Keeping Bob’s memory — and blog — alive

By Arlyne Draper

For the past few weeks, I have been thinking of getting my butt in gear and start taking care of my husband Bob’s blog.  I am lucky, as his twin brother Rich, a longtime sportswriter, has offered to help.

As you probably know, we married on Nov. 22, 1967 in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, my hometown right on the Pacific Ocean.  Everyone had to see “the tall gringo.”  My father was translating during the Catholic ceremony, but after a while he turned to Bob and said:  “I will tell you all this later.” End of translation.

Bob was a field engineer with a company in Northern California and was assigned to Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.  We lived on the “island” for 1-1/2 years and our son David was born there.  Then we moved to Las Vegas to another assignment at Nellis AFB. During this stint, we had so many visitors that it made it fun and family oriented. Everyone wanted to come to Vegas, see a show and enjoy the new addition to the family, our daughter Alexandra Teresa Draper.  We did not win a lot of money, but we were careful gamblers — we had a budget and were good at knowing when it was time to quit.  Bob liked dice and I liked the machines.

We moved to the San Francisco Bay area — where we lived for years — and purchased a house right against heavily-trafficked Lawrence Expressway. We got fed up with the noise and decided to take matters into our own hands.  With Bob’s help, we collected signatures from our neighbors, researched traffic noise and its impact on “humans.”  We wrote letters to the city and our representatives, never expecting a positive reply, but at least we tried.

Some months later, we received a letter stating construction of a sound wall along this expressway was approved.  Could not believe it, but it happened. If you go to Santa Clara and drive along this part of the expressway you will notice the brick wall.  Our dream — or best said, my dream — was to move closer to my parents, who had moved from Costa Rica to San Diego. We finally made the move in 1990 when Bob was hired by Cubic Corp, where he worked for 26 years.  He loved his job and got to travel the world as the “expert, senior and best engineer” (my words) for the marketing department.  I should have kept a “memory book” but I did not.  Our first home was in Scripps Ranch.

Bob was very close to his father Lou who lived in Mesa, Ariz.  He also loved the state and its heat.  We used to go see Lou frequently and every time we crossed the border into Arizona Bob had a ritual.  Stop the car, get out and put his arms up in the air and say:  “I love the Arizona heat. Welcome home, