Robert “Bob” Albert Stenger, age 85, of Darlington, PA, died peacefully on Wednesday June 21, 2023, with his brother and sister-in-law by his side. Bob was born in McKeesport, PA on January 20, 1938, the son of the late George, Sr. and Catherine Lappin Stenger. He was the husband of the late Phyllis Bulkowski Stenger. Bob was preceded in death by his son, Randy James Stenger, and brothers, George Jr. and Edward Stenger. Bob is survived by his younger brother, Gene Stenger (Debra Pacoe) of Pittsburgh, his niece, Evi Stenger of Pittsburgh, and his nephew, Gene Paul Stenger of New Haven CT.
Bob grew up in a loving home in Duquesne, PA with his parents and three brothers, George, Eddie, and Gene; and in later years he often reminisced about Sunday afternoon dinners and long talks around the kitchen table. After Bob graduated from Duquesne High School, his friend asked him to join the Navy with him because he had just broken up with his girlfriend. His friend didn’t pass the physical, but Bob did and joined the Navy… a decision which shaped the path of his career and life. When Bob mentioned to his Navy recruiter, that he worked with his father on his side-job installing aluminum soffit and fascia, the recruiter assigned him to Aviation. Bob was then stationed at NAS Quonset Point RI and NAS Brunswick, ME, where he flew reconnaissance missions over the North Atlantic with the VP-21 Patrol Squadron. During the winter, he was stationed at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. His AWOL occurrences were tolerated because of his reputation as a hard worker. “Stenger works hard, and he plays hard” …his commanding officer would say when Bob occasionally missed roll call.
After his discharge from the Navy, Bob moved back to Pittsburgh. He worked part-time while attending school at the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics and then received his airline mechanic license. At that same time, he met his future wife Phyllis at a “singles only” bowling league in McKeesport. After they were married, they crisscrossed the country, while Bob worked as a mechanic with Bonanza Airlines in Las Vegas, Mohawk Airlines in Rome, NY, and then Allegheny Airlines in Pittsburgh in 1965. While working for Allegheny Airlines/US Airways, Bob used his skills and knowledge to single-handedly build sections of the interior cabins of the Convair 580 fleet. Bob also played a key role in the design of Allegheny Airlines jet engine overhaul shop, which was considered state-of-the-art. His talents were also key in independently developing a process that helped prevent jet turbine blades from corrosion. Bob retired from US Airways after 34 years of service.
In his younger years, Bob loved riding his motorcycle, water skiing, and working as a lifeguard and Boy Scout Master. He was very well-read, and his varied and eclectic interests and hobbies included participating in dog shows with his Weimaraner, “Liebe”, working with Phyllis on her ceramics business, receiving his Feng Shui certification and practicing feng shui, creating organic flower and vegetable gardens, and making his own organic supplements. At age 84, Bob attended classes at the Apple store to better understand his beloved new Apple watch and iPhone. Over the years, Bob particularly had a great interest in learning and participating in various religions and faiths, each with great enthusiasm and fervor. Bob was an acquaintance of archaeologist Vendyle (Vendy) Jones, who spent more than 40 years searching for the Ark of the Covenant and is rumored to be the inspiration for the character of Indiana Jones. At an international convention at the Ft Worth, TX Convention Center, Jones invited Bob to the stage to address a crowd of 20,000 on relating his experience as a Christian exploring Judaism.
In the early 2000’s, after being drawn to study Native American history, culture, and beliefs, Bob was adopted into the Lenape (Delaware) Indian Tribe as a Storyteller and given the appropriate Indian name “White Buffalo Heart”. His love of conversation and vivid imagination made him a natural for this activity. After much experimentation he learned to create hand-made wooden Indian flutes, using his mechanical, carpentry, and artistic skills combined with a knowledge of various wood species, and aerodynamics. Despite having never played a musical instrument, Bob played his flute at various Native American events, historical societies and churches and these activities were featured in local newspapers.
More recently Bob attended the State Line Christian Church in East Palestine, OH, and often met with the minister for biblical discussions. He sometimes played his wooden flute for attendees as they entered the church, but often had to be reminded when it was time to stop.
Bob’s enthusiastic, positive nature and outlook on life made him loved by both friends and strangers. He will be dearly missed by those who were fortunate enough to have made his acquaintance. His repeated explanation that “BOB” stands for "Beautiful Old Body” and his greeting, “Keep smiling, the air is good for your teeth” will undoubtedly be associated with his many warm and genuine encounters.
Bob’s burial took place at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies, 1158 Morgan Road, Bridgeville, PA 15017. Arrangements were handled by Campbell’s Chippewa Funeral Home, Inc., 2618 Darlington Road, Chippewa, PA 15010 (Randy R. Wheeler, supervisor, 724-843-2500). Among Bob’s longstanding interests was The Little Beaver Historical Society (https://littlebeaverhistorical.org). Memorial contributions may be made in memory of Bob “White Buffalo Heart” Stenger to: The Little Beaver Historical Society (LBHS), PO BOX 304, DARLINGTON, PA 16115.