More than a half century ago, a young Navy ensign and Stanford University graduate raised his right hand, listened to the words to support and defend the U.S. Constitution, and said “I do.”
Robert “Bob” Crowell, 74, who died on Sept. 12, never stopped helping his constituents. The Carson City mayor retired from the Navy as a captain after 23 years of service including a tour aboard a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam; he led a distinguished career in public service; and he worked tirelessly for his fellow veterans either out front or behind the scenes.
Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford said he was shocked with the news of Crowell’s death.
“He was such a fine man with great character,” Tedford said. “You could count on Bob to be a voice of reason. I always enjoyed sitting down and talking with him. It could be after a meeting or sitting in the halls of the legislative building. It was just always nice to talk. He led his city through many difficult times, after 2007 and this 2020, with strong leadership leaving Carson City very vibrant now.”
Tedford said his thoughts and prayers as well as those from the city of Fallon go out to Crowell’s wife Susan and their family.
“Nevada, Carson City, and I will certainly miss Bob Crowell,” Tedford said.
Crowell served in the Navy and Navy Reserve for 23 years and retired as a captain. During the Vietnam War, he was a lieutenant JG (junior grade) aboard the destroyer USS Waddell off the coast of Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. The Waddell supported both American and South Vietnamese troops with gunfire support and conducted offensive operations against the Viet Cong.
Retired Navy Capt. Brad Goetch commanded Naval Air Station Fallon from 2001-2004 before becoming Churchill County manager. He said Crowell followed Navy issues and at least two to three times a year, the Carson City mayor addressed the air station’s Navy League chapter. As county manager, he said their paths crossed often, and both community leaders discussed water issues, growth of their respective areas and economic development.
Goetch said Crowell attended Navy League events at the Frey Ranch and, sometimes, a monthly dinner.
“He would be involved with presenting awards to sailors," Goetch recounted. “He supported the Navy and NAS Fallon.”
As a veteran, Crowell belonged to the Vietnam Veterans Association 388 and the Carson City Council of the U.S. Navy League, and he made an impact with each one. For several years, Crowell delivered the keynote remarks to commemorate Veterans Remembrance Day at the end of every March and assisted with projects promoting the Vietnam veterans.
“He was very pro VVA,” said Tom Spencer, president of the Vietnam vets’ organization.
The Moving Wall is a scaled replica of the Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington, D.C., and came to Carson City in 2012 and Minden in 2018. Crowell addressed the Minden audience.
The Take Me Home Huey project came to the Carson City Community Center almost three years ago. The Light Horse Legacy with its traveling Huey helicopter, a colorful ambassador from the Vietnam War, focuses on veterans who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other afflictions and are looking for a way to reach out for information or help.
J.R. Stafford, president of VVA Chapter 989 in Reno, said Crowell was among four mayors including Tedford who read the names of Nevadans killed in Southeast Asia at a Vietnam War Veterans Remembrance Event and All Veterans Luncheon on March 30, 2019. Stafford considered the reading of names a solemn part of the event.
Clarence “Bud” Southard said Crowell was the original president of the Carson City Navy League in 1984. During his time with the Navy League, Southard said Crowell became involved with the scholarship program and recognition of sailors at NAS Fallon. Scholarships were named after contributors to the program such as the late Capt. Ray Alcorn, who was commanding officer of NAS Fallon in the late 1980s and moved to Carson City after his retirement.
Katherine “Kat” Miller relied on Crowell’s knowledge and experience when she became director of the Nevada Department of Veteran Services. She said Crowell took the time to inform her about Nevada veterans and the issues affecting the military. According to Miller, Crowell formed one of the first community veteran coalitions in the state which also supported Minden and Gardnerville.
“I was lucky on a personal note to have a leader like that to turn to,” she said, adding he was a person who would roll up sleeves and ask, “What can we do?”
Miller said Crowell possessed the connections to make others aware of needs such as housing, medical care or behavioral health. People didn’t see Crowell tirelessly working behind the scenes, Miller said.
“He made suicide prevention an open, out-front conversation,” she said.
At the Nevada Rural Counties Retired and Senior Volunteers Program in January 2018, Crowell and other speakers discussed veteran suicides at the “Reaching for Zero: A veteran appreciation and veteran lunch,” and how the number of suicides is still too high. Speakers discussed the programs and training that are continually being implemented to assist residents and medical health professionals with suicide awareness prevention.
Crowell and former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, both Navy veterans, said the state continues to add programs to help all veterans. Upon hearing of Crowell’s death, Laxalt said he always enjoyed working with the mayor on different issues.
Glenna Smith, now a public affairs officer with the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System, first worked with Crowell when she handled veterans’ concerns for Sen. Dean Heller. She first became acquainted with Crowell at Navy League meetings, and had considered Crowell a good source for information.
“I’d have various veterans’ cases of concern, and I would need his help,” she said, citing one incident to help a Vietnam veteran who was on the verge of dementia. “He (Crowell) had the ability to call people to get to the crux … how can we help?”
Congressman Mark Amodei and Crowell belonged to the same law firm until Amodei became president of the Nevada Mining Association in 2007. After Amodei was first elected as congressman in 2011, he worked with Crowell on military issues with the Veterans Affairs Reno Office (VARO).
“Bob was full of grace with how he handled military issues,” Amodei said, pointing to the mayor’s ability to be a problem solver. “I see those guys who are strong mayors on both sides of the aisle. They are laser focused.”
Jon Yuspa, director and founder of Honor Flight Nevada, said Crowell was involved in myriad activities ranging from the dedication of the Gold Star Families Memorial in Sparks to supporting veteran causes. He said Crowell and his law firm were passionate about Honor Flight. Yuspa said the law firm presented a check to the Vietnam project, which specifically raised funds to take Vietnam War veterans to Washington, D.C. for several days to visit the nation's war memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.
In June 2015, the inaugural flight departed with the vets buckled in for the trip from Reno to the nation’s capital.