“It was either go be a Boston Celtic or join the Navy.”
That’s what Master Chief Dickey’s step-daughter, Cheyenne, says about the decision her stepdad made early in his life. It was 1950. Robert had the athletic skill, no question about that. And at 6’6”, he had the size. But back then, professional basketball players didn’t make the grand sums they do today, and besides, Robert had to help his family.
“He chose the Navy,” Cheyenne says, “and he loved it. He loved every minute of it.” When he joined, Robert decided he wanted to be an electrician’s mate, and that’s what he did for most of his 30-year Navy career, among a few other jobs. He was something of a jack-of-all-trades.
Robert was stationed in Turkey, Italy, Greece – and other countries all around the world. He crossed the equator twice, and he went through the Panama Canal. “He really enjoyed seeing those other countries and cultures,” Cheyenne says. “It was an opportunity he never would have had otherwise.” Robert served in many ships and submarines. His ship was the first on the scene when the USS Liberty was mistakenly hit by the Israelis in 1967.
He first learned about the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society after a six-week deployment to Japan. Expecting a happy welcome home, Robert instead found something very different.
His wife had decided that she didn’t want to be a Navy spouse any longer. She left him and took everything, even his car and bank account. “He came back to nothing,’ Cheyenne says, “no home, no clothing – she cleaned him out.”
“The Society helped him get back on track,” Cheyenne says. “He never forgot it, and he vowed that, when he retired, he would give back.”
Robert turned his attention back to his Navy job, and got on with his life. In 1983, he met Cheyenne’s mother, and they later married. He never had children of his own, but Robert cared for the family he married into, including five children, as though it were his own.
Later, when Cheyenne’s mother had a stroke, Robert cared for her as well, and when she succumbed to dementia, he became her primary caregiver. Even when there was no choice but a nursing home for Cheyenne’s mom, Robert visited her every day.
“That’s the kind of man he was,” Cheyenne says. “He would always tell me, ‘Just because she doesn’t remember me, doesn’t mean I don’t remember her.’”
When someone in the family got into financial trouble, when there was a death in the family, when anyone was having trouble, Robert was there. “Once you were ‘his,’” Cheyenne says, “he was always with you, always there for you.”
That’s why it’s no surprise that Robert gave regularly to the Society by allotment when he was on active duty. Neither was it a surprise when Robert left a gift for the Society in his will. He felt it was his duty to his fellow service members to give and to help however he could.
“He’d be proud to know that his gift will help Sailors and Marines for years to come,” Cheyenne says. “He was always there for us, and he was always there for the Society in that same way. Honor, duty, service to others – that’s Robert’s legacy, and there’s no one more deserving of it than him.”
If you would like to learn more about easy ways to support tomorrow’s Sailors, Marines, and their families through a gift in your will, please visit www.myimpactwithnmcrs.org.
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso