American Veteran 04

Robert J. King

June 27, 1937 ~ June 2, 2022 (age 84)


My husband, Robert J. King, died on June 2, 2022 at home in his den with his son Robert Willie, Robert Willie's wife, Carol, and myself by his side. He was born in Warren County in North Carolina on June 27, 1937. His parents were Robert Lee King and Edelia Lois Carter King. He grew up in Wise, North Carolina along with his two younger brothers, Clarence Earl King and Benzie Travis King. His mother was one of ten children and his father was one of seven children, so he also grew up with numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. He was especially close to Miss Doll and Uncle Isaac, who were not relatives, but had a significant influence in his early life.

They lived by the railroad track in Wise. Robert would go out and talk to the African American men who did the repair work on the tracks. So they invited him to ride with them from Wise to the Virginia state line and back, which he did regularly. They gave him his own pale and he loved riding with them and learning from them. They would hum Negro Spirituals and that is where he developed a love for them and for their music.

At the age of 12 his family moved to Norlina, North Carolina and lived in several different houses. Norlina was right on the rail line and was a major thoroughfare connecting the North and the South. One of the original train lines called the Silver Liner had two large trains that passed through Norlina every day. Norlina had a hotel, train station, bus station, and was very modern for that day. When interstate 85 came through the South, it replaced most of the railway traffic through many small Southern towns, including Norlina.

Robert's mother, whom he dearly loved, was often sick, so he and his brothers were frequently sent to live with his grandmother. On several of these occasions, they walked along the railroad tracks back home, which was several miles. They wanted to be with their mother. Each time, they were sent back to their grandmother's. His mother's illness required added chores and learning to cook for the family at a young age. His uncle Dookie gave him his first bike. It was used, but his uncle fixed it up and it looked and worked great.

Before high school, he got very sick with rheumatic fever. He also had chicken pox and scarlet fever in a very brief period. They did not think he would live. His grandmother made various poultices and used natural remedies. He remembered sweating a lot, and he finally pulled through.

As a young boy he saw a flying object. It landed and made a marking on the ground. The Raleigh Gazette came and interviewed him.

Robert grew up very poor and learned to work hard from a young age and worked long before he was able to get a work permit. One of his first jobs was in a movie theater where he ran the movies. Later, in high school a drive in theater opened and he also ran the movies. He enjoyed this because he got to see all the movies for free. Another job while in high school was to clear the land so the surveyors could plot out the future Purina Plant, which was eventually built and opened. Purina then assigned him and another man to run their office in Norlina. When he turned 16, he drove a truck for Purina, hauling meal supplements to Wilson which was probably at least 60 miles away. They had to put cushions in the seat so he could see out.

When he was in high school he was frequently late to class and his teacher would ask, "What was it this time, delivering papers, Purina, feeding the pigs?" He would just take his seat without responding. He wasn't very good in math, and his father would try to help him and show him

shortcuts. So he would get the right answer using the shortcut without showing his work. This upset the teacher and he would be disciplined and given double the homework.

Robert's maternal grandfather was the first tax collector and the first chief of police in Norlina, and held that position for 40 years. His uncle Willie fought in World War II in Germany. His uncle Dookie was captured in the Philippines and was part of the Bataan death march. Thankfully he survived the March and prison camp. Robert's dad also signed up for the Army, but since there were so many boys in the military in his family, he was not sent oversees. He was instead sent to Fort Lee. He was very good at math and building, so the army placed him in charge of construction of housing for military families.

Robert signed up for the Navy in 1955 because he didn't want to get drafted. He graduated from Norlina High School in 1956, and was called up soon after graduating. He first went for training to the Great Lakes in Michigan. Then to Treasure Island in San Francisco. Then to Point Loma in San Diego. His first ship was the USS Oriskany. Second he served on the USS Hancock. He was in the service post the Korean War and spent a lot of time in the Philippians and some time in Japan. All together he served four years in the Navy and then was in the Reserves for several years. He was very proud of his time in the service and often wore a Navy cap. Many times strangers, sometimes others who had served in the Navy would strike up a conversation with him because of that.

Before going into the Navy, Robert developed a love for cars. So when he got out he and a friend built a race car and got someone to sponsor them. They raced in one of the major NASCAR races. He made two rounds with a speed of around 180 mph. His partner then took over the car and driving. Robert also worked with Richard Petty's pit crew for a short time.

I met Robert, in the early 1960's at a gas station when we were both traveling. My friend and I had been waving at all the cute guys going by and he just happened to pull into the same gas station. He struck up a conversation with my friend and finally said to me, "Don't you talk?" He asked for my number and I gave him a fake name, Fanse, but gave him the right phone number.

At that time Robert was doing concrete work on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge for his dad while trying to get work on his own. I was poor and hungry and he would pick me up sometimes on Sunday night after I got off work at 11:00 pm and buy me a sandwich. I would pray before I ate. He said he had never seen a person pray before they ate. I would get my Bible out and show him verses. I graduated with a degree in nursing in 1965. We got married in 1966 on Halloween without even thinking about it being Halloween. We just knew that I would have the weekend off.

Our only son, Robert Willie, was born in 1967. At his birth Robert was so excited he fainted. Robert gave his only son many opportunities to spread his wings and try things on his own.  One of those things was teaching him how to swim by tossing him into the Atlantic Ocean.  Seeing that did not go so well Robert promptly enrolled Willie into swimming lessons at a near by YMCA. Robert was there for all the moments, big or small, in Willie’s life.  From school projects to family trips from health scares to celebrating mile stones Robert was there.  Robert took an active roll in participating in Willie’s Pathfinder functions preparing for camping trips, honor badges, pine wood derby events and canned food collections.  However not all was a bed of roses and when the thorns appeared Robert was there to mend the damage and to encourage Willie to keep going.

