Robert Arthur Bales

Robert “Bob” Arthur Bales, 87, died peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones, on August 4, 2023, at Warwick Forest senior living community in Newport News, VA, where he shared two loving years with his later life partner and college sweetheart, Hildegarde/Hil Burke.

Bob was preceded in death by his loving wife of 60 years, Ann Elizabeth (Bell), parents Eleanor and George Bales, and sister Eleanor Hill.  He is survived by his partner, Hildegarde/Hil Burke; three children, Abby Hines (Bob) of Wake Forest, NC, Amy Jeffers (Joey) of Winston-Salem, NC, and Arthur Bales (Melissa) of Walton, KY; 17 grandchildren, Allie, Ashelyn, Charis, Josiah, Faith, Ruth, Maria, Teresa, Katarina, Gabriel, Angelina, Lilia, Robert, Cecilia, Agnes, Lucia, and Margaret; 5 great-grandchildren; siblings, Thomas T. Bales of Newport News, Patty Bales of St Paul, MN, and Jan Bales of Woodstock, GA; and additionally many very special nieces and nephews.

Bob was born in Beaver, PA, on October 28, 1935.  His family moved to Newport News, VA, in 1940, where his father worked in the shipyard.  He always talked about a fun childhood growing up in Ferguson Park.  He played basketball at Warwick High School and was a very successful Center on his team.  Also, during high school (and later college), he worked for his father at Horne Bros. Shipbuilding. 

His mother, Eleanor, encouraged him to attend college, and he chose to do that late in the summer of 1954, attending William & Mary College.  He played Basketball at W&M and was a standout high jumper on the Track team.  He won the Southern Conference high jump championship in his final two years.  Bob was an athlete at heart and loved sports, notably Golf, Basketball, and Track.

He earned his BA in Mathematics from W&M (1958) and shortly thereafter met his loving wife of 60 years, Ann Elizabeth Bell.  They met at Fort Monroe, VA, where Ann was a secretary, and Bob had his first job.  When Ann’s boss hired Bob, he told Ann: “I have hired your future husband!”  Not long after that, Bob attended Virginia Tech and earned his MA in Statistics (1962).  What followed was a long career in “Operations Research,” which is an advanced form of Statistics.  He worked for the Army and then most of his career for MITRE Corporation, developing advanced systems, most notably an airport safety system known as AMASS, which ensures that airplanes do not collide while on the runway surface. 

He personally conceived of AMASS using newer radar technology and fought very hard to make this system become a reality, which it did after much hard work (and some luck).  AMASS is deployed to 35+ airports around the USA and has saved many lives.  We can all thank Bob for his determination to make AMASS a reality, along with his wonderful work colleagues.

After spending time with his family, Bob’s favorite thing was GOLF!  He loved to play golf with his work colleagues from MITRE and with family and friends throughout his life.  He played so many golf courses that it would be impossible to count them all, but chiefly: Reston Golf Course (VA), Purceville Country Club (VA), Sapona Golf Club (NC), Salem Glen (NC), and Deer Park (VA).  He was a low handicap (2-5) for many years, and in his 70s, he beat his age many times.  He loved to compete but mostly loved the time spent with friends and family on the golf course.  In his first year of retirement, he boasted 250+ rounds of golf!

Bob also loved Genealogy and shared this passion with his sister, Patty.  He really loved to share stories of the Bales family, and he encouraged his family to write their own stories for their posterity.  Bob’s own story is chronicled in his ~100-page autobiography, which is quite entertaining! 

Bob was an integral part of all of his grandchildren’s lives.  He enjoyed taking them to playgrounds, hiking with them, playing games with them, giving helpful advice, etc.  He was a major influence in shaping their lives.

Bob lovingly cared for his wife, Ann, during her long battle with cancer.  After Ann passed in 2020, Bob reunited with his college sweetheart, Hil Burke.  Hil had lost her husband of many years and had just moved into the Warwick Forest Community.  They rekindled their college romance and enjoyed two very loving years together.  Bob marveled about his good fortune in finding Hil again, repeatedly saying: “How can it be!?”

Bob lived a full life and loved those around him dearly.  He created relationships easily and was known for his vitality, humor, puns, making beautiful birthday cards for family, playing card games, and nurturing relationships.  Last but certainly not least, he was a GREAT father & grandfather & great-grandfather! 

May he rest in Peace, Amen!

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations are made to the

The family will receive friends on Saturday, September 2, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. at Peninsula Funeral Home, followed by the Memorial Service beginning at 2:00 p.m.

Arrangements are under the care of Peninsula Funeral Home, 11144 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601.


  1. Preston Leonard

    I enjoyed playing golf with Bob. I was amazed at the quality of his play when I met him. I also enjoyed hearing all of his stories (especially about Virginia Tech).
    Everyone who knew Bob will truly miss him, but speaking for the PRMC golf group, we have lost a great golf buddie and friend.

  2. Diane Toohey

    Mr. Bales was a delightful and kind man. My connection to him was originally through Amy. Regardless of whether I saw him twice in a month or many many years between, he always recognized me and asked about me and my family. And I believed he really wanted to know. It wasn’t a formality. What a loving man! The world needs more Bob Bales.

  3. Jill Randlett

    Bob was one of the nicest people I have ever worked with. He truly shared his passion about AMASS with his MITRE team and he was responsible for saving lives when it was implemented. Rest in peace Bobby Bales, you did good!

  4. Gene Wilhelm

    Bobby was my greatest friend for more than 50 years. We shared a great love of golf and played so many rounds together that I have lost count. Most importantly he was a man of honesty and integrity. I already miss our many chats on topics affecting our lives. Rest in peace, my friend.

  5. Frank Blake

    Played golf with Bob several times in our PRMC golf group and it was a pleasure.
    We got to talk about the HOKIES and how he and his family were all fans.
    Our group will truly miss him.
    Will think of Bob when they play Enter Sandman at Hokie games.
    God Bless all of the family.

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