Robert (“Bob”) Arthur Schoonover died December 13 of cardiac arrest at Newport Hospital having been diagnosed with bladder cancer November 18. Bob was born January 2, 1949 at Aiea Medical Center, Territory of Hawaii. His father Donald Leroy Schoonover, originally from Los Angeles, California, was flying the Berlin Airlift at the time of his birth. Bob’s mother Hazel Marie Farris of Eastport, Maine, served as a WAVE (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) until her marriage to then Lieutenant Commander Donald Schoonover.
After Bob’s dad retired from the Navy, the family moved to Chico, California where Bob attended high school and ran cross-country and track, setting several records. He then attended Occidental College on an athletic scholarship where he continued to excel in those sports. Some of his competitive running highlights were placing 5th as an All-American cross-country runner in the 1968 national championships, setting the Occidental record in the 3-mile run with a time of 13:56, and running the mile in 4:10.4 against USC. An Achilles heel injury ended his competitive running before his junior year.
After graduating Occidental College with a degree in Political Science, Bob went on to receive his master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Northern Colorado and continued his parents’ naval legacy by becoming a Naval Flight Officer in 1970. He began his flight time with Patrol Squadron One (VP-1), Barber’s Point, Hawaii, performing the aircraft’s primary mission of anti-submarine warfare (ASW). He flew reconnaissance missions at the end of the Vietnam War from Thailand’s U-Tapao air base, where he was exposed to Agent Orange.
Known for his ASW operational expertise, junior and senior naval aircrew alike sought his guidance. As Tactical Coordinator (TACCO), Bob quickly determined the location of enemy submarines and directed the dropping of sonobuoys to maintain contact.
Following tours in aviation, he was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Constellation serving in the Command Information Center. Lieutenant Commander Schoonover returned to Hawaii as Operations Officer, COMPATWINGSPAC (Commander Patrol Wings Pacific, Barber’s Point, Hawaii). During this staff assignment, he met the love of his life and future wife: Ensign Lois Henry Schoonover. Bob and Lois knew they were in love and wanted to marry after only one month together; however, Bob’s detachments as Officer-in-Charge, Midway Island delayed marriage a few months. Lois was invited to fly to Midway Island to accompany Bob during his long flight home to Oahu, and they talked and laughed the entire way. Bob and Lois were married December 18, 1981 in Honolulu, HI after dating just four months. Their only child, Emily Anne Schoonover, was born in Hawaii in April 1984 while Bob was on deployment to Guam.
After six years stationed in Hawaii, Bob and Lois transferred to San Diego where Bob served on the staff of Commander Naval Air Forces, Pacific. The couple spent another six years collocated in Southern California before Bob retired from active duty in 1990. Bob was a dedicated, silly, and creative full-time stay-at-home Dad to their daughter Emily. Father and daughter could often be found inventing stories together, building forts, or crafting artwork and last-minute school projects. He never missed any of Emily’s school or sports events. A doting father, Bob
shepherded Emily throughout with unwavering love and sound guidance. He and Lois viewed Emily as their “Home Run” and agreed their only daughter fulfilled their lives.
Only when Emily entered high school did Bob return to work. His athletic talents and temperament benefited middle school and high school students in Newport County. As assistant track coach, and then as full-time girls’ track coach at Roger’s High School, he helped athletes improve their “personal best” times in events and encouraged participation in group competitions. He valued athletes’ attitudes and desire to improve more than performance alone. He also coached Roger’s boys’ cross-country and coached track at Middletown High School for one year. He devoted over 15 years to coaching before retiring in 2018.
Bob also had a variety of teaching experience. He considered it a privilege to be Tia Scigulinsky’s “permanent substitute teacher” at Roger’s High School during her tenure with the National Education Association. He was a voracious reader and readily met the challenge of substitute teaching social studies and European history. Bob was a supportive husband to Lois’ career, even assisting her with teaching an elective at the Naval War College entitled “The Social Dimensions of Strategy.” He and Lois taught together previously in San Diego, introducing senior officers to the principles of Total Quality Leadership, and were always a great team.
When Emily married Terence McHugh, Bob and Lois saw strength and love in their relationship. That strength and love culminated with the birth of Maeve Hazel McHugh – a joy like no other in Bob’s life. Maeve provided the opportunity once again for him to impart his sports knowledge, passion for learning, and loving support. He delighted in watching her play basketball, lacrosse, and run cross-country.
Bob realized a personal dream when he became a published author in December 2019 with his short story, “Best Served Cold,” published in the anthology Corporate Catharsis. Few people knew Bob was also an accomplished artist. His works of art included watercolors, pastels, pen and ink drawings, copper wire sculptures, and photography, some having been included in juried shows at the Newport Art Museum.
Bob was a man of integrity, quick wit, intelligence, and unsurpassable love.
Bob is survived by his wife, Lois Jean Henry Schoonover, of Newport, RI; daughter, Emily Anne McHugh, son-in-law Terence, and granddaughter, Maeve Hazel McHugh of Tiverton, RI; brother David Schoonover and wife Tabitha of Kihei, Hawaii; and youngest brother Steven Schoonover and wife Laura Urseny of Chico, California.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the scholarship below (to be awarded annually):
The Robert A. Schoonover
Roger’s High School Girls Track and Field Award on GoFundMe.com