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Still serving in his second career

Retired from the U.S. Navy, Bastian volunteers at the Hagerstown Police Department

Retired from the U.S. Navy, Bastian volunteers at the Hagerstown Police Department

November 27, 2007|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN - Robert Bastian has visited places near and far during his career with the U.S. Navy, during war and peacetime. A native of Wabasha, Minn., he has lived in Hagerstown since 1990.

Since coming here, he's been a nonstop volunteer.

"I really enjoy being here. The weather's about the same as where I grew up," said Bastian, 87.

Although he remembers delivering newspapers as a boy in snow up to his knees, Bastian said the winter weather in his hometown isn't as bad as it once was.

Regardless of the weather, Bastian gets up at 5:30 a.m. every day to shower, shave, feed his cat Tiggie and read the newspaper. Four mornings a week, he's at "work" by 7:30 a.m.

"I work every day because I've got to keep my hours up so they don't fire me," he jokes.

Bastian's volunteering began in 1990. He worked with the athletic department at Hagerstown Community College answering phones, doing copying and compiling the log sheets of senior volunteer hours for the Commission on Aging's Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.

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To that, Bastian added two days at the Hagerstown Police Department. He started with the forensic chemist, helping develop and file photographs.

The switch to digital photography eliminated that position, so Bastian began working in the Criminal Investigations Department. His job is to enter information from pawn sheets into the system, a way for the police department to track lost or stolen items.

"I think it saves them a lot of time," said Bastian, who lives in Summerland Manor.

He admits he's several months behind, even though he inputs information 12 hours a week, after giving up a day at HCC so he could work three days at the police department.

Bastian retired from the Navy in 1960, then worked 17 more years as a Naval civil servant, logging 37 years of government service.

Earlier in his Navy career, Bastian spent five years aboard a heavy cruiser, ending as a captain's yeoman. He was involved with the invasion of Casablanca in 1942 and Normandy in 1944.

Bastian was then stationed in New York, North Carolina, British West Indies, Puerto Rico and Beirut before his final destination - the Pentagon.

He moved to Hagerstown from Alexandria, Va., when he married his third wife. They divorced in 2005.

His first two wives are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where he also will be some day, he said. Bastian and his first wife had one son, Richard, who died in 1994 at the age of 44.

"If I don't keep busy, I'd probably be in Arlington with the first two ladies I had," Bastian said.

In 1993, Bastian attended a party at the Knights of Columbus, which led to him joining the organization. He is now president of the Columbus Club and in charge of bingo on Tuesday nights. He's served as grand knight and faithful navigator.

Another group he's committed to is the Fleet Reserve Association. Bastian drives to Washington, D.C., for its monthly Saturday meetings and was national president in 1970-71.

He has attended the association's annual conventions every year since 1959, except for 1960, the year his father died. His goal is to make 50 consecutive conventions.

Bastian, who is a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church, enjoys attending social events at the Knights of Columbus and Summerland Manor. He also likes to listen to Big-Band music when he's relaxing at home.

"It's just luck, I guess, and clean living," Bastian said of his longevity. "I have a lot to keep me active."

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