Walter Robert (Bob) Eason, 95, passed away on Tuesday, April 29 after a short illness. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 65 years, Anna Belle Brown Eason. He is survived by his children, Walter Robert Eason, Jr. of Calabash, N.C., Susan Eason Anthony of Tazewell, VA, and Sarah Belle Eason Parrott, of Roanoke. Additionally, he was survived by sons-in-law Larry Anthony and John Parrott, grandchildren Eric Anthony and wife Sheila, Jack Parrott, Sarah Boxley Parrott Beck and husband Carl, and great grandsons Kyle Anthony and William Beck.
Mr. Eason was born in Suffolk, VA July 24, 1917 to the late Walter Ray and Lillian Luke Eason. He was predeceased by his sisters Frances Eason Emory and Evelyn Eason Marks. He graduated from Suffolk High School where he was voted the outstanding athlete in 1935-36.
He matriculated at Hampden-Sydney College in 1936 where he continued his outstanding athletic career as a 4- letter recipient. He was subsequently inducted into the Hampden-Sydney Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996. He received the ODK award in 1939, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion in 2003, the Patrick Henry Award in 2004, and the Annual Alumni Citation in 2009. He later received his Master of Education degree from the University of Virginia in 1963 and was inducted into the Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society of Education that same year
He joined the US Army Air Corps in the fall of 1941 and received his wings and 2nd Lt. Commission in April of 1942. He served as a P-39 and P-40 pilot in Panama, and returned to the US to serve as the Operations Officer with the 1st Fighter Squadron, 2nd Air Commando Group. In 1944 he went to Burma as a P-51 pilot where he was the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf clusters, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the American Defense Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with the Central Burma Battle Star, the WWII Victory Medal, and the Distinguished Unit Citation.
In the Burma Campaign he was credited with 63 combat missions, 263 Combat hours, and 8 Japanese planes destroyed on the ground. Twice his Group flew the longest fighter sweep of the war, over 8 hours and 1,600 miles, destroying 100 Japanese planes at their base in Bangkok. He won the Silver Star after flying a light L-5 plane 100 miles behind the Japanese lines to pick up his Group Commander who had been shot down near Rangoon, Burma.
Following the war, he flew for TWA for three years then retired from flying to be near his growing family. He began a teaching career and served fourteen years each at Woodberry Forest School and Blue Ridge School. He remained in the Air Force reserve until 1972 when he retired with rank of Colonel after 31 years of service. In 1994 he was elected to the Air Commando Hall of Fame. The couple resided in Orange, VA until 2007 when they moved to Roanoke,VA .
A memorial Service will be held at Hampden Sydney College Church at 12 noon on Saturday, May 4 with interment in the Hampden-Sydney College Church Cemetery. Memorial gifts may be made to the Hampden-Sydney College Office of Advancement, P.O. Box 637, Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943 for benefit of the Eason Family Scholarship.