This past Wednesday, June 1, a longtime member of St. Andrew’s, Robert Kittner, celebrated his 100th birthday. I had the privilege of sitting with Robert and his daughter, Shirley Tucker on Tuesday. It gave me an opportunity to hear him reflect upon some of the big questions of life. Shirley also provided me with a background of Robert’s amazing life. So, you could say that this blog post is co-authored by Shirley, as well.
If you have not had the pleasure of meeting Robert, he is a distinguished gentleman who attends the 8:15 a.m. service faithfully. He started attending St. Andrew's with his wife Nance back in 2008. Robert is a kind and humble man who has lived a life of service and adventure. He was born in Clifton, NJ spending summers at his grandmother’s hotel in Ocean Grove, NJ. Both his parents and his grandmother insisted he attend church. Because of this, his faith in God has remained with him throughout his life.
I asked him about the most influential person in his life and he named his father. He was firm and loving to Robert, but also willing to make sacrifices for his children. Robert believes that his parents' decision to sell their home and move to a better school district for Robert’s high school years was a pivotal moment in his life, influencing his future careers. Following high school, Robert entered college majoring in mechanical engineering. After two years he enlisted in the Air Force. During this time in the military, he served as a flight instructor as well as flying C-47s. He was eventually assigned as an aide -de-camp to General Davies and promoted to 1st Lieutenant. He achieved this position because of his outstanding ability to fly by instruments. This was necessary due to the winds and turbulent weather that characterized the Aleutian Islands, where he was stationed.
After he left the military, he finished his degree, moved to Vermont and built a ski lodge called the Wits End. Eventually he landed with Sheraton Hotels, quickly moving up to international positions, and spent the next twenty years living in England, Lebanon, India, Belgium, and then England again, and served as VP of South Asia.
I asked him what lessons he had learned throughout his long life. He said, “Don’t do things you will later have to apologize for. Always have a heart for service.”
Throughout his life, working and serving with humility were aways the focus. I also asked Robert what he was most proud of and he responded that he had not done anything he regretted. Amazing words for someone who has lived so long.
When I asked him what the secret to a happy marriage is, he responded, “sharing.” He explained this response by saying that at some point in his life he and his wife Nance started sailing together. It was their shared passion for which they actively pursued. After they retired, they went every summer and sailed the Mediterranean, dry docking the boat at the end of their stay and then returning the next year and continuing their journey. They did this for 13 years.
Robert is so grateful to God for the life he has lived. He has been blessed with a large family with six children: Lee (Shirley), Smokie, Chuck, Julia, Margaret and Mac; eleven grandchildren; twelve great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Robert continues to deeply love God and serves in various ways. I asked him what makes him most happy these days and he said, “doing anything that reflects God’s creation.” Robert, you are an inspiration to us all.