Robert Knowles Slaven II passed away unexpectedly at an area hospital on Dec. 3, 2020, following complications from a heart procedure. Bob was born in Blue Hill, June 26, 1936, the eldest son of Ruth Hinckley Saunders Slaven and Robert K. Slaven. He was a beloved son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, friend, sailor, naturalist, historian and storyteller. He was curious about the world around him, an avid reader, traveler and supporter of his community. He was deeply loyal to his family. Most of all, he was kind, and decent and good.
He is survived by his wife, Linda Slaven, his son Robert K. Slaven III of Tucson, his daughter Merrill B. Slaven Brache and her husband, Gerry, of Orland. He also leaves behind a beloved grandson, Merrin Brache, and step-granddaughter, Emily Brache, along with many cousins, nieces and nephews.
Bob spent his early years with his mother and grandmother in the family home on Pleasant Street, in sight of the clear, blue waters of Blue Hill Bay, while his father was in Europe with the war effort. Bob attended local schools, including three years at George Stevens Academy, before the family moved to Long Branch, N.J., where he finished up his senior year, and where he and his lifelong friend Harvey Stein wrote the senior play. He next attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in naval engineering in 1958. That experience set the course of his life, and the friendships forged there were lifelong. He was also following in the footsteps of his father, a merchant marine and career Army officer. Bob had said that he served for and with some extraordinary officers, and was fortunate in the skippers with whom he went to sea; he enjoyed good duty stations and challenging assignments afloat and ashore. He reminisced that he’d forgotten what it was like to be seasick and scared, but remembered clearly the change of command ceremonies, returning home from deployments and patrols, the sharp horizons at star time and some wild liberties in exotic ports as a young bachelor.
Capt. Slaven enjoyed a satisfying and varied 28-year naval career. His duty stations included submarine school, Polaris missile training, and time on the submarine Grenadier (SS 525) out of Key West, where Tennessee Williams lived next door. He patrolled out of Holy Loch, Scotland, in the Patrick Henry (SSBN 599), and was on the sub staff for two years in Naples, Italy. He spoke fondly about the joys of living on the Bay of Naples. He served as executive officer first in Irex (SS 482), then Halfbeak (SS 352). It was while stationed in New London, Conn., in 1963 that he met his future wife, Linda T. Bickford of Providence, R.I. They loved going for drives in his Austin Healey 3000, one of his several classic cars. Their son Rob was born in Groton, Conn., in 1964 while Bob was at sea. Their daughter Merrill Bickford was born in Naples in 1967. In 1971 came duty on the submarine staff in New London, followed by a brief stint in Greenfish (SS 351) to turn her over to the Brazilian Navy. In 1974, he joined the small Navy contingent on the Joint Targeting Staff in Omaha, Neb. A hard assignment for a man with the sea in his blood. He earned his master’s degree in international relations from Creighton University while in Omaha. Next was an assignment to Rota, Spain, where he was executive officer in the submarine tender Canopus (AS 31). In 1980, Bob was sent to Washington, D.C., for an OPNAV tour, followed by two delightful years as Commander Naval Activities in England. He ended his naval career with a return to Washington in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, working on the START talks. He retired from the Navy in 1986 and joined the “beltway bandits” in Northern Virginia for 10 years, working in the Defense Support Industry.
Capt. Slaven’s personal decorations include the Legion of Merit (two awards), the Joint Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal. Throughout his long and varied career, Blue Hill was constant. Summers were spent visiting his parents in the old stone house, always filled to overflowing with family and friends. In 1997, he followed his dream to return to Maine, and build a retirement home on the shore, on land his grandparents had quarried for granite. His hometown has strong maritime traditions, and Bob was very proud of his deep Blue Hill roots, tracing his ancestry to one of the founding families, as well as to early settlers of Deer Isle, Surry and Lincolnville Center. Following in a long line of seafarers, he was happiest at the helm of his sailboat, salt breeze in his face, clear skies overhead. In retirement, Bob kept very busy, involving himself in the community he loved so much, including volunteering with the local chapter of the Navy League, the Blue Hill Historical Society, Friday Forum, Friends of Blue Hill Bay, Lunch Bunch, Colloquy Downeast and the Jonathan Fisher Society. He was a friend of the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, having a strong sense that the wild beauty, history and culture of his hometown was worth protecting. Bob was also an avid reader, and supporter of the local library where his mother, Rudy, was a librarian for many years. Bob loved his family, friends and neighbors generously. He had a treat in his pocket for every dog, was quick to smile, lend a hand or invite you in for tea. He is deeply missed. If you are so inclined, raise a glass to this good, good man and to a life well lived.
Friends and family are invited to attend a celebration of Bob’s life this summer in Blue Hill, COVID-dependent. Date to be determined. An announcement will be made in the Weekly Packet. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Blue Hill Heritage Trust, Blue Hill Library or the kids sailing program at Kollegewidgwok Yacht Club.