NAUGATUCK — Robert L. Genovese, 77, husband of Rosemarie (Nickweiler) Genovese, passed away on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 at St. Mary’s Hospital VITAS Innovative Care Unit.
Born in Waterbury on February 12, 1942, he was son of the late JamesVincent and Jean L. (Paszel) Genovese. Bob attended St. Hedwig’s Grammar School in Union City, graduated from Naugatuck High School in 1960 and from Mattatuck Community College in 1978 with an associate’s degree in business management.
In October of 1960, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was trained as an accounting and finance specialist. He saw duty in Texas (1960-61), Germany (1961-65), Delaware (1965-66), Vietnam (1966-67) and was honorably discharged with the rank of staff sergeant at Griffiss AFB, New York in October 1968. Decorations and awards he received include the National Defense Service Medal, the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnam Service and Campaign Medals, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm. He served with the 38th TAC Missile Wing in Germany and the 366 TAC Fighter Wing in Vietnam, both of which received Outstanding Unit Citations and Presidential Unit Citations during his tours of duty. He was nominated for the Airman of the month at Sembach AB, Germany (1964), and was selected for that honor at Dover AFB, Delaware in 1966. He has received the State of Connecticut Wartime Medal for service in Vietnam. He was also inducted into the “Order of the Silver Rose,” a society of Vietnam veterans that have service-connected conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange.
Except for the eight years in the military, he had been a lifelong resident of Naugatuck. Upon return from the service, he worked briefly as an accountant for Uniroyal. He decided that accounting was not the career he wanted to pursue, and embarked on a career in sales. He started as an encyclopedia salesman for Grolier, then sold roofing and siding for Tilo of Stratford. Next was a stint as a furniture salesman/deliveryman for Androphy’s Furniture in Naugatuck. All these jobs were learning experiences. When offered a position as a sales associate for Sears in 1972, he took it. He worked at the Waterbury store for eight years and was honored as Salesman of the Year in 1978. While employed at Sears, he co-chaired the United Way fundraising drives for five years.
In 1980, he was offered and accepted a regional sales manager position with White Laboratories of Orlando, Fa. In 1986, due to illness which made it impossible to travel, he was forced to retire. After several years, he was able to return to the workforce, and in 1991 was hired by then-Mayor Edward Bergin of Waterbury as a job developer for the employment training and grants homeless program, where he worked until the end of 1995. A few months later, Commissioner Eugene Migliaro of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, hired him as a veterans service officer to work in the Waterbury Office of Advocacy and Assistance. In December of 2003, the illness which resulted from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam returned, and a decision was made to retire. In 1989, he started a part-time home business (GENCO) out of his home, but in 2003 he was forced to close due to illness.
Bob joined the Naugatuck Veterans of Foreign War Post 1946 in 1972 and started to become active in issues that concerned veterans. He served as the Post commander from 1988-1989, and held several other offices at the Post. While commander, he organized bloodmobile drives with the American Red Cross and began a senior advisory committee at the Post in 1988. He also succeeded in getting the Post involved in the filming of the movie “Jacknife,” starring Robert DeNiro, Ed Harris and Kathy Baker. Props from the Post home were used as extras during filming in Meriden and Cromwell. The name of the Post appears in the closing credits of the movie. In 1991, Bob was honored as VFW Post 1946 Veteran of the Year.
He served as commander of the Union City Chapter #11 of the Disabled American Veterans in 2002-2003 and was a life member of the DAV Chapter 47 in Windsor Locks. He was a member of the Catholic War Veterans Post 708, American Legion Post 17, Italian American War Veterans, Monaco-Carlino-Strano Post 1 in Hartford; AMVETS Post 43, Derby; life member of Veterans of the Vietnam War, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 0251 in Milford. In 1991, Bob served on the board of directors of Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Victims, Inc. based in Darien. The agency aided Vietnam veterans and their children who had illnesses related to exposure to Agent Orange during Vietnam service. He was a co-founder of the Veterans Who Care Committee, which was a benevolent veterans organization based in Naugatuck. He served as president and chairman of the board of directors from 1988-July 2009 at which time the organization disbanded by unanimous vote of the board of directors, many of who were disabled veterans. The organization sponsored holiday food programs each year providing gift certificates to needy veterans and their families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Bob was also a member of the Naugatuck Elks Lodge 967 and served as chairman of the Americanism Committee and on the Veterans Remembrance Day Committee. In 1999, he was honored by the Elks National Veterans Service Commission as their veteran volunteer for 1998-99. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus Ojeda Council #33 and served as deputy grand knight in 1980. A member of the St. Hedwig Church, he served as president of the Holy Name Society in 1995. He served as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society for several years, and in 1991, he was recognized as “Outstanding Citizen” by the Naugatuck Jaycees.
In 2001, Bob was honored as a Vietnam veteran along with two others from World War II and Korea in an event honoring “Heroes Past and Present.” The Naugatuck Exchange Club honored him in 2007 with the Citizen of the Year award for his dedication and service to the town of Naugatuck. In 2008, Bob was honored by his selection of grand marshal in the States Veterans Day Parade held in Hartford. He was joined by his grandson, Bobby, who had just returned home from the U.S Army advance individual training graduation in Arizona.
Bob was awarded the Franklin E. Johnson, Sr. Citizenship Award in 2011and also received the Robert and Anna Lee Van Allen Medal from the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls. In 2012, he was honored by Naugatuck Elks Lodge 967 and the Grand Lodge of Elks with the Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award. Also in 2012, he was one of six alumni of Naugatuck High School to be honored for the dedication and commitment they had shown to the community of Naugatuck, given by the Alumni Association. In 2014, the national commander of the Italian American War veterans presented him with a certificate of appreciation for his dedication to our nation’s veterans.
While in the Air Force in Germany, Bob met and fell in love with his wife of 56 years, Rosemarie, and they have resided in Naugatuck since 1968. They have three children, Anthony and his wife, Irene, Michael, and his wife, Gina, and Michelle and her husband, Christopher; five grandchildren, Robert and his wife, Carla, Jaime-Lee and her husband, Tom, Rachel, Tabitha and Tyler; and great-grandson, Matthew Vincent Galasso; his siblings, Veronica Erickson Summo, and James and John Genovese. His oldest grandson, Robert James Genovese, joined the U.S. Army in 2007, completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Miss., and at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., with the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion, and was then deployed in January 2009 with the 1st Infantry Division for service in Afghanistan. He returned June 2009 and was deployed again in January 2011. He returned to Fort Knox, Ky., in 2012, and was honorably discharged in March 2013. Bob was extremely proud of his grandson for serving his country. His son, Anthony, who is Robert’s father, served in the U.S. Army from 1982-1987 as a crew chief on Blackhawk helicopters, and worked for Sikorsky Aircraft after receiving an honorable discharge for a service connected disability. Bob was also very proud of his son’s service.
Family and friends may call on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Naugatuck Valley Memorial/Fitzgerald-Zembruski Funeral Home, 240 North Main St., Naugatuck. Members of the Naugatuck Veterans Council are asked to please meet on Monday at 6 p.m. A graveside service with full military honors will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 11:30 a.m. at St. James Cemetery, Cross Street, Naugatuck.
To send an online condolence, visit www.naugatuckvalleymemorial.com.