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Robert J. Horak, U.S. Navy Veteran (U.S.S. Walke DD-723), Pilot, Sportsman, Adventurer and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award recipient. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award is named for Charles Taylor, the pioneering mechanic who is created with building the engine that the Wright Brothers used in their first airplane. It is awarded to senior aviation mechanics with over 50 years of excellence in the industry. Robert was also a member of The Society of Experimental Test Pilots and National Association of Destroyer Veterans.
Robert “Bob” J. Horak was a man of infinite talents. In his work, he was a mechanical genius. To his family, he brought a great spirit of adventure and travel, love of flying and boating and aviation and naval history. His love of nature, the seasons and great stewardship of the land and compassion for animals are an instilled legacy for all generations. To his friends, he displayed a dry sense of humor and great loyalty. In 2023, he lost his beloved wife, Joyce “Jo” of 58 years who was his high school sweetheart in their lives well lived.
Robert J. Horak was born October 11, 1942 to Jerry and Lottie (Slavik) Horak at Columbus Hospital in Columbus, NE. Robert began his school years at rural school District #11 in Colfax County. He graduated from Schuyler High School in 1961. Robert proudly volunteered to serve to our country in the United States Navy and after his active war time service and honorable discharge, he applied his natural engineering and mathematics talents to Western Nebraska College, earned his degree in Applied Science in Aviation Maintenance, enjoyed a successful career in aviation, and eventually retired from Fortune 500 company, Delta Airlines.
Robert was a Vietnam War Veteran. He enlisted in the United States Navy June 1960 and completed his Naval Training at the U.S. Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. Robert served as Boatswain Mate 3rd Class on the Destroyer U.S.S. Walke DD-723. In the U.S. Navy, the abbreviation of “BM3” indicates a Petty Officer Third Class, with the job of Boatswain’s Mate. The job of Boatswain’s Mate, called a rating in the Navy, dates to the time immediately before and after the American Revolution. It is the Navy’s oldest rating.
His active service in the Pacific also, included Hong Kong, Japan and the Russian coastline. He described the view from the top of the mountain, Victoria Peak overlooking the Hong Kong Harbor as one of the most scenic views in the world. Robert was proud of his military service and was active in veterans’ organizations throughout his life, including The National Association of Destroyer Veterans. also known “Tin Can Sailors”, which showcases contributions made by destroyers and those who served aboard them. He was also a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4836 (Schuyler, NE) and a member of the Honor Guard each Memorial Day with his brother-in-law, Frank Blazek. Robert and his wife enjoyed the camaraderie and fellowship of attending his Naval Reunions.
Robert had a love and fascination with flying since he was a little child.
A spirit of adventure shared with wife; led them to purchase the first of their two airplanes as newlyweds when he returned from serving in the Navy on the USS Walke DD-723. Robert piloted the sporty, red and white Piper Tri-Pacer, with Jo co-piloting, as they flew frequently to Texas and then continued flying to different states to explore the country, visiting numerous air shows, fly-ins and family and friends along the way, many to this day who recall flying in their plane and a bird’s eye view of the country.
Robert and wife, Joyce “Jo” then created a beautiful family with the birth of daughters, Kari and Kristy, and then the next generation with grandchildren, Elise and Carson. They treasured their family and traveled at every opportunity creating wonderful memories and traditions that will live on. To his family, he was the example of courage, kindness, pragmatism, encouragement, quick wit, and acts of service leadership.
Robert was also the consummate sportsman and relished adventures outdoors with his fellow sportsman and “Band of Brothers” Doug, Randy, Yo, Todd, and Chuck. Whether laser focused on The Memorial Muskie Tournament each September, deer hunting in the Fall, black powder-muzzle loader season in December, and even being a host guide for the 2007 Governor’s Fishing Opener– it was the camaraderie of good friends and sport that created enduring memories, treasured traditions, and a few humorous stories through the years.
Robert was also a dedicated conservationist. His love of the land and wildlife was part of his DNA growing up on a farm. He received the Nebraska Pioneer Farm Award (along with sister, Marilyn Blazek) from The Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation for long and meritorious service to agriculture as exemplified by continued ownership within the family of the same Nebraska farm for 100 years or more. “Nebraska has been enriched by the courageous pioneer spirit and loyalty to the land exhibited by members of this family down through the years.
Robert lived a beautiful life and we feel blessed to have had him these 80 years. In the words, of one of his favorite songs, “Some glad morning when this life is over, I’ll Fly Away! To a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll Fly Away! I’ll Fly Away, Oh Glory, I’ll Fly Away!”
Robert is preceded in death by his wife, Joyce “Jo”. Also, there to welcome him to heaven are parents, Lottie and Jerry Horak, in-laws, Lillian and Laddie Wirka, brother-in-law, Frank Blazek, and numerous treasured cousins. Those left behind to cherish the loving memory of Robert are his sister, Marilyn Blazek, daughters, Kari Oeltjen and Kristy (Robert) Meyer, grandchildren, Elise and Carson Meyer, Elise and Carson’s godparents, Linda Will and David Roussopoulous, niece, Teri (Rodney) Dostal, nephew, Marc Hlavac, great nephew and niece, Charles (Jacki) Dostal family, Susan (Randy) Muhsman family, great nephew and niece, E.J. (Beth) Hlavac family and great nephew, Riley Hlavac; and the blessing of amazing and supportive friends, who are truly more like family on the journey of life’s adventures these many years. Lastly, his and his wife’s much-loved beagles through the years, Scooter, Duke, Bandit and Bailey.
In lieu of flowers, memorials will support Robert’s important veteran’s charities and honor his service to our country. Memorials can be directed to the Family in c/o of his sister, Marilyn Blazek, 1617 “F” Street, Schuyler, NE, 68661