Back to Last Roll Call Home Page   

Robert W. Bunton

Company G-1

2 Aug 1938 – 23 Feb 2004

Place of Death: Niceville, FL

Interment:Heritage Gardens, Niceville, FL

Bob Bunton, age 64, of Nicevllle, Fla., passed away Monday Feb. 23, 2004, after a four-year battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, otherwise known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ASL).

Bob was born in Fruitville, Fla., on Aug. 2, 1939. As a boy he had a fascination with air flight. He attended West Point (USMA), and while in New York he met his future wife, Stephanie Valent. They were married upon his graduation.

He was commissioned to the U. S. Air Force. For his first assignment he received his master’s degree from the University of Illinois in aerospace engineering. He was eventually stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and while there he did his postgraduate work for his Doctorate at Auburn University.

He and his wife settled on Okaloosa Island, where they raised their son, Jonny, and two daughters, Carolyn (Missy) and Susan. They spent 26 years there, and as soon as the last child left the nest he and his wife decided a change would be nice and moved to California, Md. There he worked at the Naval Air Test Center for 13 years. He then retired and moved to Niceville.

He loved his work as a flutter expert so much so that upon his return to Niceville he joined the ATAC group and worked with them for two years, until he was diagnosed with ALS. He loved bass fishing, growing prize-winning orchids, watching classic movies, reading spending time with his grand children, and he especially loved long walks with his wife.

He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Stephanie; son, Jon Bunton and wife Miriam of Tampa, Fla.; daughters, Carolyn and husband John Sekas of Niceville, and Susie and husband James Dubben of Niceville; grandchildren George, Stephanie and Brandi Sekas, Chloe and Stephen Dubben and Ian Bunton; mother-in-law, Helen Valent; sister, Joan Elizabeth “Betty” Bailey; nephews, Sam and Steve Bailey. He was proceeded in death by Kate and Harold Bunton, his mother and father and brother, Harold Jerome Bunton.

Visitation was at the Heritage Gardens Funeral Home, 2201 N. Partin Drive, Niceville, on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Funeral Mass for Bob Bunton was celebrated Friday, Feb. 27, at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, 1200 Valparaiso Boulevard, Niceville, beginning at 11 a.m., with interment in Heritage Gardens Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donation be made to the ALS Association (888)-257-1717 or 5005 West Laurel Street, Suite 110, Tampa, FL 33607.

The family would like to express their eternal gratitude to Ben and Shelly McKinnon and Rod and Rose Bartholomew for their unselfish love and support through the years through this tough and trying stage of our lives.

Pop, you will be missed and we love you so much.

Northwest Florida Daily News

Closest to camera from left to right: Bob's son Jon, his nephew Sam Bailey (Lt. Col. USAF, retired), nephew Steve (with long hair).  At the end of the coffin on the far right is Bob's grandson, George Sekas.  On the other side of the coffin at the left side is Bob's friend Ben McKinnon.

AF color guard preparing to fold flag.  All you can see (from left to right) are the back of the heads of Bob's wife Stephie, granddaughter Brandi Sekas, daughter Caroline Sekas.

The heads of a couple of more people are visible -- next to Caroline (moving left to right) are Bob's granddaughter Chloe Dubben, granddaughter Stephanie (Tina) Sekas, and at the far right daughter Susan Dubben.

Air Force color guard presented the flag to Bob's widow Stephie.  From right to left are:  Mrs. Helen Valent (Stephie's mother) - seated in the wheel chair.  Next to her is Stephie.  Behind Stephie is Bob's granddaughter, Brandi.

Bob's son Jon reading some final reflections.

Father Butler extending his condolences to Stephie.  Behind him is a deacon.


Rod Bartholomew (classmate/roommate)

As I thought about Bob’s life, I realized that we all have many roles that we assume in life ... many titles that we go by. In Bob’s case, he was son and brother, cadet and roommate, graduate, fiancée, husband, son-in-law, father and grandfather ... and yes, fisherman. He was also friend, student, Air Force captain, civil servant, engineer and flutter expert ... and fisherman. He was orchid grower, mandolin player, country music fan and on occasion, singer. He loved old movies, western novels ... and yes, he loved fishing.

In the 47 years since I first met Bob at West Point, I have seen him in most of those roles. I am proud to have called him friend. He was a man of integrity and faith ... a man who loved much, who was generous to a fault, and who had a keen sense of humor.

I say he was a man who loved much He loved his country and served her in one capacity or another for over 40 years. He loved his family ... Stephie, his wife of nearly 43 years, and his children, Jonny, Missy and Susie. He was very proud of them all. During his illness, when we would sit and talk, he was always more concerned for them than he was for himself.

And let me not forget his grandchildren. He loved them very much and took great pride in each accomplishment. He told me that he had dreamed that when he reached this point in his life, he would be spending time with them, teaching them about the things he loved — being outdoors, sitting quietly on a lake fishing, enjoying nature.

I doubt that Bob, in his modesty, considered himself a courageous man. But in the last couple of years I have come to see him as a man of great courage in the face of great adversity. I have often tried to imagine what it is like to confront this cruel disease, ALS, but just couldn’t do it. It is just incomprehensible. It is easy to see how one could easily become bitter and angry, or how one could slip into despair. But Bob would have none of that. When we saw him, he was always upbeat, filled with hope, facing life with that same sense of humor and with his dignity intact.

I know there had to be moments of great fear. But there can be no courage or bravery without fear. It is how you respond to that fear on a day-in and day-out basis that defines who and what you are. Bob fought the good fight, and when it came time to make the hard decisions he made them without regret. He was an inspiration to us all.

When I wrote my son, Robert, that we were coming here today, he wrote back that he was sorry for our loss. He said, “Bob Bunton was a good man. I have warm memories of his hospitality, his sense of humor and his kind nature. Bob and Stephie were always very good to us Bartholomew kids ... give our love to the family when you see them.” I can only add that the Buntons and the Valents were always very good to all of us Bartholomews, not just the children.

During our last visit in December, Bob told me that he felt very blessed in his life, particularly when he thought of our friends and colleagues who went off to war when they were so very young and lost their lives. And truly, he was blessed. He was blessed by a life of accomplishment by a warm and generous spirit, and by a family and friends who loved him.

West Point had a profound impact on all of us who shared that experience. In his life, Bob exemplified its motto of “Duty, Honor and Country.” The West Point Alma Mater ends with a verse that goes:

And when our work is done,
Our course on earth is run,
May it be said, “Well done!”
Be Thou at peace.

And so today, we can surely say, “Well done, Bob! Be Thou at peace.” We will miss you. We already do.



Class Memorial Pages\G-1 Bob Bunton.pdf

Jon Bunton (Son)

Pop once told me that he wished he would have done more with us kids as we were growing up and that he didn’t think he was a very good father. Without hesitation I quickly disagreed with him and reminded him of a couple of memories I had of the love and support he provided me my entire life.

We had always enjoyed watching sports together, and depending on what sport’s season it was, would determine which one we would play together in the front yard. So, I would wait for Pop to come home from work and I would either have our baseball gloves and a ball ready to play catch, a basket ball ready to practice my dribbling skills and of course a football. The irony of it all is that I somehow ended up with a passion for the game of soccer, and even though Pop didn’t have a complete understanding of the game, he showed an interest and learned as much about the game as he could. This brings me to one of my fondest memories of him which was that he was always standing on the sidelines of one of my games cheering me on and taking pictures of the action.

Another memory I have, is how he took me bass fishing and we would camp out and get up before sunrise to get out on the lake. Unfortunately, I never caught a bunch of fish, and I sometimes found it boring and would get discouraged. As I grew older, I didn’t show much interest in fishing, but I wanted to try sailing. He purchased the family a catamaran, and I soon monopolized the boat and by default it became mine. We would still sail together occasionally, but his passion was fishing and mine was sailing. It was by his example that I found something I enjoyed and that I had a passion for. To this day, I still play soccer and own a catamaran, and recently I went fishing with my cousin Steve and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Pop was so happy to see I finally understood that fishing was more than throwing a line out, but an appreciation of nature.

Of course, I have a lifetime of these memories that I am fond of, so as I mentioned before, he was a fantastic father. He never pushed me into something I didn’t like and would let me make my own decisions. Just as I always knew he would be there for me on the sideline of my soccer games, he would always be there for me on the sideline of my life. I am glad that I recognized this and that I actually told him many times, I was so proud to be his son. I can only hope that my son will be as proud and love me half as much as I did my father. Then I would know that I too had been a good father.


