Robert McNiel

Robert Edwin McNiel

Wednesday, January 23rd, 1929 - Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
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Brevard – Robert “Bob” Edwin McNiel, age 90, passed away on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
He was the son of the late Charles and Irma Roberts McNiel.
Bob was proud of his military service with the Marines. He was with the Texas Highway Patrol for 15 years. He graduated from Baylor University with a degree in Science and Physics. He worked for NASA where he helped facilitate research in on landing on the moon. He enjoyed traveling, hiking, canoeing and spending time with family and friends.
Survivors include his wife of 36 years, Karen Barkley McNiel, two sons, Randy and Lawrence McNiel and two daughters, Robbye Patterson and Jackey McNiel.
Graveside services will be held 2pm, Thursday, March 19, 2020 at Blue Ridge Gardens of Memory.

Online condolences may be left at

Moody-Connolly Funeral Home and Crematory are caring for the family.
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Service Details

  • Service

    Thursday, March 19th, 2020 | 2:00pm
    Thursday, March 19th, 2020 2:00pm
    Blue Ridge Gardens of Memory
    994 Hendersonville Hwy.
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
  • Interment

    Blue Ridge Gardens of Memory
    994 Hendersonville Hwy.
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Al Connarn

Posted at 03:51pm
These were the good old days:

I first met Bob at the JDSRF, a research station outside of Alice Springs, Australia in 1972. As singles, we lived on the base with about 100 other guys and gals. We were coddled, living in BOQs - bachelor officer quarters. We had a beaut swimming pool at our disposal, a nice bar, a good cafeteria and a tiny golf course.

Typical costs: a pint of aussie draft beer was 25 cents, a grand meal in the cafeteria, including salad, a cheese plate, filet minion or salmon and veggies, and desert was 80 cents. Or that meal with a bottle of nice OZ wine was $1.50. And we were paid handsomely - our regular LA engineer’s salary plus bonuses of about 60%.

Most of the yanks tried to emulate our host country’s speech and clothing. For instance, I tried to speak ‘Strine’ and wore the popular shorts and knee-length socks. Bob, however, being a former Texas Highway Patrolman, stuck to his drawl and wore Levis, cowboy boots, and a fancy long-sleeved shirt, even in the desert heat. He was entertaining then, and remained so thereafter.

A few years later, both of us left OZ for the CONUS but then returned. I married by best friend Daughn in the Alice, and Bob was my best man. I remember he was nervous before the ceremony, so I supplied him with shots of a liquid from his native country, called scotch whisky. Calmed him down.

We would go running in the outback with his newly-acquired best friend, Karen. After the run, we would cool down at his apartment in town with orange juice. Except that it was diluted with a lot of water to cut the expense, because Bob, being Scotch, was being Bob.

Eventually, Bob and Karen got married, and I was Bob’s best man. I remember I was nervous before the ceremony, so he supplied me with shots of a liquid from his native country, called scotch whisky. Calmed me down.

Shortly thereafter, a new opportunity arose for our families: job positions at the Rosman Research Station, near Brevard, NC. We enthusiastically took the change of venue to this beautiful place.

We had a daily routine at the RRS, called “shift changeover”. The outgoing mids crew would brief the day staff (called day-ladies) on what transpired, and then the day-ladies would brief the new crew on what was expected for the day.

We would sit around the room and the day-ladies would take turns. A typical briefing from me would be: we’ll gather at console B with headsets at 1315 Zulu, and start procedure X at precisely 1330Z.

One briefing sticks in my mind. In mid-December 1987, I told the group “a secret project you are cleared for, but until now didn’t have the ‘need-to-know’, will now be revealed. Lift-off on this project occurred at oh-dark thirty Zulu on 29 October 1987. The expected touch-down will occur nine months later on 29 July 1988, time TBA”. Bob was in the briefing, and his jaw dropped! The project was to be later renamed: Lawrence McNiel. Knowing Bob, he probably wanted to keep the secret until just AFTER touch-down.

Now, 48 years after I met him, I still think of him as the ever-entertaining Texas Highway Patrolman. RIP, Bob
Al & Daughn Connarn

“As long as hearts remember, as long as hearts still care,
We do not part with those we love, they’re with us everywhere!”

Kim Primmer

Posted at 09:27am
RIP Bob, a wonderful man. My thoughts are with you at this time. Kim Primmer

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