World War II veteran celebrates 100th birthday and military and community service

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World War II veteran Robert Kittner at the River Hills Golf and Country Club on June 12, where he celebrated his 100th birthday with family and friends. (Photo credit: Linda Chion.)

By Linda Chion

With family and friends at the River Hills Golf and Country Club in Valrico in June, World War II veteran Robert Kittner reveled in the celebration that marked his 100 years of life.

It was just one of many birthday celebrations for the Bloomingdaleian resident, whose life’s missions and adventures have taken him to places near and far, guided by his enduring beacon of faith. When asked to reveal her secret to long life, Kittner didn’t miss a beat.

“Don’t take yourself too seriously,” he said.

What is serious, however, is his record of service, beginning with Kittner’s enlistment on December 8, 1941, the day after the surprise Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, which precipitated the nation’s entry into the world. Second war.

Kittner at the time was a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he studied engineering. He would eventually earn a degree in business administration and make a career in the hospitality industry, which would take him to live in many countries including Lebanon, England, Belgium and India. A senior executive at Sheraton Hotels, where he worked for 24 years, Kittner began his career designing, building and managing a ski lodge in Vermont.

As Kittner said, he “used the war to get out of trouble.” As a flight instructor in Albany, Georgia, Kittner trained French pilots, and to avoid being killed he said he “went to the company commander and asked him if he could transfer me to the real war, which he did”.

Kittner was stationed in the remote Aleution Islands in Anchorage, Alaska, a fiercely contested battleground in the Pacific Ocean. He would later serve as a general’s aide-de-camp. Over the years, Kittner has served as a high school ski coach, church deacon and Rotarian and has served on the boards of libraries, college, medical center and the Calvin Coolidge Association.

An active member of St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Valrico, Kittner recounted a close call he had while flying in bad weather while serving in the United States Air Force, finding the “one place that was free to land” before the wind stopped and his plane. went straight down to a nearby island.

“That’s when I really started to believe in God,” Kittner said.

A father of six, grandfather of 11 and great-grandfather of 13, Kittner celebrated his centennial on June 1 in River Hills on June 12. This followed the cake ceremonies at St. Andrew’s and preceded the receipt of a proclamation from Hillsborough County Council of County Commissioners, which is scheduled for July.

“What you see is what you get with my dad,” said longtime Bloomingdaleian Shirley Tucker, who also noted her father’s longtime service to the regional library board of Bloomingdale’s. “He’s always been a good person, and he likes to do things for other people and get involved in a lot of things, and I think that’s part of what kept him going for 100 years.”

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