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Obituary: Robert Serling ’40

Born Jerome Robert Serling in Cortland, N.Y. on March 28, 1918 to Samuel and Esther Serling, Robert J. Serling grew up in Binghamton, NY, with his younger brother, Rod. Robert earned a degree in English from Antioch College in Ohio, and from 1942-44 served the U.S. Army as an Aircraft Identification Instructor.

He then relocated to Washington, D.C., and spent the next 23 years working for U.P.I. (United Press International), covering the airline industry. It was while in Washington that Robert would publish THE PROBABLE CAUSE, the first in what would prove to be a prolific bibliography of mostly aviation-themed fiction and non-fiction books. His 1967 thriller THE PRESIDENT’S PLANE IS MISSING spent thirty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and spawned a 1973 made-for-TV movie.

Robert also provided technical advice and dialogue for some of his brother Rod’s teleplays, including Studio One’s “The Arena” and Twilight Zone’s “The Odyssey of Flight 33.”

In 1976 in his capacity as Official Time Keeper and alongside pilot Arnold Palmer and two employees of Learjet, Robert broke the world record for flying around the world in a private jet.

Robert Serling belonged to the Society of Air Safety Investigators and the Aviation/Space Writers Association, and counted the following among his many accolades: Seven awards for Aviation News Reporting from Trans-World Airlines from 1958-65, the 1960 Strebig-Dobben Memorial Award, special citations from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation in 1963, the Flight Safety Foundation and the Airline Pilots Association in 1970, the Aviation/Space Writers Association James Trebig Memorial Award in 1964, and numerous other awards for both his fiction and non-fiction.

In 1968, Robert married Priscilla Arone and the couple had two children, Jennifer and Jeffrey. In 1981 the family relocated to Tucson, Arizona, where, in 2000, Priscilla passed away. In 2002 Robert married Patricia Hoyer.

Robert J. Serling passed on May 6, 2010, at the age of 92, with his wife and children by his side. He is survived by his wife, Patricia Hoyer; children, Jennifer Serling and Jeffrey (Michele) Serling and four grandsons, Caleb Serling, Robert Jeffrey Serling, Elliot Berard and Andrew Serling. A Memorial Service will be held at Northminster Presbyterian Church, 2450 E. Fort Lowell Road on Monday, May 17, 2010, at 2:00 p.m. A reception is to be held following the service in the Fellowship Hall. The family requests that remembrances be made in Robert Serling’s name to the Seattle Museum of Flight, 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, WA 98108.