Robert N. Altounian
8-3-1913 to 12-26-2015
After a long, full life with family and friends at his side, Robert (Bob) Altounian passed away at the age of 102, following a brief illness. He is survived by his beloved family: daughter, Laura Duffy and son-in-law, David M. Duffy, M.D. of Redondo Beach, daughter, Lynn Regenstein, son-in-law, Kent Regenstein, grandchildren, Paige R. Schwartz and Jonathan Regenstein and his great grandchildren, Logan, Olivia and Roxanne, all of Atlanta, Georgia.
Born in Samsun, Turkey to Dr. and Mrs. Asadour M. Altounian, Bob’s first 10 years were turbulent, and fraught with danger, shortages, war and home confinement. His family survived the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. In 1924, Bob’s family relocated to the United States, joining relatives in New Jersey, where his father continued a practice in internal medicine. Bob and his two brothers, John and Herb, were excited to begin school, something they’d been unable to do in wartorn Turkey. Working his way through college, Bob earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology and began a brilliant career in aeronautics. During WWII, he worked for the U.S. Navy in Philadelphia, designing aircraft for the Asian and European theaters. After the war, he worked on many groundbreaking aeronautical projects for Curtis/Wright. Under the employ of Grumman Aircraft, he segued into space exploration and came to California to supervise the Lunar Excursion Module project at TRW. To honor his noteworthy contributions to the LEM project, Bob was invited to attend the Apollo 17 launch at Cape Kennedy in 1971 by then Director of the NASA-Manned Spacecraft Center, Dr. Christopher C. Kraft. Additional honors include the Snoopy Award for Astronaut Safety. He retired to his Palos Verdes house in 1977, where he lived until his death.
Bob was quirky, unpretentious, wickedly funny and had a sharp, brilliant mind. He loved California and always said coming there was the best decision he ever made. He was a member of King Harbor Yacht Club and loved to sail his Cal20 in local regattas. A big proponent of physical fitness, he loved swimming, biking and was a member at South End Racquet and Health Club, where he worked out regularly with his friends for decades. His love for horses extended throughout his life, from his early days in the cavalry at Essex Troup in West Orange, New Jersey, to weekly visits to his daughter’s horse at PV Stables.
Bob always enjoyed an active intellectual life. He loved reading, especially at the Malaga Cove Library, where he could often be found brushing up on his two favorite subjects–history and investments. He attended summer concerts in the park there as well. He loved watching sports on TV with his neighbors, The Scafatis.
A true example of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation,” Bob’s life and career bridged the gap between his deprived beginnings to his significant contribution to one of the world’s most important science projects, the race to the moon. He will be missed by his family and all who knew him.
The family wishes to extend heartfelt thanks to his devoted caregivers, Joe and Prency. A celebration of his life will be held in in the coming months. In lieu of flowers, donations in Bob’s memory can be made to the Armenian Missionary Association of America, 31 West Century Road, Paramus, NJ, 07652. Please sign guestbook at dailybreeze.com/obits