ROBERT CHILDRESS – MHS CLASS OF '65
Robert Childress, a Methacton High School alumnus from the Class of 1965, was a remarkable student who excelled in multiple sports including baseball, wrestling, and football.
Sadly, his promising future was cut short. Robert was killed on July 26, 1968 while serving our country during the Vietnam War.
But his story doesn’t end here. Robert’s courageous sacrifice in defense of our freedoms has made him an American hero, forever remembered and honored.
Today, we have the opportunity to hear from those who knew Robert and to learn more about his remarkable life and legacy.
Pictured (L-R): Dick Custer, Chip Kreiger, Denis Rees, Mary Ethel Migan, Joe Natalini, Spike Christman, and Bob Jones.
MARY ETHEL MIGAN – HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEART
Bob and I were couple when he was drafted and later killed.
I remember at his funeral, I couldn't bring myself to go up to the front with the family, and his dad came and got me from the back and had me come to the front with the family. I will never forget that. His dad was a very nice man. Bob's mom introduced me to people as her daughter-in-law, and that meant so much to me.
He was the love of my life and is still the love of my life today.
SPIKE CHRISTMAN - CHILDHOOD FRIEND & TEAMMATE
I first met Bobby when we were about 12 years old. Bobby lived on Hollywood Avenue, and I lived on Clearfield. Now I want to tell you, I was a coach at North Penn for 35 years coaching high school football, and I have been around many athletes, and he was maybe one of two of the best I have ever seen. Bobby had an arm like a flat-out cannon. He was an excellent, excellent baseball player. He was not only a great baseball player but a great wrestler also. He played on the football team as well. He was the whole package. He had balance, strength, and ability, just the perfect athlete.
Again, he was just a special athlete and a special person, and myself being around athletes my whole life…well, I just wonder what he would have become if he wasn’t killed.
Our childhood was great. As soon as you came out of your house back then, you had an automatic baseball team with all the other neighbors. There were kids everywhere. We played all day until our parents called us back in to eat.
We used to hang out at the local bowling alley on Ridge Pike. One time I showed up, and I see Bobby outside the bowling alley, shimmying up the column outside backwards. You can just imagine the strength it takes to do that.
Bobby was very smart and very fluent in German. It was just a special time at Methacton. Our athletics was one of the things that put Methacton on the map.
The draft was something that was just a part of growing up. We all knew about it. You just never heard or felt the pain of losing a friend who was killed in Vietnam. You always heard of them being drafted, but not killed.
The funeral was like something I had never seen before in my life. There was the motorcade of course, but all of South Trooper turned out. Roads were closed. Just nothing I have ever seen in my life.
CHIP KREIGER - CHILDHOOD FRIEND & TEAMMATE
So, I lived on Oakdale Avenue and Bobby lived on Hollywood Avenue. Well, the first thing I can say is that no one ever threw a baseball harder than he did. He was an excellent all-around athlete but an amazing baseball player. Once, I saw him hit the hardest hit baseball ever. The player on the other team caught the ball, but that’s because the ball got to the player before he even knew the ball was coming. He just didn’t even see it coming to him. Bobby just looked at him and couldn’t believe he caught it. He just turned and walked back to the bench with a small grin on his face and a look on his face thinking to himself, ‘How did he catch that ball.’ It was the hardest ball I have ever seen hit. Bobby could have been a starting pitcher, but he was so afraid he was going to hit someone. I don’t know if you know it, but he was a great wrestler too. I think he was undefeated one year in wrestling and went to the finals I believe.
I think of him often. I often wonder where he would be today after going to LA if he wasn’t drafted and sent to Vietnam.
JOE NATALINI - CHILDHOOD FRIEND AND TEAMMATE
Well, I played baseball with Bobby for years. We played for the Perkiomen Twilight League. It was a league for years 18 and above. I said to our coach and manager, ‘You really have to see this kid play’. They started warming up and then Bobby was told to go full speed ahead and show what he really had. Well, he showed what he had, and after one hit and throw, the coach said, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?’ I mean his throw from 3rd base to 1st was like a rocket. Soon after that, scouts were coming out, and the rest is history…he was off with the LA Dodgers and went to spring training.
What I would say about Bobby is that he was a ‘Diamond in Disguise’. Bob was a person and a player who didn’t know just how good he was. He just didn’t know.
I’m just getting emotional just thinking about it right now. I remember the day he was killed like it was yesterday. I learned he was killed while I was at working at McCoy’s in Norristown. A co-worker of mine went home for lunch, and came back and said you won’t believe it, someone from Methacton was killed in Vietnam. We went down the list of guys who we knew were over there and we got to Bobby’s name, and my co-worker said yes, Childress, that’s him. I was in just shock.
