Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Bob's History

Gone But Not Forgotten

SansomSm.jpg Robert Lewis Sansom passed away on December 21, 2008 at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Wash. He was there awaiting a stem cell transplant as part of his courageous battle with a rare form of leukemia which had begun in late February.

Everyone who knew Bob can well imagine how bravely he fought this cancer over the years. In spite of many setbacks, his optimism that he could somehow heat it prevailed until the end. It was the love, support, and above all, the prayers from his many friends and family members that gave him the strength to combat it each day. Now he is at peace, resting at his beautiful and dearly loved Rapidan Valley Farm in Madison County, VA.

Born in Johnson City, Tennessee on July 17, 1941, Bob grew up with three brothers in the Knoxville countryside where he was active as a Boy Scout earning Eagle Scout rank. He wasn't the best and the brightest in high school but his abilities were percolating until he enlisted in the US Air Force at Lackland as an Airman Basic in 1959 before beginning the academic preparation he was to receive at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Bainbridge, MD. Here the fire was lit and Bob went on to a noteworthy career at the Air Force Academy and its 13th Squadron. He was number one in his Class of 1964.

He went on to obtain degrees in economics from Georgetown University and Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar (New College), and received a Fulbright Scholarship and a White House Fellowship. In the ‘70s, he served on Dr. Henry Kissinger's National Security Council and as the Assistant Administrator for Air and Water Programs at the US Environmental Protection Agency. Later he would transition to the private sector, founding Energy & Environmental Analysis and Energy Ventures Analysis, consulting firms based in Arlington, VA. Simultaneously he combined the Sansom family mining tradition with his entrepreneurial skills and won the legal and community support he needed to open Virginia Vermiculite Ltd., in Louisa County, VA.

In 1983 he and his family moved into their mountain house in Greene County, VA that he had built with wood and rock from his land. This was followed by his purchase the next year of nearly 1,000 acres of working farm on the Rapidan River. Thus began a pattern of weekends at home which he maintained for 25 years. He oversaw the management of a 200-head cow/calf operation and the production of corn, soybean, wheat and hay crops.

He took great pride in “cleaning out the river” with his loader and putting the sand and gravel on the farm roads including those he built up the mountainsides. Because he so loved this life on the land, his wife, Karen; their two sons Todd and Tyler; his daughter Sarah, and his three grandchildren are dedicated to continuing the operation of the farm in his memory.

The family very much appreciates the many letters of condolence received from USAFA graduates, each with special and unique recollections of Bob. Contributions maybe made in Bob's name to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Virginia Chapter, 5511 Staples Mill Road, Richmond, VA 23228 as well as to local blood drives.

(Written by Bob's wife, Karen, Gone But Not Forgotten, Checkpoints, March 2009)
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