Robert Lee “Van” Vannatter, Jr., died peacefully in his sleep at home in Scotts Valley, CA on Monday, August 27, 2012. Born in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia on March 8, 1921, he was 91 years of age.
Van's strong work ethic began early on; he dropped out of high school to work in the coal mines to help support his family. After the war, with assistance through the G.I. Bill and attending the University of Dayton, Van became an engineer by profession, and worked in the aerospace industry in Burbank and Sunnyvale, CA for more than 35 years.
During WWII, while still a teenager, Van became an original member of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He jumped into Normandy, later fought at the Battle of the Bulge, then jumped over the Rhine, among the first of the Allies to enter Germany. At wars end, he was reassigned to the 82nd Airborne Division as part of the occupation forces in Berlin. Among his decorations were two Bronze Star Medals and, recently, he and his family were honored at the French Consulate of San Francisco when he was awarded the French Legion of Honor “for his heroic efforts in the liberation of France during the earliest hours of the Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944." Being the recipient of this prestigious Chevalier (Knight) medal, he would shyly respond to "Sir Van."
Until recently, Van lived in retirement for many years in Pleasanton, CA. Although quiet and independent, he had many friends. Father, grandfather, and admired by everyone who knew him, Van will be missed but never forgotten.
Van was predeceased by his wife, Avis May Whitlock (1935-1975) who he met in San Diego, CA, and married in 1953. They had three children who, along with their spouses, survive Van: Michael Vannatter (Betty), Hawthorne CA; Susan Vannatter-Prang (Greg), El Dorado Hills, CA; and Daniel Vannatter (Sharon), Scotts Valley, CA. He is also survived by three grandchildren, Lauren Vannatter, and Eric and Anna Prang. The oldest of seven children, Van is survived by one sibling, Glenna Robinson, Olympia, WA.
Please join us to celebrate Van's life at a public ceremony at the Veteran's Memorial Building, 301 Main St, Pleasanton from 1 – 4 PM on Saturday, October 6, 2012. All friends and fellow Veterans are invited to attend.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, or the Salvation Army.