Bob Daley was sixteen years old when he learned that his brother had been taken prisoner by the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula. Too young to enlist, Bob falsified his birth certificate and joined the Marines.
At seventeen, he landed with the 4th Marine Division on Saipan. Carrying a BAR, he stumbled across a T-97 Medium Japanese Tank and took its inhabitants prisoner, which was forbidden by his sergeant because of the danger; out of 25,000 Japanese on Saipan, fewer than 1,000 surrendered. Nevertheless, the Japanese tank commander Bob took as POW spoke perfect English, and many years later Bob would run into him again.
Bob was eventually ordered home from Saipan after another brother was killed in action in Europe.
Bullet Bob Daley didn’t hesitate. Of course he would do it. That’s how easy it was to get Bob to come in on a chilly April day to sit for yet another oral history interview.
During the spring of 2013, Winchester-Thurston School students in US History and Advanced Placement US History worked to gather and interpret the memories and stories of Pittsburgh area veterans who served between 1941-1973.
The students completed intensive preparation, including workshops on the oral history process, lectures on special considerations when interviewing veterans, active listening, and oral history ethics. From there, they learned about the context of their veterans’ service and collaboratively developed a list of interview questions.
Using the stories they collected as a window into the human dimensions of war, combat, military service, etc., students worked to select meaningful moments, memories, or stories from their interviews, and to analyze and interpret the history they collected.
Of course, Bullet Bob’s interview was a standout. What impressed the students the most was his candor. Bob’s a great story teller, but he’s honest, too—about the fears and doubts he had during the war. And while he’s known for telling it like it is, he didn’t forget that he was talking to young people—many of whom could never imagine the world at war that Bob experienced at their age.
Robert W. “Bullet Bob Daley of Mt. Lebanon, passed away on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at the age of 86. “Bullet” truly lived life to the fullest; each day was filled of love, exuberance, happiness, and song. He defied his age, keeping a schedule in which few could compete exercising daily, singing, and volunteering his time and experience to various veteran organizations.
Beloved husband of the late Regina Brockett Daley; devoted father of the late Doni Popovich and Sean Daley; son of the late John and Elizabeth Daley; brother of Agnes Corbett, the late Frank Daley, Paul Daley and Ruth Hildum; proud grandfather of Geoffrey D. (Eva Roman) Popovich and Joshua D. Popovich; great grandfather of Henry R. and Gabriel R. Popovich; father-in-law of John M. “Jay” Popovich.
Bob was honored to have served his country in World War II in the United States Marine Corps as a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) man in the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. He fought in the Battles of Saipan (at the age of 17) and Tinian. Bullet was proud of being a Marine and was the Commandant of the Marine Corps League Detachment 726, Bethel Park, until his untimely death. He was active in and past Commandant of American Legion (Post 760, Bethel Park).
Bob found his calling with a keen design eye after his active service, and was the owner of Bob Daley’s Drawing Board, excelling in designing home and commercial interiors. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he designed and redesigned the interiors of several Pittsburgh area McDonald’s restaurants and the interior of the McDonald’s Tour Bus.
Bob also hosted a series of design shows on WQED and was a guest speaker on local TV stations. He was a Design Instructor at local colleges, including Duquesne University, Carnegie Institute and Community College of Allegheny County. Bob was a member of the South Hills Chorale, and was often called upon to sing the National Anthem at many veteran funerals.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in Saint Bernard Church. Interment will be private. The family suggests memorials in “Bullet Bob’s” honor be made to the Marine Corps League Detachment 726, P.O. Box 533, Bethel Park, PA 15102.
Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Feb. 7, 2014
Bullet Bob’s Eulogy
It is my true honor to be able to speak to you today about our beloved friend Bullet Bob Daley…and my sincerest prayer that my words are worthy of the man.
I first met Bob Daley several years ago in my volunteer work with an organization called the Veterans Breakfast Club, a wonderful organization where Veterans gather monthly to tell their stories. I was volunteering as an escort for a group of WWII Veterans on a trip to New Orleans and the National WWII Museum. I knew the travelers would be senior citizens and was prepared to assist them as needed. After we checked into the hotel, some small groups were being organized to go sightseeing. I was escorting a small group to Bourbon Street, making sure no one fell, got dehydrated or had any other mishaps that could occur with seniors. Out of the group emerged one Vet who announced he was going to Harrah’s Casino. No sightseeing for him! And he marched off down the street by himself ramrod straight and never looked back. I asked my friend, who is that? She said, “That‘s ‘Bullet Bob.’” It was that moment I knew Bullet Bob Daley was not your typical senior citizen.
