The last time many of us saw Col Fessler, former PACAF Life Support Officer was at our first reunion in 1996.  He closed out the reunion by doing the benediction and a silent prayer for the life supporters who were no longer with us. Those of us who knew him are heartbroken about the news of the death of our colleague and friend.



George Robert “Bob” Fessler

JULY 11, 1934 – FEBRUARY 9, 2024

Bob Fessler was a great man, and he will be deeply missed.

Bobby was born on July 11, 1934, in New York City. His parents, George and Eleanor Fessler, were living in Mt. Vernon, NY at this time. His brother William was born four years later. At age 11, he attended Peekskill Military Academy and boarded there until 1948. The family moved to Van Nuys, CA that summer, just in time for Robert to start high school. After graduation, he moved to Tempe, Arizona, and attended Arizona State College (ASU). He finished with a BA and MA in Education after five years (1957). George also received a commission as an officer in the United States Air Force.
He taught for one year at Reseda High School (Los Angeles) while waiting to be called to active duty. In 1958, George began serving as a Combat Aircrew Member. He navigated flights out of Pease Air Base in New Hampshire up the St. Lawrence River and above Greenland. It was during these years that he courted and married the love of his life, Diane Burke. They had met earlier at ASU and kept finding ways to see each other.
Bob and Diane were married on December 29, 1962, at the Luke AFB chapel in Arizona. They flew immediately to Hawaii, missing the reception their parents put together, and Diane had to quit her job – stewardesses were not allowed to be married in those days. The next assignment took both of them to Vietnam, where he experienced combat conditions while navigating planes that were dropping supplies to troops in the fields below.
In 1964, his role changed when he was assigned as an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA). Bob and Diane bought their first home together, and in 1967 their son William (Bill) was born. Soon after, in 1968, George was an Instructor at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. 1972 brought the Fessler family to Mather AFB (Sacramento, CA), where George developed curriculum used to teach navigation skills for the KC-135 Stratotanker (“the gas station in the sky”). In 1975, his next assignment was based at Hickam AFB (Hawaii) as Director of Life Support Systems for Pacific Air Forces.
In 1979, Lieutenant Colonel George Fessler was reassigned to Luke AFB. This was to be his final assignment in the military, and he retired in 1981, after 23 years of active duty service. Arizona was his new (and last) home.
That same year, he began teaching at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix. In addition to instructing history and religion classes, he also served as a college and career counselor, helping the students navigate their four years of high school and find the right college to attend. If anyone expressed any interest in attending a military school, Mr. Fessler quickly became their counselor and mentor. He also assisted students in getting accepted at many other institutions, including his alma mater, Arizona State University.
He was also the Freshman Retreat Facilitator and Advanced Placement Coordinator. This means that every freshman entering Brophy and most seniors graduating knew who Colonel Fessler was and knew his commanding voice. “Stop, put your pencils down!” is likely stuck in the minds of about 10,000 men in the greater Phoenix area.
Bob retired from Brophy in 2000, after a 19-year career. Like all great instructors, he knew every graduate, and he was acutely aware of their progress in life after Brophy. Some of Bob’s greatest joy came when he encountered Brophy alums, and often their parents, and they would give Bob an update on how his guidance had changed their lives. His son Bill has often said: I may be an only child, but I have about 3,000 brothers. One could say that his third career – checking in on his former students – lasted another 24 years.
His dedication to his many careers was only surpassed by his love of family. He could not spend enough time with his two grandchildren, Eleanor (Ellie) and Alexander (Alex), daughter-in-law Amanda, and son Bill. His brother Bill still lives in California, and there are cousins, nieces, nephews, and calabash cousins all over the world he visited. And there is one special person in his heart, his wonderful wife of 61 years, Diane. Over the years, people may have addressed him as George, Bob, Colonel, or Mr. Fessler, but he preferred “Bob and Diane.”
Companions for more than six decades, Bob and Diane traveled the world together, turned houses into homes together, raised a son together, ran a book publishing business together, and celebrated many holidays and birthdays with their two grandchildren – together.
Bob died from cardiac arrest on February 9, 2024. He was about to tell a story, probably about one of his former students. He enjoyed every moment of his life, right up to that very last one. A funeral service will be held at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, at the Brophy Chapel, with a reception to follow. He will be laid to rest at St. Francis Cemetery on a later date. If you wish to honor Bob, please consider donating to Boys Hope Girls Hope Arizona ( or the St. Vincent de Paul Society (
To donate, add memory, and/or see photos of Bob, click on the link below.
George Robert “Bob” Fessler Obituary – Phoenix, AZ (