Ben McKinnon (friend)

My name is Ben McKinnon, and Bob and I were good friends and fishing buddies. We met through work. Bob was an Aerospace Engineer and I was a Computer Scientist. When we were chatting one day, we realized we both enjoyed fishing, and we have been fishing together ever since.

We both loved the out doors and enjoyed each other’s company. Bob had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the local flora and fauna, and the areas we fished had an interesting variety of this as well as an entertaining variety of birds and other critters to observe. So we always had a good time, and if we caught some fish, it was like icing on the cake.

We fished mostly on the local rivers and lakes, but if we had a long weekend we really enjoyed going over to Lake Talquin near Tallahassee. I would pull our camper and Bob would pull the boat and off we would go. Tallahassee also has Bradley's Country Store, where they make their own sausage, some of the best sausage I have ever eaten. When we were camping, Bob was the cook because he was an excellent cook, and I was the dishwasher. He used an old family recipe for hushpuppies, which were excellent. so if we caught enough fish, we had fresh fish and Bunton hushpuppies, and if we did not, we had Bradley's sausage. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Both Bob and I were really loud snorers; in fact we were both without a doubt world-class snorers. Try to imagine the sound of a badly out of tune chain saw. When it was time to go to sleep, the goal was to be the first one asleep so you would not have to hear the other one’s snoring. Bob had a coworker (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) who also enjoyed fishing, so we invited both him and his wife to go along on one of our Talquin trips. All went well until the first night. We had a hard rain all night. Our friends had a pickup truck with a small shell over the pickup’s bed. Sometime in the middle of the night our dual snoring drove them out of the camper and into the pickup’s shell. For some strange reason they never went camping-fishing with us again.

I will really miss my friend Bob and the good times we had together both on and off the waterways.


Susan Dubben (Daughter)

We are looking for you, but you are not there
Watching the big game with curses and swears.

We are looking for you, but you are not there
Fishing the lake, the bass jumping everywhere.

We are looking for you, but you are not there
Reading a western in your easy chair.

We are looking for you, but you are not there
Cooking meat on the grill, as far as can be from rare.

We are looking for you, but you are not there
Singing so badly, it raises our hair.

We are looking for you, but you are not there
Enjoying old, funny movies like The Bad News Bears,

We are looking for you, but you are not there
Using large words, the definitions of which we are unaware.

We are looking for you, but you are not there
Talking to Ma about everyday affairs.

We are looking for you, but you are not there
Playing computer games like Spider Solitaire.

We are looking for you, but you are not there
Tickling your grandchildren, their laughter filling the air.

We are looking for you, but you are not there
To hold our hands now when we are scared.

For we held yours as your life ebbed away,
And we will find you again on our very last day.

Memories must sustain us now while we are apart,
But we will always find you in our hearts.


Don Anselm (Classmate)

I did not know Bob that well but I remember him as a wonderful dedicated young man at West Point. Bob was a wonderful person and will be missed by all. I feel fortunate to have known him. He & his family will be in my prayers.


Alan Lubke (Classmate)

How can anyone not support stem cell research after reading about Bob's death from ALS?

Donations may be made in memory of Robert W. Bunton to:
ALS Association
5005 W. Laurel Street, Suite 110
Tampa, FL 33607

Bob's widow, Stephanie, can be reached at:
Mrs. Stephanie Bunton
2025 Kildare Circle
Niceville, FL 32578


Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:

No. 23469 • 2 Aug 1939 - 23 Feb 2004 • Died in Niceville, Fl Interred in Heritage Gardens Cemetery, Niceville, Fl

Robert Winfred Bunton was born in Fruitville, FL , the third child of Harold and Ila Kate Bunton. He graduated from Manatee High School in nearby Bradenton as salutatorian of his class. He complemented academic excellence with student government and sports, playing offensive tackle on the football team despite his 130 pounds. At the urging of a favorite teacher, and armed with a determination to get the best education possible, Bob applied for and received a Congressional appointment to West Point.