That evening at our group dinner he announced that he had arranged to have a “prayer meeting” after dinner at the hotel. I reverently showed up at the assigned meeting room to find a table with soft drinks, ice, cups and a few Bibles provided by the hotel. On another table in the room was a bottle of whiskey, a case of beer and some wine. Bullet brought the meeting to order with a short blessing, a toast to raise glasses and offered the first story of the evening. He and the other Vets regaled us with jokes, songs and tales of their adventures. I was smitten with him that very night.
I learned while talking with him on that trip that he had recently lost his beloved daughter , Donnie, to cancer just a month earlier and in addition his wife Gina and son Sean, passing away a few years earlier as well. He described a lifetime of loss and suffering that occurred for him in a few short years. Events that would have taken a lesser man down. But he said to me, “I don’t know why I’m still here darlin, but there must be a reason.” There were many, as I was to learn.
That February he and another Marine accompanied me on volunteer adventure at the Pittsburgh VA hospitals for the National Salute to Veterans Patients’ Week. We visited three hospitals in two days and talked with over 400 patients. I was delivering Valentines dressed as the “Queen of Hearts” and sharing words of encouragement with patients. It was a long, draining day on our feet, but Bullet’s stamina and energy amazed me. He invited me to be his guest that night at his club, the America Legion. It was a Friday and I was asked to draw the Friday number in a weekly contest to win cash. “Sure, go ahead darling,” he said. To everyone’s’ amazement, I pulled Bob Daley’s number! He won some cash and I won the guarantee of our friendship, as I became his lucky charm, and he mine. We played Bingo together at the Legion most Tuesdays and stayed after for popcorn and a “keister” as he called a drink. They were happy times, talking about life. He educated me in bar etiquette and wouldn’t allow me to chew gum at the bar or drink beer from a bottle. Sounds old fashioned—some might take offense, but I took it that he cared about me. I accepted his advice and tutelage as I would my own father. And told him many times over the last few years that I wished he was my dad. I hope I filled a void for him as a surrogate daughter these last years for he certainly was a father figure I had always wanted. I treasured the times he told me he was proud of me and took it as a great compliment when he told me” I drove like a man” and he’d go anywhere with me behind the wheel. He wasn’t easy with compliments, so when they came, they were earned and deserved.
During our chats at the bar he told me many stories. You see he was a member of our greatest generation: those who protected our country as patriots in WWII. After the death of his beloved older brother in the Bataan death march, young Bob couldn’t wait to enlist in the Marines at age 17. He went to the local Parish to get a replacement for a smudged birth certificate that would enable him to enlist. When the elderly priest had trouble reading the book of baptism records, young Bob said, “let me help you Father” and provided him with an improper date to make his age on the document appropriate for enlistment. He told me as he walked up the beaches of Saipan on that first day, he was never so scared in his life, for not only had he lied to a priest to get there, but he had lied to God to serve his country. He was devout in his faith as a Catholic and I believe God forgave him his transgression and in fact watched over him to return him home so that he could be an example of American patriotism and an inspiration for others. It was during his time on Saipan that he gained his nickname “Bullet.” Over the years, I heard two stories, one that had bullets shooting at his head in a rain storm as he emerged from a rain poncho seeking fresh air and the other of him approaching a Japanese tank full of courage but no bullets, yet gaining control of the enemy within. He became a rifle expert in the Marine Corps and said he was such a good shot because he didn’t want to get” cracked in the helmet” by his commanding officer every time he missed a target. But no matter how many versions of the stories were told over the years, he remained steadfast and never wavered in his love for America, his reverence for the Flag and his devotion to the Armed Forces Service men and women who protect our country with their service.
I first heard him sing the National Anthem at a VBC meeting. He stood in front of the filled banquet room and reverently asked everyone to stand. Then proceeded to lead us in the most heartfelt rendition of the Star Spangle banner I had ever heard….A cappella, full of feeling and bravado, without changing the integrity of the song. He complained to me often how pop singers destroy our beautiful national anthem with their renditions. “People should just sing it”, he’d say,” the way it was meant to be sung.” That’s what he did, 100s of times at every VBC meeting, at community events and school functions; Inspiring listeners each and every time with his simple, strong, heartfelt patriotic delivery. It brought tears to my eyes every time I heard him. He loved to sing and was in regular attendance for Karaoke at the American legion once a month, entertaining the crowd with Nat King Cole and Sinatra classics and singing duets with his friend Mark O’Brien. The highlight of the evening: his rendition of “My Way,” a mantra for his life. He was a member of the South Hills Chorale and was so proud of the concerts this group performed. I was never as proud of him as last spring when he sang a solo of his favorite Irish song, “Danny Boy,” When he finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. He sang it from his Irish heart.
