Family pays tribute to Bob Lammey, a great humanitarian and father
By Joe D'Angelo January 15, 2003
After 30 months as a Prisoner of War, Robert F. Lammey got his honorable discharge on October 6, 1945. His return to Coatesville, Pennsylvania, was one of celebration, praise and support from his family and friends. But, according to Bob's wife, Louise, Bob was a changed man, very weak and quiet. He spoke very little of his prison time and war. He was encouraged to go to group sessions and POW meetings. He soon got involved, and after hearing other veterans talking about their experience, Bob opened up and spoke of his own experience. He soon volunteered his service and time and helped other veterans and POWs by taking them to get help, compensation and benefits.
Bob became fully involved. He was made the State Commander for South Carolina Ex-Prisoners of War, became National Treasurer of the American Ex-Prisoners of War Foundation, and became a member of Catawba Chapter American Ex-Prisoners of War in Lancaster, South Carolina. He was also a member of Disabled American Veterans of VFW Post 2889 and the American Legion Post 43 in South Carolina, where he had lived for the past 45 years.
According to Louise, Bob never forgot his friends and teachers from Coatesville. He often spoke highly of J.I. Hoffman, who never forgot the servicemen during the war by sending packages through his YMCA programs. He also had fond memories of his high school days, teacher Mr. Arbuckle and the sports he played. He was an excellent athlete, excelling in baseball and football. Louise said it's how they met. They became high school sweethearts and were married 57 years.
She said, “Bob was a wonderful and dedicated husband and father to our four children, a great American and humanitarian. He honored the vets and did special homage on Memorial and Veteran's days. He was very big on volunteer work, especially at the VA Hospital, where he gave his time and free rides to veterans who needed help and transportation.”
He won the World War II Victory Badge, the Army Good Conduct, the Middle Eastern Campaign Badge, the Rifle and Bar Badge, and many ribbons. He earned the Purple heart, but never received the badge.
Bob Lammey died on October 17, 2002, the day after he finished writing his memoir, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. At a memorial service held in Coatesville, family and friends met to honor the great humanitarian and soldier. A eulogy was given by his son William, who said his dad didn't have any time at all for self praise, that he wanted to give a brief overview of his dad's life, his family, friends and their memories of him.
William gave special thanks to Pastor Ray from his dad's church in South Carolina for his daily visits while he was ill and his friendship to both his mother and dad over the years. William also thanked all of Bob's friends, neighbors, the POWs and the vets who worked and shared their friendship, especially Mr. and Mrs. Norman Busell, who came down from New York to show their respect.
William went on to say that his father was born in Coatesville in 1922 and had two sisters and two brothers. He stated that the town's working environment was the backdrop that instilled in his father the traits of hard work, dedication, respect, duty and responsibility that his parents and grandparents valued. He said that his parents met at an early age and were high school sweethearts, both graduating from Coatesville High School in 1940. Besides being a leader in practical jokes and getting into trouble, Bob played school sports, lettering in all four sports.
Along with thousands of other Americans, Bob enlisted in the Army on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. He was assigned to the 26th Infantry Regiment of the First Infantry Division, known as The Big Red One. On the evening of November 7, 1942, they were put ashore west of Oran, Algeria in North Africa and engaged the enemy in combat. He was wounded and captured in the Kasserine Pass, transported to Sicily, Naples, and Germany and held prisoner for 30 months until April 19, 1945, when he was liberated. On May 16, 1945, he returned to the States and was sent to Army hospitals to recover from his experiences.
“Ten days leave allowed him and mom to get married on August 8, 1945. Dad was then sent back to an Army hospital in Louisiana until October 16, 1945, when he was discharged.”
William stated that his dad received many commendations for his sacrifices that he was proud of, yet never made a big deal of. Until recently, the medals were stored in a box in the closet.
“Dad held many jobs and owned his own business. He started his own construction business, building housing in Levittown and did construction in Puerto Rico, where our family lived for five years. In 1964, dad moved back to the States to Cinaminson, New Jersey, where he worked for a company that manufactured and installed industrial flooring. By 1972, dad started his own flooring business and in 1979 moved the business to South Carolina. He sold the business in 1991 and fully retired in 1994.
“With retirement, he and mom were able to enjoy more traveling to visit their children and grandchildren, friends and relatives, Army buddies and POW conventions and activities. He was honored to serve as the South Carolina State Commander of the POW organization and enjoyed meeting friends that shared similar service experiences at the conventions,” William stated.
“Growing up, we never knew of dad's experience in the military. We knew he had been wounded and was a POW, but not much else. He would occasionally entertain us with an old Army story, but until he got involved in some of the service organizations, we had no clue what he and others like him, and some of you here today, experienced while serving our country.
“And thanks to my mother, after much urging and the writer here from Coatesville, Joe D'Angelo, an acquaintance to a friend of my father, who helped urge my father to compile his account and write his memories of the war. Incredibly, he completed his memoir on the day prior to leaving us.”
“Our dad was dedicated to the POW organization and he became an advocate. He encouraged veterans to apply for the benefits they deserved and helped them through the process. He fought with the VA or anyone else when he thought that they were being treated unfairly.
“Over the past seven years, dad came to enjoy worship at Grace Lutheran Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and was happy to have been able to return to church after getting out of the hospital his last few weeks.
“Our dad is gone now, the pain will go on for some time, eased only by our memories. He was honorably laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
“Dad was a strict disciplinarian, yet never needed to use the rod to make us understand that he meant business. As strict as he may have been with us, he definitely stretched the rules. All of the AWOL stories we heard from his buddies. He got a Good Conduct Medal. He was humorous, a practical joker and prankster, yet very serious. He was very generous, both with his time and treasure. He was generous to his family without spoiling us and quietly generous to friends and strangers. He was extremely self confident that he would succeed and make a better life for his family, no matter what he did. Dad had incredible ability to pick up and move in a new direction, yet still maintain excellent memories and friendships from past experiences. He encouraged all of his children to do as well as we could in education, sports, work and any other interests.
“We'll always remember our great times and tough times as a family, and the loss of friends and family. Most importantly, we will always remember that throughout our lives, dad was always there for all of us, providing just the right mix of love, discipline, guidance and comedy. He could sometimes be difficult, but was always a loving husband to mom and equally loving to his children and grandchildren. In spite of some of the difficulties he endured, dad enjoyed and lived life to the fullest.
“Dad, we're all very proud of your accomplishments and for our good fortune to be your children. We love you. We'll miss you, but we'll cherish our family's memories of you for the rest of our lives.”
Until next time,
P.S. Bob Lammey dedicated his story to his wife Louise, who was the chief who urged to get him to write, along with my inquiry. He says his story was as truthful, as accurate and as interesting as he could remember it. He wanted the school children of today to be made aware of the sacrifices that were made by all Americans, civilians as well as those who served in the military. bob wanted his children to get his “point of view” of what Americans went through during this time in our history.
Besides his wife, Bob also dedicated his story to his friends of the 26th Infantry Regiment of the First Infantry Division (Big Red One) and to all the POWs of America. And he says that he hopes and prays that America never has to experience war, where our young boys and girls have their lives put in jeopardy for any reason. Amen Bob, and may God bless you and the Lammey family.
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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