Robert Reavis “Bob” Protzman was born in Paola, KS, the son of Robert A.
and Jessie Gertrude Protzman. After growing up in Kansas, Bob came to West
Point a bright, 17-year student straight from Paola High School, where he had
left behind an exemplary record of scholastic and athletic achievement.
At West Point, besides singing in the Cadet Chapel Choir
and Glee Club, earning a major “A” in wrestling and performing as a member of
the Dialectical Society, Bob contributed to the robust life of Company A-2. He
had a yen for mischief, a sure sense of friendship, and an easy-going spirit
of generosity that led him to help those battling academics. He seemed equally
gifted with the Tactical Department, as demonstrated by one particular
incident. Bob Cain, a companymate, tells of a weekend in White Plains, NY when
heavy snow, followed by bright clear skies, led the two of them astray.
Returning to West Point they chose the east side of the river instead of their
usual 9W route. Only the “magnificent view of West Point across the Hudson,”
alerted them to their ineptitude. Mountains of snow had caused them to miss
their turn onto the Bear Mountain Bridge. Arriving quite late to formation,
they feared confinement past graduation, but their b-aches were so witty and
their contrition so acute that they suffered only seven demerits each.
Despite Bob’s considerable success as a cadet and the
added good fortune of having Loree Oyster, the love of his life from Paola,
living close to the Academy, he was tempted to leave. We know from his entry
50th Reunion Yearbook that late yearling year he “seriously contemplated
resignation” to follow a different calling but decided it was “harder to go
back to the Kansas farm community as a quitter than to stay.” He wrote,
“Staying remains one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Following graduation in 1961, and his subsequent marriage
to Loree, the Air Defense Artillery beckoned, calling him to a Nike Hercules
site near Fort Worth, TX. But in 1965, that other calling prevailed, and he
temporarily left active duty for medical school—never looking back.
Bob graduated from the University of Kansas School of
Medicine in 1968 and returned to the Army. He completed his internship at
Tripler General Hospital, Honolulu, HI in 1969 and then served at Reynolds
Army Hospital, Fort Sill, OK until 1970. He began an orthopedic residency at
Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in Denver, CO, serving there until 1973. That
year, he returned to West Point where he developed a keen interest in sports
medicine, serving the larger community as surgeon and the Black Knights as
team doctor. During those years, while introducing their growing children,
Paige and Scott, to the pleasures of life on the Hudson, Bob and Loree left
their distinctive marks on the military community.
Following their departure from West Point in 1978, the
Protzmans moved near Washington, DC, where Bob completed a Hand Fellowship at
Walter Reed Army Hospital and Johns Hopkins University. He contributed widely
to professional journals, including two lead articles in
The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, and he went on to complete his
final military tour at Ireland Army Hospital, Fort Knox, KY.
Bob retired from the Army in 1982 as a colonel, and
together with Loree moved to Fort Worth, where he became the director of the
Orthopedic Residency Program at John Peter Smith Hospital (JPS). He also
started a private practice at the same time in which Loree played a
significant role until her untimely death in 1995. Fueled by his passion for
teaching and his love of the medical profession, Bob continued with his
practice and the residency program until he retired in 2012. During those 30
years in Texas, he created a living legacy as both surgeon and teacher.
Dr. Walter Lowe, one of Bob’s first residents, now a
chaired professor at a major teaching hospital, noted that he is “still the
most comprehensive orthopedic surgeon clinically and from an educational
perspective I have ever encountered or ever will encounter.” Dr. Russell
Wagner, on staff with Bob and now the director of the residency program at
JPS, recalled Bob’s toughness, his willingness to take on the hardest cases,
and his joyful approach to work. “He had a great dry sense of humor,” Wagner
says. “He lightened our spirits, he made us laugh, he put things in
perspective. He cared greatly, about the students, about patients, about doing
the right thing.” To Wagner, and to many others who worked with Bob, he was a
“great man” who set the bar high, inspiring all “to live up to his standards.”
He “made us better.”
All of us will remember Bob’s stellar accomplishments,
his candor, wit, and zest for life. But we can never remember him without also
remembering Loree. It is impossible to imagine one without the other. She gave
Bob and their children the greatest of gifts, protected time and loving
encouragement to follow their own stars. Together she and Bob left Paige,
Scott, their spouses, and their children a marriage to cherish and a union to
emulate. Their warm and loving home enriched our lives with laughter and
friendship and brought joy to the professions they both served.
— Class of 1961 and Family