Robert J. Duch, 93, of Rutland died May 11 at Rutland Regional Medical Center. He was born March 17, 1925, in Newark, N.J. and graduated from Danbury High School in 1942.
Bob joined the war effort in 1943 and received training as a navigator in the US Army Air Corps and flew 13 missions on a B-17 Flying Fortress. His job was to direct the flight from departure to destination and back and to know the airplane’s position at all times. He determined that position through visual reference to the ground, radio, dead reckoning, and celestial navigation. He guided the pilot to targets with precise computations — no computers!
On Nov. 3, 1945, he married his high-school sweetheart, Ruth Weber, in Danbury. With the help of the GI Bill, he earned bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Connecticut and a master’s in economics from Yale University (1951). He worked as an administrator in the insurance field, retiring from Mutual Benefit Life in New Jersey in 1985.
Having taught his children to ski, he was happy to move to Rutland with his wife Ruth in 2005 to be near three daughters, grandchildren, and the mountains.
He especially enjoyed family skiing at Pico and Killington as well as trips to Vail, Alta, and Jackson Hole, where he skied with son Robert and friends. He was proud of his Jackson Hole one-million vertical-feet belt buckle, earned in his 80s! He skied to age 91 and passed on a love of skiing to grandsons as well as his children.
Known for his love of family, jazz, cats, travel, and storytelling, Bob was also an avid tennis player, voracious reader, and passionate learner.
As a 91-year old “non-traditional student” at Castleton University, he brought experiences and anecdotes to classes that both professors and students appreciated.
“He was able to stimulate historical empathy” and “provided little insights about different time periods that we don’t think about because he was there,” noted Professor Carrie Waara in a Castleton Spartan feature by Jadie Dow.
“It’s almost like having another professor. We have one who has mastered the material, and then there is Bob, who has lived through it. He brings so much to the class,” said then fellow student Caedin Ostrow.
Survivors include his wife Ruth and five children: Karen Lorentz and John of Shrewsbury; Anita Duch of Rutland; Roberta Ballou and Don of Chittenden; Carolyn Duch and fiancé Gary of Cape Cod; and Robert J. Duch, Jr. of Denver and Vail. Also grandsons Jason and Dayna, Jonathan and Carmen, and James and Erin Lorentz and Geoffrey Ballou; great-grandchildren Evelyn, Josh, Julius, Calen and Elana; cats Peekaboo and Smoky; and grand-dog Molly. He was predeceased by three sisters and beloved daughter-in-law, Mona.
A family celebration of his amazing life was held in a beautiful outdoor setting on warm, sunshiny May 13. Hugs, love, laughter, and “fantastic” memories were shared amidst the sounds of Molly’s woofs and children playing.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Rutland Free Library, 10 Court St., Rutland, VT 05701 or to the Rutland County Humane Society, 765 Stevens Rd., Pittsford, VT 05763.
Bob Duch, shown here atop Killington with daughters Anita (left) and Karen (center), passed on a love of skiing and mountains to his children.