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Employee Portrait Gallery—Bobby Weeks
Reporting for Navy duty a month after securing a summer job at WHOI in 1944 didn’t stop Bobby Weeks from eventually spending 40 years at the Institution. When he returned in 1951 after being discharged as a boatswain’s mate, 2nd class, he had finished high school and earned a pilot’s license under the G.I. bill. Bobby served the Institution’s scientists, ships, and airplanes with enthusiasm until his death in 1991. His roles included mechanic, welder, rigger, machinist, aircraft pilot, and diver—he and David Owen initiated the Institution’s diving program in the early 1950s.
WHOI owned or operated five aircraft between 1952 and 1970, and Bobby flew (and serviced) them all. Missions often included spotting whales for Bill Schevill and Bill Watkins on trips that took them from the St. Lawrence River to the Bahamas. “I watched whales for 29 years,” Bobby said, including from chartered aircraft he piloted after 1970. Other airborne tasks included coastal photography, passenger transport, and meteorological and physical oceanography experiments. He described working around thunderstorms as “fun.” Scientist Emeritus Dick Backus remembers once flying backwards with Bobby over Provincetown when they encountered a stiff westerly wind there.
Bobby became supervisor of the Institution’s mechanical shop in 1974—a plaque in his honor is mounted outside the shop. Bobby’s cheerful manner and dedication were especially important when he and his crew worked long hours to prepare equipment and ships for cruises. He took a personal interest in the projects brought to him and was always ready and willing to help. Presented with a task, large or small, he’d respond, “No problem, finest kind” (and, Scientist Emeritus Sandy Williams says, “other soothing sounds that preceded making it happen.”)
Bobby’s fire department service lasted a decade longer than his WHOI service. Born in Quissett, he became a junior call man at age 14. “When I went in,” he told an interviewer, “they trained you as you fought the fires.” Beginning in 1952, he was the rescue and recovery diver for the Falmouth fire department, and he was also a commercial diver. In addition, he and his wife Doris and daughter Carolyn operated Fieldcrest farm and tack shop in Sippewissett—many young riders fondly remember Bobby loading their horses into a large trailer in the wee hours and then ferrying them to distant horse shows.