Herman Albert “Bob” Haefele died peacefully at home with his wife at his side on June 29, 2015 in Huntington, NY after a long illness. He was 92 years old.
Bob was born in Astoria, Queens, an enclave of German immigrants, on July 24, 1922, to Anna Baither and Albert Haefele, and remained an adored only child. Christian Baither, a maternal cousin close in age, was like a brother to him.
Upon graduation from Jamaica High School and realizing that music was not prosperous enough as a full-time occupation, he took a job for $12 a week as an office boy for McFadden Publications. He then worked as a glass blower at Sperry Gyroscope on Long Island, making klystron tubes for the first radar equipment used in Britain to defend against German aircraft attacks.
Drafted in 1943, Bob was a bombardier with the 14th Air Force, Flying Tigers Group under General Claire Lee Chennault who used innovative dive-and-zoom attacks borrowed from Soviet units serving with the Chinese Air Force. Awarded four Air Medals and two Distinguished Flying Crosses for combat missions against the Japanese in China, Bob himself said, “I flew the Hump (the name given by Allied pilots during WW II to the Eastern end of the Himalayas) between India and China several times. In my spare time, I was the base radio station manager and disc jockey. I was lucky…some close calls, but I came back in good shape.”
The Flying Tigers were so successful in helping to defend China from Japanese invasion, that the Chinese government has honored the veterans at many conventions and galas which Bob and his wife loved to attend. In March 2015, a museum and park was opened on Yang Tang Airfield in Guilin, China, which served as the command base for combat missions In China. Bob’s involvement in the Flying Tigers was an important part of his life because to him it was an example of mankind coming together successfully for a common cause. Success was his byline as well, as “playing it by ear,” a favorite expression of his.
After graduating from New York University School of Engineering in 1950, Bob secured a job at Sonotone Corporation in Elmsford, NY where he met his future wife, Ida Lamattina of White Plains when they both volunteered for the Employee Social Organization. Following gender roles in the 1950’s, Bob was the President and Ida was the Secretary. In the words of his wife of almost 60 years, Ida said, “Naturally, we did things together socially and found we had an attraction for one another…Bob moved on to other job opportunities but he won my heart.” They married in November, 1955 in White Plains but worked together again for 30 years at Northrup Grumman on Long Island, Ida as a secretary and Bob as a Division Head.
After earning a Master’s Degree from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Bob joined the Grumman Corporation and was part of the team of scientists and engineers for the Apollo 11 spaceflight that put the first man on the moon in 1969. In addition to working on a Ph.D. at Hofstra University in education administration, Bob taught Business Management at night at SUNY Farmingdale as an adjunct professor for 18 years. He was also a Freemason.
A gentleman, bon vivant and family photographer, Bob and his wife traveled the world and indulged many nieces and nephews including Dr. Jeanne Dietrich of Bedford, NY, Phyllis Dietrich Scott of Valley Cottage, NY, Edward Dietrich of San Diego, CA, Monica Olivet Korte of Clearwater, FL, Teresa Mary Lamattina Berry of Brewster, NY, Robert Lamattina of White Plains, NY, Donald Lamattina of White Plains, NY, Sandy Lamattina McClelland, Steven Lamattina of Carmel, NY, Dr. Richard Baither of Clifton, Virginia, Nancy Baither Symanowitz of Danbury, CT, and Chris Baither.
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