Adm. Sylvester “Bob” Foley Jr., a member of the Naval Academy Class of 1950 who rose to become a four-star admiral and commander of the Pacific Fleet, died New Year’s Eve at his home in Chester.
Foley will be buried in the Naval Academy Cemetery on Friday morning following services at the Naval Academy Chapel. He was 91 years old.
Son of a Navy corpsman, Foley spent a career as a distinguished naval officer, combat aviator, fleet commander, public servant and business leader.
“More importantly, he was a loving husband and father, a mentor to many, and fully blessed with the Irish disposition towards good humor and fellowship,” said his son, Christopher Foley, of Winnetka, Illinois.
“I was fortunate growing up. If I ever needed a hero I never had to look farther than my dad,” he added.
After graduating from the academy, Foley served in the Navy for 35 years. He earned his naval aviator wings a year after graduation.
He rose quickly through the ranks and held seven operational commands in peacetime and war during his career, including command of Attack Squadron 106 and Carrier Air Wing Eleven during combat deployments in Vietnam; as commanding officer of the USS Coronado, and Commanding Officer of the USS Midway during his third Vietnam combat deployment; Commander of Carrier Group Seven, Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
When he took command of the Pacific Fleet his father, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was in the audience.
“Taking command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with my father in attendance was my proudest career moment,” Foley told the Naval Academy Alumni magazine. “He was stationed at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, and seeing his son, a four-star admiral, take command of the Pacific Fleet more than 40 years later was the culmination of a lifetime of Navy service for both of us.”
The Navy family connections continued. Foley’s daughter, Maureen, was among the first class of women to graduate from the Academy in 1980. Two of Foley’s grandchildren also graduated from Annapolis.
His son, Sylvester Robert Foley III, spent a career in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
Foley’s awards included three Navy Distinguished Service medals, the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and multiple air medals. He also holds the Secretary of Energy’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Service. His foreign decorations include Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun (First Class), the French Legion of Honor, Vietnamese Medals for Gallantry (three levels), Brazil’s Order of Merit and several decorations from the Republic of Korea.
He retired from the Navy in 1985, then served as Ronald Reagan’s assistant secretary of energy for defense programs, where he had responsibility for the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. In 1988, Foley entered the private sector at ICF Kaiser Engineers. In 1991, he joined the Raytheon Company, where he served as vice president of marketing, president of Raytheon Japan, and vice president of Raytheon Asia. After retiring from Raytheon, Foley served as a senior consultant to the departments of defense and energy and was a member of President George W. Bush’s energy and defense transition teams.
His son, Christopher, noted that behind all those recognitions and accomplishments was a Navy wife and mother. Foley was married to the late Kathleen MacDonald Foley for 50 years.
“Growing up, he was off quite a bit, like most Navy families. All the glory goes to Mom. She got all the hard work typical of Navy families, she’s the unsung hero of our childhood.”
Kathleen Foley died in 2001. On Friday, she will again be joined by her husband under a stone already engraved with his name.
He is survived by his four children: Lt. Col. Sylvester Robert Foley, III USMC (Ret.), of Deerfield, N.H.; Maureen Foley Nunez of Falmouth, Mass.; Dr. Brenda Kathleen Foley, PhD., of Brattleboro, Vt.; and Christopher M. Foley, of Winnetka, Ill.; 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his second wife, the former Ellen Kirkconnell Rogers, of Chester and her extended family.
Services will be held Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, followed by interment at the Naval Academy Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation Athletic & Scholarship Program at usna.com/asp.
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