every other scout who passed through his troop. When neighborhood bullies were bothering his eldest son Jeff, Bob took him aside and showed him some of his old boxing moves. Soon, Jeff's problem with bullies was over.

When Jeff started expressing interest in West Point, Bob was flattered at first, but cautioned him on the seriousness of what such a decision really meant. Jeff persisted and was accepted to the USMA prep school in summer 1975. Over the next year, Bob sent weekly letters to encourage and guide his son. In April 1976, Jeff received his appointment to West Point. It was their triumph together.

The Lord called Bob home two months later. He had been swimming at a community pool when he suffered a heart attack. His daughter Gina was a lifeguard at the pool and tried desperately to revive him but was unable to do so.

Two weeks later -- on 6 Jul 1976 -- Jeff reported for R-Day, and went on to graduate with the Class of ’80. Thanks to his father's boxing lessons years before, Jeff compiled a 10-1 intramural boxing record while a cadet, losing only to the brigade champion on a split decision. While Bob did not live to see any of this happen, we take solace that he at least knew his son was going to West Point. 

His story, however, does not end there. Another of his sons, Mark, graduated in 1986. Mark has since returned to the Academy as a mathematics instructor and is now a career Army officer. Two of Bob’s four sons also served proudly in the U.S. Navy. His four girls are successfully employed in the health field, teaching, graphic arts, and environmental conservation. Indeed, all his children loved him and grew up to become responsible citizens.

We will always remember him as a loving father with a wonderful sense of humor. He has certainly been missed in the years since his passing, yet the legacy of his varied skills lives on in his children. Bob Lukens loved and served his family and this nation in many ways.

 


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Copyright 2003, Jeff Lukens