KENT—Bells tolled in the steeple of the First Congregational Church of Kent as a whipping wind snapped an America flag behind the Kent Volunteer Fire Department’s honor guard.
Another honor guard, this one from the Hall-Jennings Post 153 of the American Legion, stood sharply at attention as a cortege of firefighters solemnly escorted the cremains of Robert “Bob” Bauer into the sanctuary for a final farewell Feb. 3.
Dressed in somber blue dress uniforms, the firefighters processed down the aisle to place his wooden urn on a flag-draped altar, the same spot where he stood 74 years before when he married to his widow, Josephine. From the balcony at the rear of the church, a piper played a hymn.
Bauer, 98, Kent’s last surviving World War II veteran, was an active citizen who served on the town’s Board of Selectmen from 1980 to 1988 and as chairman of the Sewer Commission from 1980 to 1992. He was a 57-year member of the Kent Volunteer Fire Department, serving as fire chief from 1975 to 1980. He was a member of the St. Luke’s Mason Lodge No. 48 and the American Legion Post.
The Rev. John David Heeckt said Bauer had been many things—a father, husband, friend, veteran and fire chief. But he added as he settled a Yale baseball cap emphatically on his own head, “More than anything else, he was a Yale man!”
Bauer’s daughter, Paula Cicchetti, remembered him differently. Recalling the “simple happy times” of her youth, she remembered that her father “called himself an old Yankee,” but to her he was “dad,” the one who made her Halloween costumes, who taught her to skate and how to drive a stick-shift car, the only one to call in a crisis. “Later he drove a school bus, and he was very proud of keeping your kids safe,” she wrote in her eulogy that was read by Heeckt.
His great-grandson, Colin Barry, bid a fond farewell to his grandfather in a second eulogy, terming him a “very humble and amazing man” as well as a patriot. “He loved his country, and he loved his town. My great-grandfather’s heart and soul belonged to Kent. He was active in town for many years and [gave his service] with honor and joy,” Barry said.
“I will use the values I learned from him going forward,” said the young man. “I will do it with honor and commitment.”
KVFD President John Russell read the “Fireman’s Prayer,” and the American Legion honor guard fired a military salute to their fallen comrade, who served as an ensign in the U.S. Navy from 1943 through 1946.