Robert Hollis Hensleigh -- aviator, inventor, entrepreneur, humanitarian, father -- was born in Iowa on April 11, 1918, and spent his early childhood in Edinburg and Kingsville, Texas. He later attended Iowa State College and the State University of Iowa, studying physics under Dr. James A. Van Allen, who later discovered the radiation belts in space.
Bob Hensleigh became a project engineer at General Motors and Continental Motors in Detroit, a senior mechanical engineer at Collins Radio Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and in 1956 he became a project engineer at Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas.
Soon Bob's rugged independence won out over common sense, as some would say. He left Bell Helicopter, striking out on his own. He established the Hensleigh Corporation with himself as president. His successful company manufactured optical and mechanical devices including lenses for NASA simulators, aircraft instrument lighting systems for military and civilian aircraft and helicopters, and even the instrument lighting system for the ultra-stylish DeLorean automobile. Bob also held numerous patents on various inventions.
He was a charter member of the Optical Society of Texas, past president of the Fort Worth Astronomical Society, a member of the Antique Aircraft Association, and a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Aviation was always a big part of Bob's life. He bought his Navion airplane (serial #11, the 11th Navion off the assembly line) new in January 1947. He flew everywhere in it even as far as the Hudson Bay and into Central America. One of Bob's pet projects involved donating his time and airplane to the service of Wings of Hope. He flew several trips into the jungles of Guatemala to deliver medical supplies, airplane parts, clothing and other necessities to the Mayan Indians whose lives had been decimated by civil war.
Bob's hobbies included photography and riding his Honda Goldwing motorcycle all over the country, even from Fort Worth to Alaska and Guatemala. He loved music of all kinds although his favorite was the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta HMS Pinafore.
Bob died July 5, 1989, after a long, full life. He is survived by seven children and four grandchildren. His oldest son Bob Jr., is a professional photographer; Linda is a business owner; Diane is a Learjet 60 captain with Bombardier Aerospace; Barbara and Lucy are both attorneys; Bert is the manager of part of a large grocery store chain; and David is a professional artist and designer.
Your spirit is always with us. We still know the words to the HMS Pinafore by heart We remember the abandoned puppy whose head popped out of your leather motorcycle jacket when you brought him home to us one night. We remember butterfly kisses and know what it is like to drive a Studebaker. We loved looking out into the dark Texas sky with one of your big telescopes and then taking the tour of Kitt Peak on our first trip to Arizona.
Have a great trip, Dad. We can hardly wait to hear all about it.