Robert had never seen anyone reading the Bible until he met me and my mother. He started attending church with me when we got married. One day Robert Willie said to him, "You have been going to church for a long time. Don't you think you should get baptized?" And so he got baptized as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when Willie was six or seven. He developed a memorial garden at Pine Grove Cemetery which was the original site of the Statesville Seventh-day Adventist Church. It's purpose was to serve as a memorial to the founders of the church and Pastor Anderson, one of our great missionaries and also to his mother-in-law. Most recently he was a member of Reaching Hearts Seventh-day Adventist Church in Spencerville, Maryland, where he served as a deacon for many years.

My mother lived with us for most of our married life. He loved her like his own mother. She lived to be almost 102 and he tenderly cared for her during her golden years.

When we bought a home of our own, he built several sheds. Because he had grown up poor, he saved everything and packed the sheds full of odds and ends. He was not very organized but could always find his things in all his clutter. Whether good or bad, he's leaving all that behind for someone?

When Robert Willie was a baby, Robert made the first slide on camper and took his family, including his mother-in-law on a trip across country. Later we bought a 24 foot Winnebego that he cut in half and extended by 14 feet. We enjoyed taking trips in it with family and friends of Robert Willie for several years. We frequently took vacations to Disney World, Myrtle Beach, Canada, and other beaches and historical sites.

Robert especially loved to take trips back home to Norlina. He loved going to his high school reunions. We had taken the home where he grew up and made it a place where we had peace and solitude. We enjoyed seeing all the young people who had helped us and other friends. He made his last trip home in 2021 where he was given a welcome home party by many of them. During this trip he was able to visit with his brother, Earl one last time.

I was blessed with some creative talents and would make floral arrangements, gift baskets, etc. Robert would fill up the back of his truck with these items and sell them from the back of his truck in the DC metropolitan area. He really enjoyed doing this being the people person that he was. This helped us to be able to take the family vacations we enjoyed so much.

Robert was well liked in the DC Metro business world. Cladney Construction Company gave him his start. He worked for several years for them. He did a lot of renovations, remodeling of synagogues, work on the Hebrew Home, and other Jewish institutions.

Mr. Paul Gussin (the owner of Gussini shoe stores) hired him to do all of their remodeling and establish his stores in the DC Metro area. He appreciated his craftsmanship so much that he hired him to do all the interior work in his home in Potomac, Maryland. Mr. Gussin was very generous and so he provided me with boxes of much needed new clothes and shoes. Robert would ask Mr. Gussin to donate money to my poor patients, which he always did.

When I was scheduled for weekends doing home health, Robert drove me. If my patient needed odd jobs done around their house, he would do it. If they needed groceries, he would go get them while I treated my patients.

Robert went to work for St. Charles Manufacturing Company and mainly worked doing installation of case work in hospitals and schools. He also started King Enterprises and did major work at Georgetown Hospital, Sibley, Fairfax, and Montgomery General Hospital and

several schools in the area. He did two beautiful libraries in two hospitals. He did the kitchen and residential section of the White House when President Ford was in office. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the White House some time later and was able to see the work he had done. He was in charge of the construction of the underground garage that tunneled from the Rayburn Building to the US Capitol.

He also did the remodeling of the Georgetown Dental School. The professor wanted more cabinets than the college was willing to pay for, so he worked out a deal for Robert to bring more cabinets in exchange for dental work on Robert's teeth. It was a win win.

He also did the locker rooms at the Capitol Center for the Washington Bullets and also for the Washington Red Skins when they were at Lanham, Maryland.

Although Robert did a lot of work for many famous people and important places, he was the happiest when he was doing work for friends and neighbors for free or to help them save money because he felt that's why we were here. He was never selfish and always wanted to make other people's lives easier, especially his son's.

Over the years he collected a variety of cars. He loved putting old cars back together. He could spend hours in the recycling yard. It was like watching a kid in a candy store. He always thought he would be able to tinker with them when he retired. Unfortunately, he was involved in an accident four years ago that prevented him from being able to do much of what he wanted to do. But even when he was in a lot of pain and suffering, he still made friends with several of the doctors who took care of him.

He will always be remembered for his kindness, compassion, and willingness to help by those who had the privilege of knowing him.

I have suffered for years from a debilitating illness and he was always there to support, strengthen, and encourage me. He would fix my breakfast every morning, take me to medical appointments, take me to the beach, and whatever else needed to be done to make me more comfortable. He was my gentle giant and my hero.

Robert was preceded in death by his parents and his youngest brother, Benzi.

Robert is survived by myself, son, Robert Willie (Carol), brother, Earl (Phyllis), one aunt, and numerous cousins, and his beloved cat Charlie Gray.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his memory to:

JSSA Hospice 6123 Montrose Road Rockville, MD 20852 301-816-2676

Statesville Seventh-day Adventist Church Cemetery Fund 2429 E. Broad Street Statesville, NC 28625

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24 Hour Viewing
June 12, 2022

2:00 PM
Borgwardt Funeral Home
4400 Powder Mill Rd
Beltsville, MD 20705

Funeral Service
June 12, 2022

3:00 PM
Borgwardt Funeral Home
4400 Powder Mill Rd
Beltsville, MD 20705

June 13, 2022

Maryland Veterans Cemetery Eastern Shore
6827 E New Market Ellwood Road
Hurlock, MD 21643

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