On June 5th, 1952, Robert John Caufield, the fourth child of longtime Valley Stream residents John and Dorothy Caufield was born at South Nassau Communities Hospital. Robert, educated in the Valley Stream School District, early in life determined that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather (FDNY) and his brother Dennis (VSFD) by being a firefighter. After graduation in 1970 Robert joined the V.S.F.D., becoming Lieutenant, Captain in Hook and Ladder Company #2, and Warden in the Department.
Robert demonstrated a perceptive ability to comprehend the theory and mechanics of electricity, its means of physical distribution and its value to serve humankind. Bob was therefore naturally drawn to his life’s very fulfilling and satisfying profession, as an electrician and joined the “International Brotherhood of Electrical Worker’s – Local 3”. That day in 1975 that Bob was sworn in was one of the happiest and memorable days of his life recalls his sister Pat. That confident feeling of pride, exhilaration and delight in being a member of the IBEW would remain with Bob throughout the 49 years of his tragically shortened life.
In 1981, Rob’s marriage to Valerie Kolnberger, coupled two of Rheingold Breweries of Brooklyn, New York’s most recognizable and well-liked families. Robert and Val remained loyally deep-rooted in Valley Stream throughout the personal loss of life tragedies in both their immediate families.
Valerie recalls her husband’s persona was so extremely rare, he never raised his voice, never became vengeful, nor did he ever speak harshly of anyone, and he never stopped smiling with his bright white toothy grin. Corvettes, model trains and home-built rockets, together with jet skiing took much of Bob’s free time, but he always set-aside time to help his friends out with an obstinate electrical project. Rob truly enjoyed social interaction with his immediate and extended family, and he very much treasured his family pets. Valerie’s striking smile is now replaced with the heartache of sorrow and sadness as Val recalls the many tender and loving times they shared together as life’s best friends.
Bob’s sister Pat, adoringly recalls the special kindness and understanding she and Rob shared, “To know Rob is to love Rob, and everyone did”, My brother Robert is definitely God’s exceptional and extraordinary gift to me. Bob’s brother, pal and confidant, Dennis, a NYPD first grade detective and VSFD Fire Chief unexpectedly and tragically succumbed to a massive heart attack at the young age of 46. Robert and Dennis were always together, a pair of bookends, indivisible. Rob’s eldest brother, Doug, dotingly recalls that Robert was especially blessed with the gifts of compassion, thoughtfulness, nonviolence and diplomacy. “Robert never allowed a harsh word to be spoken between us,” Doug recalled, “We loved, respected and appreciated each other to much for that.” Robert worked in the World Trade Towers only two or three days each month during the past twenty years, but he loved every minute he was there. He often said, “It’s so hard to believe that I even get paid to work here, in these spectacular and beautiful Twin Towers.
Mary and Ronnie Breuer of Valley Stream fondly reminisce: Lake George, Valley Stream Central High School Graduations, Central’s Proms, Corvettes, Terry-o Pub, Celine Dion, Christmas music in July, Home Depot, Saw Creek, jet skis, bologna sandwiches on white bread with mayo and a glass of milk, immediately followed by potato chips and then some form of chocolate (in that order), P.J. Harper’s, Mitchell’s hamburgers and chocolate ice cream sundaes, Coors Light in a wine glass (a must), fifteen different pairs of sun and eye glasses, a smile as wide as the ocean, had to be last to give his dinner order in a restaurant because he wanted to know what everyone else was ordering, a laugh that was contagious, and a camera in hand at every event. These are just a few of the things that best describe our friend Bob. He probably is the most serene person I have ever known or will know, Bob was certainly someone you wanted around in a stressful situation. He took an interest in everyone he met or was introduced to and he would never forget a face or the name that went with it. Likewise any one who met Bob, even just once, he left them with a good impression. Bob gave a gift to everyone that didn’t cost a dime and that gift was a smile. My favorite quality about our Bob was his ability to listen and really care about what you were talking about. He always had to know your name, whether it was the waiter waiting on you in a restaurant, the man who pumped gas in his car or the woman taking his reservation at the Depe Dene Resort in Lake George or Saw Creek Rentals in the Poconos. He has a way of making you feel special.
Larry Robinson, a lifelong school chum of Bob’s, recalls that after 40 years of cherished friendship, “I never saw Bob get angry, never! He always managed to bring laughter with him, no matter where he went; I miss him very much.”
“Every morning we would speak to each other via cell phones on our way to work, this was our special time to talk and listen to each other about our lives.” recalls Jim and Denise Cuccias of Valley Stream. We miss most Bob’s characteristic smile, the laughs, and having him walk into our home saying “unnnnnnnnnnnbelievable (his favorite expression). Our entire family misses him every single day, and will never ever forget our special friend Bobby, who we have known since elementary school.
Bob will always be remembered as a unique, exceptional and special friend by his bountiful sphere of friends and acquaintances in Valley Stream, reminisces Kathy Edel, recalling that Bob went to every Central High School Graduation for the past 30 years, “he felt it was an alumni’s responsibility to support the graduating classes”. Therefore it was most fitting and appropriate that his friends and family established the “Robert J. Caufield Memorial Scholarship” to financially assist Valley Stream Central High School students in pursuit of a career in the Construction Trades.
On September 11th, 2001, Bob was taken from us and our hearts were shattered.
We feel so blessed to have known Rob, and have so many fond memories of our lives that delightfully joined together. Robert was always there for us. Until we meet again Rob, you will be here in our hearts now and forever – always.