“War is hell. Everbody loses, and nobody wins.”
Robert Riethmiller shared that sentiment freely, but if you asked him about his experience on the Pacific Islands during World War II, he’d be less likely to talk about the brutal parts of his experience than he would something that would make you laugh . . . like the time he and a couple buddies tossed a British major into the Pacific Ocean.
Robert grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During the war he served with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard along the Atlantic coast and in the Pacific. For many years after the war, Robert and his wife served as volunteers at VA hospitals throughout Western Pennsylvania.
In My Own Words
Listen to Robert Riethmiller’s complete audio interview, hosted by Kevin Farkas. An archival version of this interview is available upon request for research and educational purposes.
The Final Story
It is the end of an era with the passing of 98 year old Robert E. “Cootie Bob” Riethmiller (1915-2013) of O’Hara Township on Sunday, July 7. After retiring from being a floor coverer, he dedicated his life to helping other veterans.
He was a World War II veteran having served for over four years in the 111th Infantry of the 28th Division in the Pacific Theater. His service to other veterans began in 1969, when he became Commander of VFW Guyasuta Post 709 in Sharpsburg. After serving as the Commander of VFW Allegheny County Council in 1972, he transferred all his energy to volunteering at Highland Drive VA in Pittsburgh, Heinz VA in O’Hara Township, Deshon VA in Butler and several nursing homes where veterans were housed.
On many patriotic holidays he visited hospitalized veterans wearing his Uncle Sam suit. He was one of the founders of the Sharing and Caring Program which treats area veterans to a boat ride every September, becoming the first treasurer of the group. During the 1980s, Cootie Bob was instrumental in getting the psychiatric patients from Highland Drive VA taken on off-station trips in Ohio, West Virginia and around Pennsylvania. That is when he acquired his nickname of Cootie because this program was sponsored by the Military Order of the Cootie. Bob had been Seam Squirrel (Commander) of Pup Tent 29 for several years. He made a patriotic float depicting a veterans’ graveyard which he entered and pushed throughout many local and state parades.
He was the National VFW Representative to local VAs and the Pennsylvania Representative for Southwest Veterans Center for the Society of the 28th Division. In 1986, he was named Pennsylvania VFW Volunteer of the year. By the time he retired from hospital work in June 2008, he had accumulated over 48,000 hours of voluntary service to veterans.
Surviving are Doris, his wife of 71 years; his son, William, of Sharpsburg; his daughter and son-in-law, Bobby and David Egelston, of Oakmont; five grandchildren and four great- granddaughters. Funeral Service will be followed by military honors at the graveside in Allegheny Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the VFW National Home in Eaton Rapids, MI.
Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from July 8 to July 9, 2013
Robert Riethmiller / ‘Cootie Bob’ dedicated life to hospitalized veterans
By Ann Rodgers Pittsburgh Post-Gazette