Celebrating the life of Robert Edmund Visscher
Colonel (Ret.) U.S. Army
February 5, 1931 – July 8, 2001
A Man Of Faith
When I was a young boy, my English teacher introduced me to reading. I read before, but not simply for the joy of reading. Miss Crissman introduced me to the wonderful world of books. Among those books was a series written by on Horatio Alger, Jr. They were “rags to riches” stories about very poor young lads who by fate, hard work, help of some one rich whose paths crossed, escaped their poverty. Of course, in the sophisticated world of this day, the books seem sentimental and irrelevant.
In fact, there is a rather famous book store in Portland, Oregon which I first visited this June, and lo and behold I found a whole armful of Alger's books, hugged them in my arms, remembered my childhood reading, and quietly returned them to the shelf. They were history.
Yet, this morning, we celebrate the life of a genuine Horatio Alger, Jr. hero. Those of you who knew him as adult only, may not have known about his childhood. But his childhood explains so much about Bob's courage and faith and unbelievable work ethic. He faced his cancer with the same courage and faith with which he had overcome tremendous odds as a child.
Bob never had a family, but when he married a woman he never stopped loving, and they had children and grandchildren, Bob got the family he never had as a child: a family he dearly loved, a family of which he was justly proud, and family which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Visiting Bob as the cancer ravaged his body, was to come away, overwhelmed, not only by his courage and his honesty, but by his faith.
He was no Johnny-come-lately to the Christian faith. He was thoroughly Christian man, and a dedicated church man. But probably one of the most unassuming and modest men I have experienced.
I'm sure he must have raised his voice more than once to those three kids of his, and doubtless as a Colonel in the U.S. Army he had occasion to give rather clear and direct orders. But I always had to listen carefully and sit close by him to be sure I could hear him and participate actively in the conversation. He was a soft spoken man.
Paul writes to the Christians at Rome: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.
Bob Visscher lived to the Lord, and Bob Visscher died to the Lord. In his life and in his death he was and is the Lord's. Amen.
Robert Edmund Visscher
Who was Robert Edmund Visscher, a.k.a. Bob, that grey-bearded man who was always ready to banter?
A caring husband, a thoughtful father, a playful grandpa, a professional soldier, a trustworthy friend, a skier, a fisherman, a man who loved the outdoors and hard physical labor—these attributes and many others describe Robert Edmund Visscher.
Bob, born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, lived in numerous foster homes as a ward of the state until he graduated from high school. Bob obtained an academic scholarship at Michigan State University where he graduated in 1953 with a BA in Public Administration. After being commissioned in the Army as a Second Lieutenant in 1953, he married his college sweetheart, Joyce Elaine Maier, and they commenced their 26 years of military life together.
Transferring about with the Army, they lived in Fort Huachuca Arizona, Monterey California, Hanou Germany, Kaiserslautern Germany, Fort Monmouth New Jersey, Lansing Michigan, Alexandria Virginia, Hoescht Germany, Heidelberg Germany, and then finally settled down in Alexandria.
Several children came along the way: Scott arrived in Hanou Germany (1957), Lisa in Kaiserslautern Germany (1959; died at birth), Kevin in Alma Michigan (1960) and Kala in Alexandria Virginia (1969).
Assignments Bob enjoyed during his military career as a Signal Corps officer included interrogating communist defectors (regarding communications) in the late 50s, teaching ROTC at Michigan State University while obtaining a Masters in Business Administration, two tours in Vietnam—first in 1965 as a Vietnamese Military Liaison/Advisor and again in 1969 as the 54th Signal Battalion Commander, serving on board President Johnson's airborne command post in the mid-60s, commanding a second battalion—the 32nd Signal Battalion—and then serving as the Deputy Brigade Commander of the 7th Signal brigade, both in Germany, in the early 70s, and graduating from the Army War College. He concluded his military service with three staff assignments in the DC area—on the Army Staff, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Colonel Visscher is authorized to wear the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Meritorious Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Vietnamese Medal of Honor, the Aircraft Crewman Badge and the Parachutist Badge.
After retiring from the Army, he continued working in telecommunications with Satellite Business Systems and then with GTE. Finally he broke off to follow one of his many passions—finance—and became an agent for USPA & IRA dealing with investments and insurance until he retired in 1994.
While residing in Northern Virginia, Bob and Joyce maintained membership at Heritage Presbyterian Church, which they had joined in 1965. During his 36 years of membership, Bob served in numerous capacities, including as an elder, the Finance Committee Chairman, a Property Committee member and a contributing member of most self-help projects.
Now, other than spending time with his wonderful wife, what was he to do with all of that extra time?
Easy—SKI and FISH! Bob commenced maximizing his time on the slopes at Bryce Ski Resort, averaging over 20 days of skiing a year. Some years he and Johce would even trip to Colorado or France to Ski the “big ones!” When the snow was gone, he would quickly regroup and shift his attention to the thawed snow—water—and head to Alaska to fish with their son Scott, a commercial salmon fisherman. When he was not busy having fun, he would redirect his time and efforts to managing townhouses,
roofing homes for “Habitat for Humanity,” or providing complimentary financial seminars to young military officers.
Whenever you knew Bob, no matter how you knew Bob, the bottom line was that he was an extremely capable and giving person who always fulfilled his responsibilities to the best of his ability. He was here to make a difference…which he did—and he will be greatly missed!
Participating in the service:
Rev. Robert C. Curry, Pastor
Chaplain E. Arnold Porter (USAF Ret.)
Soloist, Rev. Evangeline Taylor
Organist, Mr. Robert Schaaf
Remembering Bob Visscher:
Mr. Scott M. Visscher
Cdr. Kevin L. Visscher
Ms. Kala V. Thompson
Burial at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard