Vice Admiral Robert E. Kirksey passed away on December 16, 2006, in Ft. Myers, Florida, as a result of complications from Alzheimer's Disease. He was the brother of former Livonia Mayor Jack Kirksey.
Admiral Kirksey was 76 years old.
Admiral Kirksey spent his years prior to his flight training in 1951 in Detroit and Grosse Pointe Woods. His permanent military address was his brother, Jack's, home in Livonia. In 1982, Admiral Kirksey served as the grand marshal of the Livonia Memorial Day Parade.
Jack Kirksey said he was proud of his brother.
“He was a great guy. Everyone loved him,” he said.
When Admiral Kirksey served as grand marshal, Jack Kirksey said, “If I could put a billboard on Woodward Avenue in Detroit or on I-96 reading ‘My brother is Bob Kirksey and he's the admiral,' I would do it because I am that proud of him.”
Admiral Kirksey was a naval aviator. He received his Navy Wings in 1953 and was promoted to a vice admiral in 1984.
During his 31 years of Naval service he achieved many accomplishments:
Though Admiral Kirksey did not attend the Naval Academy, he rose to a three-star ranking, an unusual accomplishment without Academy credentials.
His first command of a ship was the mine sweeper, USS Cleveland, in 1972. His second command was the aircraft carrier the USS Kitty Hawk from 1973 to 1975.
Over the years he was in command of various carrier groups including the Seventh Fleet 35-Ship Battle Force in the Indian Ocean (The Iranian Hostage Crisis). He was a veteran of more than 240 combat missions over North Vietnam.
Admiral Kirksey received his Silver Star medal over Hanoi, Vietnam, when he stayed with his Naval bomber after it was hit with a SAM missile. Even though his plane was badly damaged and on fire, he fought to stay in the air and complete his bombing mission at great risk to his own life. As wing commander he led the other pilots in his heavily damaged plane. The aircraft fire eventually burned out, and as he attempted a carrier landing, he discovered that the entire front of the plane had been blown away. He had to crash-land at a U.S. base in Vietnam.
Admiral Kirksey is survived by his wife, Vi, and their children, Jennifer Kirksey, Robert Kirksey Jr., Gregg Kirksey and Andrew Kirksey.
Admiral Kirksey was especially appreciative of his wife, Vi, who raised the family in his absence. She also had a leadership role with the military families in the Admiral's command while he was at sea.
He is also survived by his brother, Jack Kirksey and wife, Patt Kirksey, his sister, Anne Oliver, children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
A military funeral is planned at Arlington National Cemetery on January 29, 2007.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the Naval Aviation Museum, P.O. Box 33104, NAS Pensacola, FL 32508.
Retired Vice Admiral Robert E. Kirksey's love for his country ran so deep, even enduring a crash landing in a fiery aircraft riddled with brick-sized holes couldn't shake his dedication to a mission.
A veteran of more than 240 combat missions over North Vietnam, Admiral Kirksey specialized in flying fighter and attack aircrafts in his 31-year career in the U.S. Navy and earned a Silver Star medal for bravery during a bombing mission in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Admiral Kirksey, younger brother of former Livonia Mayor Jack Kirksey, died of complications of Alzheimer's disease Saturday, December 16, 2006, in Fort Myers, Florida. He was 76.
“Bob did some very extraordinary things in his life — he was my personal hero,” Jack Kirksey said.
“He's served his country with great bravery, and I am proud of his contributions to our freedom,” Kirksey said.
Born in 1930, Admiral Kirksey lived in Detroit and Grosse Pointe Woods before enrolling in flight training in October 1951 and received his Navy wings in 1953.
He attended the General Line School and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and earned a master's degree in international affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
His first ship command was the USS Cleveland in 1972. He commanded several carrier groups in his career, including the U.S. Seventh Fleet, a 35-ship battle force in the Indian Ocean from 1979-81 during the Iranian hostage crisis.
He was promoted to vice admiral in 1984. He retired in 1986.
“He was such an outstanding hero and a well-respected and great leader,” Kirksey said.
Survivors include his wife, Viola; a daughter, Jennifer; three sons, Robert, Gregg and Andrew; a brother, Jack Kirksey; a sister, Anne Oliver; and several nieces and nephews.
A military funeral is planned at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., on January 29, 2007.
Memorials may be made to the Naval Aviation Museum, P.O. Box 33104, NAS Pensacola, FL 32508.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard