Capt. Robert C. Peniston, U.S. Navy, retired, died on Aug. 2 in Lexington at age 91.
Born in Chillicothe, Mo., on Oct. 25, 1922, he entered the U.S. Naval Academy from Wichita, Kansas, in June 1943 and graduated June 1946 as a member of the class of 1947. On Dec. 21, 1946, he married Frances Elizabeth McKelvy, and over the course of a 53-year marriage raised two children, loved three grandchildren and lived in 12 different locations.
His first assignment upon graduation was aboard the USS New Jersey (BB-62). During his naval career he served aboard nine ships, the New Jersey twice, and seven shore stations. He was privileged to serve as navigator of the Presidential Yacht Williamsburg during the presidency of Harry S. Truman. He served as commanding officer of four ships: USS Savage (DDG-19), the battleship New Jersey, and the guided missile cruiser USS Albany (CG-10).
Shore station assignments included two tours in the Bureau of Naval Personnel; the Naval War College, first as a student in the Command and Staff Course and then as aide to the president of the college; staffs of the Atlantic Command and Atlantic Fleet as assistant chief of staff of operations; and the Naval Education and Training Command.
He earned a master’s degree from Stanford University in 1958. In his first tour of duty in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, he served as aide to Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in 1957.
In June 1976 he retired from the Navy and joined the staff of Washington and Lee University as director of Lee Chapel and was made an honorary alumnus of Washington and Lee, the fourth person to be so honored. After retiring in June 1998, he worked in Special Collections in the University’s Leyburn Library and transcribed over 3,000 handwritten letters of Robert E. Lee for the university’s archives. He also guest lectured to classes on the subjects of military and American history, and was a tutor and mentor for students in the community.
Throughout his life he was such a positive influence for so many as he lived his life with all the virtues of a true gentleman, officer, and a citizen. He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, oldest brother to five siblings, and a good friend to many.
He had two children, Robert Carl and Lisa Lynn. He was predeceased by his son in April 1975, a senior at Washington and Lee University, and his wife Frances in 2000.
Survivors include his daughter, Mrs. Lisa Sieg, and her husband, Mr. Patrick K. Sieg, of Rockville, Md.; three grandchildren, Robert, Erica and Stephan; and his siblings, Dr. Francis Peniston, Mr. John Peniston, Mrs. Shirley Read and Mrs. Lila Hole of Missouri and Mr. Dan Peniston of Kansas.
A graveside service will be held on Saturday, Aug. 16, at 11 a.m. at Stonewall Jackson Cemetery.
For those wishing to make a gift in his memory, contributions may be sent to: Washington and Lee University Special Collections/ Development Office, 204 W. Washington St., Lexington, VA 24450.
Arrangements are by Harrison Funeral Home & Crematory, Lexington.