The Great Puma

World's Greatest Grandfather The Great Puma World's Greatest Grandfather

The World's Greatest Grandfather



     Robert Bruce Stirling, former Navy pilot, newspaperman, Foreign Service officer, and the World's Greatest Grandfather, passed away peacefully at home and surrounded by his family on Sunday, March 3, 2002.  He was 80 years old.

World's Greatest Grandfather - The Great Puma

Bob Stirling, as he was known during his long and varied career, was known to his family and extended family, including the friends of his six children and fourteen grandchildren, foreign exchange students, political refugees, and other newcomers to America, as "Puma".  He was a man of great intelligence and integrity, a generous spirit, and he had an extraordinary sense of humor.

Puma was born in Romeo, Michigan in 1921, the son of a stone carver who brought his family to America in 1909.  After enrolling at the University of Michigan,where he was a reporter for the Michigan Daily, he enlisted in the Navy in 1942, and served his country as a fighter pilot, flying F6F Hellcats and F4U Corsairs, through the end of the war in 1945.

The World's Greatest Grandfather - The Great Puma - Robert Bruce Stirling
Puma wearing Stirling Clan Tie

Puma returned to the University of Michigan in 1946, where he met Mary Jean Congdon, who was also returning to the University of Michigan after serving with the Women's Army Corps in Europe.  They met at a bus station in Detroit while waiting for a bus to Ann Arbor, were married in April 1946, and were together for 56 years. Mary, also known as Ba, is The World's Greatest Grandmother.

After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1947, Puma came to Tucson as a reporter for the Tucson Daily Citizen in 1949.

During his 13 years at the Citizen, he wrote news stories and features about life in Tucson, including a series of articles about the adventures of the Stirling family--Bob and Mary and six kids--on a three-week tour of Mexico in an old Volkswagen bus in 1957.  Puma won the Arizona Press Club's award for best feature story in 1957 for a series of articles about the Titan missile silos located around Tucson.  He also once famously declared an unexpected holiday for Tucson schoolchildren, writing that Tucson schools would be closed on Columbus Day, when in fact the schools were open.  He remained with the newspaper until 1961, when he was appointed to the United States Foreign Service after John Kennedy was elected President.

Puma worked as an assistant press attaché at the American Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1961 through 1965, and as press attaché in Tegucigalpa, Honduras from 1965 through 1966.  From 1967 through 1969, he was stationed in Phu Cuong, South Vietnam, where he was during the Tet offensive in 1968, and then in Go Cong province in the Mekong River Delta, where he was engaged in Psychological Operations.  After the first moon landing in July 1969, Puma displayed the first "Moon Rocks" brought to the earth by NASA astronauts at exhibits in cities all over the world.

Puma left the Foreign Service in 1970 and returned to Tucson, where he was employed as the editor of the Tucson Territorial newspapers, until he went to work with Marvin "Swede" Johnson at the University of Arizona in the area of University Relations.  Among his other responsibilities, he was the editor of the University publications "Lo Que Pasa" for University faculty and staff, and "Jubilacion" for retired University employees.  Puma served as President of the Tucson Press Club in 1981, and he retired from the University of Arizona in 1982.

A lifelong Democrat and unrepentant liberal, Puma was politically active throughout his life.  He served for many years as a Democratic precinct committeeman in Tucson, and was also a member of the vestry at St. Michaels and All Angels Episcopal Church and later at St. Andrews Episcopal Church. He was proud of his service to his country in the Navy and in the Foreign Service.  He confronted adversity and controversy with unwavering integrity.

World's Greatest Grandfather

Puma is survived by his wife, Mary; and by his six children, April Romo de Vivar, Penny Johnson and her husband Don, and Robin Kottabi and her husband Parviz, all of Tucson; Mercy Duenas and her husband Sergio of Guadalajara; Robert Bruce Stirling II and his wife Deborah of Phoenix; and Scot Stirling and his wife Ann, also of Phoenix.  He also leaves 14 grandchildren: Ricardo Maduro, Agustin Romo de Vivar, Mercedes Wilkins, and Robert Jones; Amber Johnson and Aaron Johnson; Leila Kottabi, Parisa Kottabi, and Arian Kottabi; Vanessa Duenas and Marcela Duenas; Ryan Flannery; and Holly Stirling and Robert Stirling; and four great-grandchildren, Riche' Jones and Robert Jones, and Lexus Wilkins and Brandon Wilkins.  Puma is also survived by his brothers and sisters: Jackie and Jack Essa, Janet Whitmore, David Stirling, Angus Stirling, Annette Sternaman, and Martha Ray.  He was preceded in death by his father and mother, Oliver and Honora Stirling, brothers, Oliver Stirling, Harold, and Peter Stirling, and sisters, Edith Hall, Norah White, and Frances Stirling. Other beloved members of the Stirling extended family include Claudia Vasconcellos Schwartz, and the Hai Nguyen family and Duong Van family of Tucson.

A Memorial Service will be held at St. Andrews Episcopal Church on March 16, 2002 at 11:00 a.m.  In lieu of flowers, the Stirling family would be honored by any act of charity or random act of kindness in his memory.

Tucson Daily Citizen News Story

UANews News Story

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