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Captain Robert Red Tolbert

May 14, 2020

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Captain Robert Red Tolbert, Sr., 93, passed away peacefully at home on May 14, 2020 in Lynchburg, Virginia after a brief battle with cancer.  Red was a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and friend, and he served with distinction as a Naval officer for 34 years.  He is survived by his spouse Brenda A. Cobham, son Robert R. Tolbert, Jr. and wife Patricia,  daughters Linda Tolbert, Jane Tolbert, and Carol T. Hardin, grandchildren Lauren Tolbert, Christopher Tolbert, Emily Wiltse and husband Jason, Benjamin Hardin, Sara Switzer and husband Derek, and nine great-grandchildren.  He is predeceased by his parents George Benjamin and Mary Caroline Dallas Tolbert, and his first wife of 58 years Lorraine “Lou” Hall Tolbert. The memory of Red’s love and service will be greatly cherished and honored by all who knew him.

Red was born in Columbia, SC in September 1926.  He graduated from University High School in 1943 and studied mechanical engineering at the University of South Carolina before enlisting in the Navy during World War II and completing training at the U. S. Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, IL to become a radar technician.  Red won a competitive appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy and was commissioned an ensign in 1949.

During his Naval career, Red served aboard the aircraft carriers USS Wright, USS Bennington, and as Executive Officer on the USS Yorktown.  He trained as a naval aviator and navigator, flew surveillance missions during the Korean War, served as a flight instructor at the Naval Air Station in Hutchinson, KS and later at the Naval Training Center in Panama during the Viet Nam War. He served two tours at the Norfolk Naval Base, including one with the Office of the Commander-in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and two tours at the Pentagon with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.  After retiring from the Navy in 1978, Red joined the civilian sector consulting on various military projects.

Red enjoyed an active lifestyle in retirement with many family and friend gatherings and worldwide travels.  He was an avid bridge player and continued to connect with his Naval Academy classmates by creating and managing a class website in his 80s and 90s and organizing their 70th Reunion held in September 2019. Red was a member of the Lynchburg Military Order of World War Veterans and participated in the National D-day Memorial’s 75th Anniversary Ceremony.  A memorial service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery in 2021.  Tributes in Red’s memory may be directed to the American Cancer Society, Salvation Army, or a non-profit of your choice.

Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg is assisting the family.

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