Steelworker looked out for family, fellow veterans

Brian Bowling
| Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Robert Stokes spent his life taking care of others professionally and personally.

His mother died when he was 11.

“We feel that is probably what made family so important to him,” said his daughter Gayle Colonna of Clairton. “He was all the time wanting the family to be together and have meals together.”

Robert Irvine Stokes of Clairton, a World War II veteran who retired as an inspection superintendent at U.S. Steel's National Tube Works in McKeesport, died Friday, Sept 28, 2012. He was 90.

If he knew of anyone eating alone, he would invite them to have dinner with his family.

“There was always a welcome spot at the table,” Colonna said.

Mr. Stokes was a member of Pine Run United Methodist Church in Clairton. He often made anonymous donations and volunteered at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, his children said.

Mr. Stokes took a job in U.S. Steel's Christy Park Works before he was drafted into the Army, where he became a sergeant.He earned a Bronze Star and a Victory Medal, and he was awarded a Purple Heart when his tank was hit.

The blast temporarily blinded Mr. Stokes, said his daughter Deborah Straub of Daniels, W.Va. His drive to protect others showed in his last days when, reliving the incident, Mr. Stokes kept calling for someone to go back and rescue his gunner, she said.

Mr. Stokes contributed to disabled veterans associations throughout his life, she said.

“He always said, ‘It was so close, that could have been me,' ” she said.

Mr. Stokes returned to U.S. Steel, and retired in 1983.

Straub said her father knew people's lives would depend on the quality of the pipes the plant made.

“He took a lot of pride in that work and that responsibility,” she said.

He and his wife, Irene Harmon Stokes, would have been married 69 years on Monday.

Robert Irvine Stokes was preceded in death by his parents, Harry Arthur and Elizabeth Nicholds Stokes; his brother, Arthur W. Stokes; and his sister, Elizabeth J. Wilson.

In addition to his wife, Irene Harmon Stokes of Clairton, and his daughters Deborah and Gayle, Mr. Stokes is survived by his son Gary Stokes of McKeesport, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in S.M. Finney Funeral Home Inc., 432 N. Sixth St., Clairton.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the funeral home chapel. Interment will follow in Mt. Vernon Cemetery, Elizabeth Township.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or

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