JIM COSTELLO - CHILDHOOD FRIEND & TEAMMATE
Bobby was a great athlete. What was so amazing about Bobby was that he read the actual books on wrestling and learned how to do different holds and techniques. He showed his coach, and his coach had him demonstrate to all of us other wrestlers. He taught us the holds and maneuvers, not the coach. The coach was so impressed with him.
Bobby and I climbed the gym rope backwards. I hope you can picture what that looked like. Our heads were towards the floor and our feet were toward the ceiling. When we got to the top we also used the ceiling beam to cross over to the other rope to come back down. He was really strong.
Bobby was just a great guy. He was a quiet guy. Great athlete. He would have been great at whatever he did. He was always fun. Never unhappy, always smiling. This is just so unfair what happened to him.
DENIS REES - CHILDHOOD FRIEND
We were all neighbors on Hollywood Avenue. What I can say about Bobby is that he was a natural athlete. He was the whole package. He had the leadership qualities, the athleticism, and the intelligence. We lived in a time when all of the houses on the street were little but there could be 5-6 kids to a house. Every day was a day to just go outside and play and you instantly had a full team of kids to put together a game. Sports were so important to us all growing up.
It was a time when we would come out and play all day and wait for our parents to call us back in for lunch or dinner or whatever. It was a great childhood. We had so many kids on that street, so we always had something to do and someone to do it with.
LINDA HOOD - CLASSMATE & FRIEND
Well first, what I can say is that Bobby was an extremely great athlete, an extremely great athlete! Bobby was a very pleasant guy. A very quiet guy. He always had the biggest smile. Bobby… how can I put this; he was just a genuinely nice person. A good man.
One memory that I have is that he loved The Rolling Stones. Whenever he was in the car, he would look for them on the radio. He loved listening to them.
I was so happy for him when he went to LA. It is just not that easy to get into the majors you know. I think of him frequently.
I remember the day he was killed like it was yesterday. I remember my husband at the time, coming home and telling me that Bobby was killed. We were just devastated, just devastated. It was such a shame, you know?
BOBBY JONES - CHILDHOOD FRIEND & TEAMMATE
I played baseball with Bobby in Little League, the Kneehigh League, for Methacton High School, and the Perkiomen Twilight League for guys 18 and above. I pitched and played short stop for Methacton and Bobby played third base. Now, I was a Senior and Bobby was a Junior, me graduating in 1964 and he 1965. After high school, Art Bustard the coach/manager of the Perkiomen Twilight League, recruited Bobby to come and play for the team. If I recall correctly, Bobby played for the Perkiomen Twilight League for about 6 months until he was drafted by the LA Dodgers.
Bobby was a great teammate. He had all the tools you needed. He could hit, run, throw, and he had the God-given ability to get to the Major Leagues. If I recall, he was an excellent wrestler.
Bobby was a quiet guy and a very nice guy. He was an excellent athlete. He was extremely strong. Nothing really seemed to bother him. He was just a happy-go-lucky, nonchalant type of guy. He was a good wholesome individual. Guys like Bobby who are that good of an athlete tend to not know just how good they really are, and I don’t know if he knew he was that good.
I had heard Bobby was killed through the grapevine, and it was a shock. A shame. We will never know how things would have turned out if he had gotten the chance to play in the Major Leagues.
DICK CUSTER - CHILDHOOD FRIEND
Living across the street from Bobby since he was 3 years old built a friendship for me that lasts a lifetime. Bobby, his brother Bruce, and Den were the closest thing to brothers that I had over the years growing up. With an average of 4-5 kids in almost every house on a block of over 50 houses his childhood always had the capacity to fill the field at the end of the block for a baseball or football game. Bobby’s natural skills for the games we played were amazing. We looked up to him as a role model.
The last time I talked with Bobby, we were sitting under a tree in my front yard after he returned from advanced infantry training two days before he was to report back for a flight to Vietnam. He wanted me to talk him out of going back. I think he knew it would be a one-way trip. That was the last time I saw him. We got the word of his death while we were in Army Bootcamp. It was a scary time for young men.
Bobby would probably be embarrassed with this recognition. Hopefully, this spotlight will serve as inspiration for the kids that play sports and study at Methacton to achieve beyond what they thought possible. I can’t speak for him, but I would want [the] legacy of his short life to be one of humility, achievement, and most of all, sacrifice for our community and nation as we live our free way of life. Yes, some gave all…
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