Robert (Bob) James Kent, 80, passed on to his next adventure on Sunday, Oct. 8, after a valiant fight with Parkinson’s disease for 17 years. Even as the disease intensified, he faced it with optimism and grace. He often said, “Today is the best day I’ll ever see again, and I’m not going to waste it worrying about the future.”
The son of the late Preston McKinney Kent and Hilda Clear Kent, Bob was born in Glade Spring, VA, on April 15, 1943. He grew up in the rural Southwest Virginia town where he roamed the hills and pastures with his friends, creating fun and mischief that he would later mold into wonderful stories for his friends and family.
After graduating from Glade Spring High School, he attended Emory & Henry College in Emory, VA. Later he obtained his associate’s degree at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, where he also spent more than a decade in his favorite job as an instructor in the engineering department. With a reputation as a tough teacher, he loved knowing that he was educating students for successful careers.
His other career pursuits included working as a radio announcer at WBBI in Abingdon, VA, aspiring to work in the recording industry in Nashville. When the Vietnam War broke out, he moved to Newport News with a group of friends to work in the defense industry at Newport News Shipbuilding, where he worked for 19 years as an electronics technician and an instructor in the Apprentice School. After his tenure at TNCC, he worked as a senior network engineer at Fort Eustis through various contractors for 14 years.
After his retirement, he loved spending time on his computer deep into the night, writing missives on social media about his deeply held spiritual and political beliefs. Bob served as chair of the board of deacons, choir member and committee member at Hidenwood Presbyterian Church. For decades he was a “Friend of Lois Wilson” and was involved in local, state, and national service work helping teens and adults whose lives had been affected by family members’ alcoholism. He spoke all over the country sharing his experience, strength, and hope.
Bob’s greatest joy and accomplishment was building a loving family with his wife, Gail Benge Kent, for 40-plus years. He was the father of three sons, Abram (Jasmine) of Hampton; Jordan and Nathan, both of Newport News; and the grandfather of Cheyenne, Monty, and Gabriel. He adored his two older sisters, Ruth Cheek Moss (deceased) and Doris Cheek Frazier of Woodbury, TN. He is also survived by 10 nieces and nephews and numerous great- and great-great nieces and nephews.
The family would like to thank the many friends and family members who have supported us throughout the course of Bob’s illness, especially in the past year as his health declined. We also thank the care teams at The Hidenwood Retirement Community, where he lived for the past month, and at Interim Healthcare & Hospice.
A celebration of life and reception will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21 at Altmeyer Funeral Home-Denbigh Chapel at 12893 Jefferson Ave., Newport News, VA 23608. The service will also be broadcasted at https://vacremationsociety.com/obituary/robert-james-kent/
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research at https://www.tmcfunding.com/funds/in-loving-memory-of-robert-james-kent/8540/