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Article Published August 12, 2020

Robert Lemaire Van Houten

Robert Lemaire Van Houten, a longtime resident of Essex, died on Aug. 2 from injuries sustained from a fall at the age of 92. Robert is survived by his loving wife of 51 years, Valerie Hastings Van Houten; children Scott (Cathy) of Waldorf, Maryland, Greg (Di), of Windsor, and Peter (Kristen), of Woodstock, Maryland; grandchildren Christopher, Shadow (Angie), Sterling, Robin (Kelsey), Kensington, Connor, Katie, Xander, Miranda, Sirena, Tanner; and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his son Richard in 2015.

Robert was born on Oct. 25, 1927, in Manhattan, New York, the son of Ethel and Wilbur Van Houten. He grew up in Baldwin and Freeport, New York, learning to sail as a boy off Long Island, which quickly became his lifelong passion. While on merchant ships during summer breaks, as cadet, and later as engineering officer, he honed his craft and made his first of two voyages around the world. In 1949, Bob graduated from the US Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York as a marine engineer and ensign in the US Navy Reserve. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Troy, New York in 1951 with a BA in mechanical engineering.

From 1952 to 1954, he was on active naval duty on aircraft carriers Shangrila and Antietam. Bob and his first wife Penny settled in Simsbury and raised four boys. He became an architectural, mechanical and electrical engineer in West Hartford and along with a partner, founded Burton & Van Houten Engineers (now BVH Integrated Services in Bloomfield). Bob married Valerie in 1969 and moved to West Hartford, later settling in Essex in 1982. He retired in 1987, but continued consulting for many years until finally retiring at the age of 85.

Before moving to Essex Meadows in 2010, Bob was very active in the Rotary Club, and was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, Friends in Service Here (FISH), the Essex Garden Club, and other volunteer and service organizations. Over the years, he and Valerie traveled widely and were avid skiers. He sailed in nine Bermuda races, winning three races, including the prestigious Marion-Bermuda and Daytona-Bermuda races. In 1976, Bob, his wife, and three other crew members made a transatlantic crossing in a 38-foot sailboat from Connecticut to Plymouth, England. Bob was a gentle man of great integrity and generosity who enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, who loved him deeply. He will be sorely missed by all who had the honor of knowing him.

Due to current travel restrictions, a private memorial service will be planned for the future. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Essex Meadows Scholarship Fund or the Essex Library, Essex. To share a memory or express a condolence to Robert’s family, please visit Arrangements are by the Robinson, Wright & Weymer Funeral Home, in Centerbrook.