Robert Valley

Robert A Valley Sr, 87, husband to Eleanor for 62 years, died on September 15, 2015 at the Connecticut Hospice in Branford.  His health deteriorated since the beginning of the year, and he determinedly confronted the symptoms of stroke until diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He worked full time until four months before his death as an electronics engineer and caregiver to his wife.  As he mentioned shortly before he died, "It was a good run."  His family, and we expect all who knew this wonderful man, profoundly agree.

Bob Valley was an only child of an immigrant father, Anthony Valley, a baker, and second generation mother, Marie Gazelle, a school teacher.  Though a child of the Great Depression, he would be shaped more by the lifestyle of a baker's family, with the inverted work schedule it demanded, rather than the depravation suffered by so many.  Never a good student, he scraped through Hopkins and the University of Connecticut on his tenacity and good sense of humor, and graduated with a BSEE with the class of 50.  He remained thankful to the University and very proud of his degree throughout his life and was an active alumni until shortly before his death.  <>  But he also attended baking school at the American Institute of Baking in Chicago, for his planned direction at the time was to join his father in running the family business.

Bob met his future wife at a Catholic Graduate Club social function in the early 50's and after a brief courtship they were married in January of 1953.  As the Korean war was then in full swing, and the prospect of deferments remote, Bob leveraged his brief ROTC training and petitioned his Congressman for an officer's commission, receiving it just as the draft board sent it's infamous 'Greetings' letter.  As a 1st Lieutenant in the signal corps, he rode out the duration of the war in Heidelberg, Germany, managing a microwave communication tower, and touring the war-shattered continent while on military leave.  

Returning from service, he began work as Vice President at the bakery.  This meant assuming the schedule of the bakery: with work starting at one or two in the morning with fresh bread being loaded onto the trucks just before noon.  The demanding time shift and hard work of a junior partner in this business put a great deal of stress on him, his rapidly expanding family, and his relationship with his father. Determined not to inflict the discord of his youth on his children or wife, he left the bakery and began a new chapter in his life.

His work as an engineer would span the next 55 years, and take him through several start-up companies, two of which he founded, and several larger concerns, designing and manufacturing teaching and industrial equipment, equipment for the profoundly deaf, robotics, and laboratory instrumentation.  He worked with exceptional people from Yale, Yale Medical School, the Boston School of the Deaf and a company associated with the 2002 Nobel Prize.  Another side of his work was in real-estate, an interest he'd inherited from his father whom also traded properties throughout the depression era.  Here he was a founding partner whom provided the seed capital to the sweat equity of the three remaining partners, and after rehabilitation of three multi-family houses, the partnership bought at auction from the Federal Government a blighted low-income housing complex which was successfully turned around.  He took special pride in this partnership, and the ability to succeed where government agencies, and their virtually unlimited resources, has so miserably failed.  

Bob had many interests, including sailing, jewelry and lapidary work, amateur radio and a host of others that he did in short bursts or simply wanted to do but never found the time.  He was a good photographer.  He built most of his own house, clearing the land with a friend, and after contracting for the foundation and shell/exterior work, completing all the interior work by himself, with his wife and the occasional friend.  He repaired, or tried to repair almost anything that was broken, and when it became time, teaching all his children the fundamentals of car maintenance and mechanics so that each could keep their own vehicles running when they'd left the house.  He was an excellent dancer, and greatly enjoyed taking both young and older ladies onto the dance floor.  In her later years, Eleanor would often disapprove of this, with a reminder that he should 'act his age'.  He would, in general, ignore this admonition and continue to dance despite her evil eye.  He greatly enjoyed cooking and eating, and in the last two decades of his life expanded his role in the kitchen considerably when Eleanor decided that she'd had done enough cooking.  He had a very nice tenor voice, and was a member of the town chorus when that was popular in the late 70's.   

When he moved to Branford to build his home, he joined the community service group Exchange Club, and would retain his membership and active participation throughout the rest of his life.  He was a life-long Republican, although is politics would probably better fit a libertarian label, and briefly flirted with politics: running for an RTM seat in the late 60's.  Unsuccessful in this bid for office, he found a place many years later in the Inland Wetlands Commission, where he would serve the town until his death thirty one years later.  His role on the Commission was valued:  he was a moderating force, whom understood the value of wetlands as well as the social value of controlled development.  And with having a long history with the Commission, he could reference decisions or circumstances from the past that were mostly unknown by newer members.  On his deathbed, he was given special recognition for his long service and the knowledge that his presence would be missed.  Never someone who asked for public recognition, he was greatly pleased by this for he had valued the mission of the commission so highly.  An unread copy of the controversial Costco application was sitting by his bedside when he died.  It's unfortunate his moderating influence won't be available to help make this important decision.

Bob and Eleanor had five children over the course of nine years.  All have been very successful in their careers, supportive to their communities, and have been close as a family; with four of the five living within just a few miles of the family home. 

A remarkable man,  Bob succeeded in getting people to 'work and play well together', and was a critical catalyst in all the organizations he joined.  He was humble, had only a modest self-image, and was continually astonished that so many exceptional people would choose to work with him.  Like many of us, the innate skills which came easily were difficult for him to value. 

 Bob is survived by his Eleanor, five children: Susan Valley Chen (Terry) of California, Diane Valley Mierz (Steve) of Stony Creek, Patricia Valley Black (Peter) of Short Beach, Robert (Marianne Infranca Valley) of Guilford and David (Nancy Perrins Valley) of Guilford, and six grandchildren: Andrea (Branford), Julia (PA), Chris (CA), Matt & Sarah (Branford) and Alice (Guilford).   

The family wishes to thank Connecticut Hospice and all of the wonderful caregivers from No Place Like Homecare for the compassionate care he's received over the past several months.  

While the burial will be private, memorial service will be planned for a future date, and all interested should contact the family or Funeral Home for details.  Although we all love flowers, they're ephemeral and a more meaningful contribution in his memory may be made to the UConn Foundation, Attn: School of Engineering, 2390 Alumni Drive, Storrs CT 06269 <> .  Alternatively, a gift in his name to the Branford Compassion Club, P. O. Box 768, Branford, CT 06405 will be similarly valued.  The Hawley Lincoln Memorial Funeral Service of Guilford is in charge of arrangements.


(1) comment

Peter Black

A joint memorial service for Bob Valley and his wife Eleanor will be held this Friday, January 22nd, at 11 am at St Therese's church on Leetes Island Road.

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