The Last Man Standing
We lost a good man the other day - one of the last of that Greatest Generation who sacrificed so much and the last surviving member of his own family. Robert Eugene Pile, born April 5, 1922, in Rolette, ND, passed from this life on June 4, 2016, in Orlando, FL. He died as he lived: dignified and in control of his destiny.
Dad had been living with my brother Jim and his wife for the last year, relocating to Florida after coming to the conclusion that he could no longer live alone and manage for himself. A series of compounding physical problems led to a hospital stay in May, followed by a stretch in rehab, where he was unable, despite his continuing persistence and unstoppable optimism, to make progress toward his goal of returning to live with family. After confirming that his affairs were in order, Dad announced on Tuesday, May 31, that he was ready to quit, and his body slowly began to shut down, completing the process at 7:15 on Saturday evening.
Bob Pile lived a life of sacrifice and service to his family and his community. From carting the local farm kids to school in a horse-drawn carriage in his youth to driving blood to blood banks across the state of ND until he was 90, he never stopped caring for and giving to others. The list of his awards and accomplishments is a testament to his dedication. A graduate of the V-12 Navy College Training Program at Northwestern University, he went on to complete training in the most advanced radio and radar systems of the time at MIT and Harvard, commissioned the USS Waukesha at Brooklyn Navy Yard, and served with the crew of that ship in the South Pacific theater, eventually sailing into Tokyo Harbor to clear the way for General MacArthur's arrival to accept the surrender of the Japanese Emperor. The Waukesha subsequently landed at Nagasaki to help clear the prisoner-of-war camps.
Dad returned from the war to a job in the agricultural extension program at the University of Minnesota, where he met and fell in lifelong love with Constance Olive Sandberg, marrying her on September 13, 1947, in Rice Lake, WI. They returned together to North Dakota where they spent some years tending to the family farm, until Bob took a job with the rural electric service, bringing electric power to farms. That job led to a 30-year career with Northern States Power Company (now Xcel Energy), from which he retired as a vice president in 1984. Bob and Connie were together until her death in February of 2000.
Bob was active in the Boy Scouts throughout his life, serving as president of the Lake Agassiz Council from 1963 -1964, and president of the Red River Valley Council from 1971-1973. He earned the Silver Beaver award for distinguished service in 1966, and the Silver Antelope Award for distinguished service in 1992. He was president of the Fargo Chamber of Commerce from 1968-1969, chairman of the Taxation Commission of the Greater North Dakota Association and later served as chairman of the board of that association from 1971-1973. United Blood Services acknowledged his contributions with a community service award in 1992, and the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity at North Dakota State University recognized him with its distinguished Alumni award in 2014. He was honored with the Heritage Award for Alumni Service by the NDSU Development Foundation in 1993 and is a life trustee of that organization. Bob was also a director of the Memorial Foundation (predecessor to the Development Foundation) in the 1960s.
He is survived by his five children: Mary Knebel, Luverne, MN, Thomas, Briarcliff Manor, NY, James (Kate), Orlando, FL, Karen, Lilian, TX, and Jean (Edward) Robinson, Hauser, ID, six grandchildren, Ryan (Amber) Robinson, West Valley, UT, Tracie Fullerton, Auckland, NZ, Dustin (Sue) Robinson, Peoa, UT, Ebon Robinson, Brandon (Denae) Robinson Post Falls, ID, Emma Pile, Albany, and Robert Pile, Millwood NY, and six great-grandchildren, Andrew, Aaron, Killion, Aida, Abel, and Lucy.
His life stands as a shining example of the difference that one man can make and is a model for a rich life of dedication to family and community. He will be deeply missed by those who knew and loved him.