Saint’s preserve us! He was a proud Irishman! And at the young age of 85, he began marching in the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade with his friend Dick Rush. He was planning on doing it again this March, only this time wearing a kilt I had brought him from Scotland. He had been dieting, drinking lite beer, so he could fit into it on the big day. He was a member of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians and no one wore their green more proudly than Bob Daley. He could slip into an Irish brogue and tell a joke or two with a twinkle in his Irish eyes as easy as slipping on an old pair of shoes. What a sense of humor he had! HE was sharp as a tack. His wonderful sense of humor and quick wit often had me and many others in laughing in stitches. I will miss that so very much . . .
After the war, Bob studied to become an architect and designer. He owned his own business in the West End for many years and was proud of his design work around our region. He was an intelligent, creative man who liked to see things done right. No cutting corners, no slouching, no mistakes. “Not on my watch!” he would say. Was he hard to work for? Probably. Demanding in his requests? Yes. Compassionate and understanding? Not really. But could he get the job done? You betcha! His “get it done right” approach to all tasks–from planning a Marine Corps Ball to making his bed every day–came from his training as a Marine. He said, “It makes you tough, darlin. It teaches you to do things properly. ”
Just last year, at the young age of 86, he became Commandant of the South Hills Detachment of the Marine Corps League. This past Wednesday night, he was to be reinstated for another term. He was so proud of his Honor Guard and their work in the community. His wore his uniform proudly, always neatly pressed and clean. Even when not in uniform, he always wore his Marine Corps leather jacket, WW II hat, Marine Corps ring and gold lariat with the Marine Corps insignia on it. One Tuesday, in the quiet of a Bingo game, waiting for the next number to be called, his phone rang, blasting the Marine Corps Hymn as his ringtone. My God, he was a Marine!, through and through. Semper Fidelis was his life. Whenever we would be out, people would approach him and thank him for his service, shake his hand, buy him a drink, or lunch, stop to chat with him about the Marines or WW II. He basked in the unexpected gratitude from strangers and would often say how humbled he felt by it and that he was just doing his duty.
I was so inspired by his zest for living–his energy and activity. He was busier than most people half his age. I ask you, was our Bob Daley, at age 86, preparing for the end of life? Hell no! He exercised three times a week at the JCC, went to choir practice every Monday, played Bingo every Tues, Shake Rattle and Roll every Thursday etc, etc. He faithfully attended meetings of all his organizations every month. My goodness: He just bought a new car two months ago AND was planning his dream trip to Ireland in June. Just last Thursday night, we made plans for this coming St. Patrick’s Day.
This is a man who epitomized the phrase, “Carpe Diem.” Seize the Day! Seize life out of every minute! Overcome the pain of crooked arthritic fingers, sore feet and eyesight problems… Put the painful memories of war aside, move past the grief of loss and suffering and live life with gusto! He was such an inspiration for us all! But believe me, he was not without his moments of loneliness and sadness, and grieved for his wife and children. But I tell you, that under that hard-nosed, stubborn, right-winged Republican, crusty old Marine exterior, was a tender- heart that wanted to be loved. I loved him and my heart is broken to lose him.
You know, in this crazy mystery called life, God puts billions of people into this world to express His love. And during life’s journey, paths cross and people come in and out of our lives for many different reasons. I am so grateful that Bullet Bob Daley came into my life. I hope I made some small positive difference for him in these last few years because he certainly made a huge positive difference in mine. You are all here today because Bob Daley crossed your path in some way and he made an impression on you. And whether you called him Bobby, Bullet, Bob, Commandant, or Mr. Daley you were all part of his journey through life. The greatest tribute we can pay him is to remember him, talk about him, toast him, tell his favorite jokes and stories, and sing his favorite songs. That would make him happy, that would make him smile and his Irish eyes twinkle. So just a few phrases for him of a song, that to me, will always be Bullet’s song:
And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way,
“Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way”
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way
And right about now he’d be saying to me “Judas Priest, darlin, enough already. You’re embarrassing yourself.” So, I’ll end by saying rest in peace our beloved friend. Semper Fi!
–Written with love by Kim Adley- February 7, 2014