Robert Buchanan

Dec 02, 1941 - Dec 13, 2020

Robert Buchanan

December 02, 1941 - December 13, 2020


Born on December 2, 1941 in Omaha, Nebraska, Bob lived most of his childhood in Kansas. At one time he attended a one-room schoolhouse in a small Kansas town and spent another brief period on his grandparents' farm - halcyon days of freedom and adventures. In late childhood his family settled in Wichita, Kansas where his life and that of Roberta (Robby) Walters became intertwined as both families were active members of the same church and served in leadership roles for the Wichita Swim Club. With these connections, Bob and Robby's relationship blossomed into a love story and continuing friendship that spanned almost 70 years. It ended on December 13, 2020 with Robby holding his hand, and family attending through FaceTime, as Bob took his last labored breath from COVID pneumonia.

Bob graduated from Wichita State University, and like many young adults with limited financial resources, planned on a career in the military. He completed the Marine Corps officer training and received his commission. But his life changed overnight when he was notified that he had won a fellowship from NASA for both his master's degree and PhD at Oklahoma State University.

Accepting the fellowship meant resigning his commission and completing his military service in the Marine Reserves. Because he was required to report every month to his unit in Wichita, he was able to start a courtship with Robby, who was a senior in high school. After he completed his doctorate and she attended college, they married in 1968 and were blessed with two sons.

Communication has been a constant theme in Bob's life. His doctoral dissertation focused on communicating with a spacecraft returning to earth while it entered a blackout period. This scholarly endeavor formed the foundation for his long and successful management career in the defense industry. His scientific training allowed Bob to understand the ideas put forward by scientists and engineers and his ability to communicate effectively enabled him to successfully present such concepts to non-scientists and investors. In addition, his quick wit and zany sense of humor helped him to encourage team building and collaboration, while defusing tension that might arise between groups of people. These skills, along with a strong commitment to ethical and fair business practices, helped him to join with others to grow a small "start-up" company and later another mid-sized organization into two large international corporations.

At retirement, Bob turned toward communicating with others through visual images. He traveled to Kenya on a National Geographic wildlife photography expedition, capturing many stunning images of the unique beauty of the animals he encountered. Later, he fulfilled a boyhood dream, created when Edmund Hillary conquered Everest, by going to the Himalayas on a photographic expedition to Tibet. There he offset language barriers by focusing on connecting with people through the images he captured.

In 2013 while on a tour in Spain, Bob was suddenly struck by a rare neurological disorder. Desperately ill in Seville, he was rescued when his niece Melinda came to help Medevac Bob back to Scottsdale and the Mayo Clinic. The highly skilled doctors saved Bob's life, but the disorder left some permanent damage, including a tremor in his

hands. It, combined with overall muscle weakness, made holding heavy cameras impossible, effectively ending Bob's photographic avocation.

Faced with this powerful loss, Bob turned to communicating through the written word. Although he had been creating poetry for many years, he intensified his efforts through writing classes at Scottsdale Community College. There, he found many friends with whom he worked to refine and create new literary images and stories. His work was recognized multiple times with annual awards from the consortium of Maricopa County Community Colleges. He also found joy in several other writing groups, including the one in his retirement community. With his poems and stories, Bob can still "speak" to his beloved family, friends and others.

Bob was preceded in death by his parents and his sister Sue, his only sibling. He is survived by Robby, sons Stephen and Paul (Cindy), and grandchildren Sarah, Cole and Tyler. He is also survived by his sister's daughter, Melinda Bass (Dan) and grandniece, Maggie, as well as members of Robby's family. Bob will also be missed by many friends who knew and loved him.


Sat, Jan 16, 2021 at 1:00 pm
Hansen Desert Hills Chapel

6500 E Bell Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85254

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