As a cadet, Bob met each challenge with studied patience, a healthy level of audac­ity, and good humor. He spoke with a slow Southern drawl and had an unhurried manner, which resulted in a Plebe-year roommate from New York's nicknaming Bob "The Bradenton flash". Bob was famous for his mother's CARE packages, which included homemade pecan pie and canned Vienna sausages, delights which soon inspired regu­lar visits by upperclassmen to Bob and his two roommates. The trio quickly became experts at deception and concealment, losing only an occasional "discovery" battle to the Tactical Department. The normally taciturn and unflappable Bob also enjoyed immense success and a degree of fame by singing end­ less encores of "The Wabash Cannonball," earning him and his fellow plebes a few precious moments of eating at ease. Whether this concession was out of appreciation or an act of mercy is difficult to say. His repertoire of songs was exclusively country and occasionally bizarre, with regular doses of ballads by Homer and Jethro, all of which he taught to his roommates.

Yearling year, Bob began corresponding With Stephanie Valent from Tarrytown, NY In the ensuing years, their correspondence turned to romance, and Bob became a regular visitor at the Valent home. By Firstie year, the Valent home had become a refuge for many of Bob's classmates. Bob and "Steph" were mar­ried the day after graduation and remained together until Bob's death, nearly 42 years later.

Bob also did well academically. He was commissioned in the Air Force and proceeded to the University of Illinois, where he received his master's degree in mechanical engineering. From there, Bob reported to the Air Force Armament Laboratory at Eglin AFB, FL, where he was assigned to the flutter group and responsible for the air worthiness certifi­cation of stores for Air Force fighter aircraft, principally the F-16. Eglin would be his home for the next 26 years. Upon completion of his service commitment, Bob joined the civil service and continued working as a flutter analyst, rising to the position of group leader. In 1973-74, he attended Auburn University, completing all the course work for a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering.

In 1986, Bob transferred to the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division at Patuxent River, MD, to develop a flutter group for the Navy; 1here, he trained a new group of engi­neers to perform stores certification for Navy aircraft, including the F/A-18. Two members of his team joined the family marrying his daughters, Carolyn and Susan. Finally, in 1999, after a highly successful career, Bob retired and settled in Niceville, FL, outside of Eglin AFB. He also returned to supporting his old flutter group, this time as a contractor.

Shortly after returning to Eglin, Bob be­gan to experience back pain and difficulty walking. A year later, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Gradually, he lost his ability to work, walk, move his arms or legs, feed himself, or manage any of the other functions of daily life. His mind re­mained sharp, and he maintained a keen in­terest in his family, his work, and sports, but he could no longer care for himself. Finally, in February 2004, having lost all ability to move and experiencing difficulty in breath­ing, Bob succumbed.

Throughout his ordeal, Steph was by Bob's side. She gave selflessly of herself in all aspects of his care. This required around-the­-clock attention she gave willingly and lovingly, maintaining a cheerful disposition, despite the relentless demands of the disease. Her efforts were nothing short of heroic. Assisting her on a daily basis were their daughters and sons-in­ law, who lived nearby. Close friends, his sister, and son Jon also came regularly to help.

Bob's approach to his illness and impending death was inspiring. He proved himself a man of great courage and hope in the face of an implacable enemy, somehow maintaining his dignity while suffering a disease that robs one's dignity. He kept his terrific sense of humor, even when there was little humor to be found. He participated in a double-blind clinical trial searching for an ALS cure because he thought it eventually would help someone, if not himself. Throughout it all, he remained focused on his family. He worried about the strain they were under and how they would manage without him. Yet, he expressed few regrets and considered himself truly blessed. He did miss playing with his six grandchil­dren and sharing his love of nature and fishing with them. At the end, he requested that his life not be sustained artificially, thereby sparing his family that decision.

In the closing months of his life, Bob, a lifelong Baptist married to a lifelong Catholic, embraced Catholicism, a gift that Steph had awaited for many years. He was, to the end, a loving and devoted husband, Father, grand­ father, and friend. At his funeral, his daughter Susie read a poem which summarized both a life fully lived and the pain and hopes of those left behind. It concludes with:

we are looking for you,
but you are not there
To hold our hands now
when we are scared.
For we held yours as
your life ebbed away,
And we will find you again
on our very last day.
Memories must sustain us now
while we are apart,
But we will always find you
here in our hearts.

His memory sustains all of us who knew and loved him. Be thou at peace, Bob.