Robert B. Molise passed away in his sleep on April 10, 2023 in his home in Port Townsend at the age of 97.
Born to John Molise and Opal Lawson Molise in 1926, Bob was raised in remote lumber camps and towns in Northern California. The family moved frequently to follow work opportunities for his lumberjack father; Bob had attended 13 schools by the time he graduated high school. His early years in the woods instilled a great love of the outdoors. He fished and hunted with his father to provide food for the table.
Immediately after graduating high school in Richmond, California in 1944, Bob volunteered for the draft and was in Army boot camp two weeks later. His boyhood in the woods served him well during combat and scouting missions in the Philippines. He volunteered for the paratroopers even though he was afraid of heights, and completed five combat jumps. When World War II hostilities ended, he was on the first U.S. transport plane to land in Japan. In 1946 he mustered out of the Army with a Bronze star at the rank of sergeant.
Adjustment to civilian life in the San Francisco area was difficult, as he was experiencing undiagnosed PTSD, then known as shell shock. Life improved in a big way when he met Kay Hildreth on a blind date. Seven months later, on July 2, 1949, they married, and Bob began his rewarding life as a family man. Kay and Bob had five children between 1950 and 1958, but the death of infant son Gary in 1954 was a crushing blow with lasting impact. Seeking meaning and comfort from this loss, Bob joined Kay in seeking guidance from a minister. This eventually provided a path to move forward with their lives, and resulted in a life of worship and service within the Presbyterian Church.
An early post-war career with the U.S. Postal Service gave way to a 28-year career with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Starting in a one-person office in rural northern California, Bob moved around the state and up the managerial ladder. His work provided rich material for amusing stories around the family dinner table about the eccentric characters and situations he encountered “at the office.” He took satisfaction in opening doors to management for women and people of color whose talents were being overlooked, and was integral to many system changes that improved the efficiency of the agency. Bob retired in 1986 as Division Chief, the highest civil service position within the agency. A peer reported that he had “truly unique and superior management techniques. He is quiet, yet forceful, and tenacious in his pursuit of established goals. He has an exceptional knack for getting the best effort out of people."
After retirement he and Kay camped and travelled with friends, and expanded their lives of service within their church, homeless shelters, and schools. In 2004, Bob and Kay relocated to Port Townsend to be near daughter Dorene after Kay was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. Bob devoted himself to her care with the help of Jefferson County Hospice. When Kay passed away in 2009, he deepened his involvement in First Presbyterian Church of Port Townsend and local service organizations. He enjoyed fishing, cribbage and pinochle, and late in life became a Corn Hole contender during COVID.
Bob donated his brain to the Mayo Clinic with the help of brainsupportnetwork.org, as did Kay. As a healthy control, his brain will aid research into Lewy Body Dementia. He chose a green burial at Hillcrest Cemetery on Bainbridge Island as a more natural way to return to the Earth.
Bob is survived by four children, Robert (Gay), Alan (Liz), Gina, and Dorene Molise Dunn (Bill); four beloved granddaughters, Joylu, Eleana, Robin and Claire; great-grandchildren Gilbert and Jenna; and great-great-grandchildren Gabriel, Autumn and Willow. He will be remembered for his kindness, sense of humor, love for reading, commitment to improving the lives of others, and steadfast devotion to Kay and his family.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to First Presbyterian Church of Port Townsend, Lewy Body Dementia Association, or Hospice Foundation for Jefferson Healthcare.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 6, 2023 at the First Presbyterian Church of Port Townsend, 1111 Franklin St. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 1.