LAKE VILLAGE, Ark. — Robert “Bob” P. Schwartz, 93, of Lake Village, Arkansas, and New York City, passed away Saturday, March 14, 2020. Born on March, 10, 1927, in New York City, he grew up in the Bronx and New Rochelle before signing up for the Navy WWII V-12 officer training program. The Navy sent him to Colgate University for two years, followed by Naval flight school. After the war, he returned to Colgate to graduate in 1949, and earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan in 1952. He never lost his love for the Navy, Colgate, and Michigan.
Following law school, he joined his father’s small general law practice in Manhattan. Without a doubt, his favorite role was serving as general counsel for the A & R Recording Studio. This small studio had a big reputation and brought in well-known producers of the day like Quincy Jones and Phil Ramone. Countless musicians passed through their doors including Frank Sinatra, Judy Collins, and Billy Joel. He was passionate about music throughout his life, having learned to play both the piano and clarinet as a child, with a particular love of classical and opera.
Bob loved serving in the Navy reserves and retired as a Commander after 30 years’ service with anti-submarine patrol squadrons at Floyd Bennett Naval Air Station in Queens. His service inspired his oldest son Stewart to become a Naval Aviator, serving in anti-submarine patrol squadrons like his father.
Bob’s life was transformed in 1958 when he met Betty Sue (Bottorff) Wygant of Lake Village. Sue’s husband, Bill Wygant, a pilot and Bob’s Navy squadron-mate, died when his Pan Am airliner crashed in 1957. Bob later escorted the young widow to meet the officers and men of the squadron at Floyd Bennett. During a subsequent trip to New York, at a dinner with friends, Bob proposed and Sue said, “I thought you’d never ask.”
They were quite the pair. The Jewish New York lawyer and the Arkansas Delta beauty began a socially rich life, first as a young couple in a Manhattan apartment, and then in Crestwood, New York, just outside the City. Sue had been a flight attendant for Pan Am, traveling throughout the Pacific, Latin America and Europe, and the combination of her friends from all over the world and Bob’s Navy mates made for lively and interesting gatherings.
In 1972, the couple moved with their two sons to Weston, CT, and became a big part of the community, including Norfield Congregational Church (where Bob stood up for the Old Testament), and the Boy Scouts. After their sons left for college, Bob and Sue traveled and were regulars at Pan Am World Wings International reunions.
Bob and Sue were known for stepping in to help people whenever they could, and family, friends and neighbors knew whom to call for legal help. Bob was also known for the breadth of his knowledge, his love of history, and for his engaging conversation.
In 1986, they moved to Sue’s hometown of Lake Village, Arkansas, to be close to Sue’s mother – Elizabeth (“Jim”) Bottorff, cousins, and long-time friends. The couple continued their entertaining ways, and Bob really took to southern life including becoming a member of the Luna Hunt Club, where he was known for his beef tenderloin and particular lack of interest in hunting. Sadly, Sue passed away in 1992, but Bob continued living in the community that had become home, and looked after his mother-in-law until her passing.
Rather than sit still, Bob bought a British Morgan convertible, which became his signature.
He was always happy to share his car’s “baby book” with admirers, and always delighted in taking you for a spin. He drove the car thousands of miles across the U.S., reveling in showing up at his college and law school reunions in such style.
Bob enjoyed years of wonderful friendship and travel with Mary Virginia Watson and Frankie and Bern Keating of Greenville, Mississippi, as well as many Delta social and cultural events with Ms. Watson, the Keatings, Judy and Clarke Reed, Anne Alexander, and many other Greenville area friends. An avid reader, Bob treasured Greenville’s old McCormick Book Inn.
Diagnosed with dementia in 2012, Bob remained tough over the next eight years. Throughout this time, Gwen Caldwell-Smith of Lake Village served as a wonderful caregiver, even continuing to help care for him after he entered the Lake Village Rehabilitation and Care Center in 2016. She kept him moving, walking, and using the stationary bicycle. He often played the piano for fellow residents, and was as big a presence in the nursing home as he had been throughout his life.
The family is also grateful to Sue’s first cousin, Dr. John P. (Jack) Burge, who provided exceptional care to Bob for many years. Jack and his wife Eleanor were among Bob’s closest friends. The family is also thankful for the care provided by the staff of Chicot Memorial Medical Center, the Delta Regional Medical Center, and the Lake Village Rehabilitation and Care Center during Bob’s last years.
Bob’s wife, Sue, and his brothers Herbert and Art predeceased him. He is survived by his son, Stewart Schwartz, and daughter-in-law, Alli Alligood, of Richmond, Virginia; and son, John Schwartz, of Ridgefield, Connecticut. He will be greatly missed by all, including his friends, his wife’s relatives in the extended McGehee, Bottorff, Burge, Scott, Warrick, Burnside, and Woollard families, the extended Schwartz family, and the family of Mary Virginia Watson. Gatherings to celebrate Bob’s life will be planned for later in the year.