In Memoriam: Robert J. Walton

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Posted: October 2, 2008

Robert J. Walton, 82, of East Patchogue passed into eternal peace at home on July 26, 2008 while surrounded by his beloved wife of 61 years Evelyn and his 4 children. Bob was born April 1926 in Mt. Vernon, NY to May and Francis Walton. He is survived by his wife Evelyn; brother Francis Walton and wife Helen; children Gordon Walton and wife Maria, Russell Walton and wife Judy, Debora Greene, and Pamela Esposito and companion Lee; 12 grandchildren, Jennifer and husband Matt Masur, Jeremy Walton and wife Kerry, Michael Walton and wife Sabina, Laura Walton and companion Andrew, Jason Walton and companion Ashley, Chris Walton and companion Amanda, Craig Walton, Eva Esposito, Michael Esposito, Tami Greene and companion Billy, Janelle Greene and Derek Greene and 7 great-grandchildren Abby Walton, Andrew Robert Walton, Ben Walton Masur, Bernard Walton Masur, Jordan Walton, Alexander Rhodes and Michael Rhodes.

Robert enlisted in the US Navy at age 17 in 1944 and served in the South Pacific seeing action in Iwo Jima, Okinawa and photographing POW camps in Japan prior to the formal signing of the surrender.

Robert joined Brookhaven Lab in its infancy in April 1947 and retired as Photography Supervisor in 1988, an amazing 41 years. His thousands of photographs documented its astounding growth. He was one of the first of the Suffolk County Auxiliary Police in the 5th Precinct and for years was a Little League coach in Bellport. Upon retirement he was an enthusiastic volunteer at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital as a jitney driver and traveled throughout the country, of course since it was retirement, Evelyn took the pictures.

A Mass at Mary Immaculate Church on July 30th was followed by internment at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bellport.

An article in the Bulletin of 10/12/07 on Long Term Employees included a glimpse of Robert Walton in retirement.
Bob Walton was issued life number 536 when he joined the Photography & Graphic Arts Division in April 1947. An early assignment was to take aerial photos of the site in 1948. “A duck farmer in Center Moriches had a Piper Cub at a little air strip, which is now the Brookhaven Airport, and he’d fly me up at high noon, and I’d hang out the side to shoot,” reported Walton.
Walton found work at BNL satisfying because of its permanent value.
“From the beginning, the product of the Lab’s research often has been either photographs or papers, and often those papers contain photographs. I get a kick at seeing pictures I took many years ago just published in school textbooks,” he said. (BB, April 10, 1987)
As a 2007 postscript, The Bulletin called up Bob Walton at his home in East Patchogue. He remembers giving the 1987 interview and gets the same kick from seeing his historic pictures still being used. Walton retired in 1988 — “Forty-one years is plenty!” he says. Since then he and his wife have traveled and enjoyed a more relaxed schedule. One bonus was having time to advise various organizations and libraries on exhibitions being set up that contain motion pictures taken during World War II, an area in which Walton was involved before joining BNL. One such exhibition is at the University of Southern California’s Hammer Museum, where a picture shows Lieutenant John Swope and Walton as a Navy combat photographer. So, after 60 years, Walton’s photographic contributions are acknowledged from CA to NY, coast to coast!

(left) In this 1948 photo, Bob Walton climbs into a Piper Cub aircraft to take aerial photos of the Lab with anAir Force K-9, a standard aerial photography camera of the day.

(center) Bob Walton, back, left, with other Lab photographers in 1968.

(right) One of the many historic BNL photos taken by Walton: In October 1948, the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor construction site was toured by, among others, Dwight Eisenhower (seventh from left), then president of Columbia University, and Isidor I. Rabi (right), Columbia.

Last Modified: October 2, 2008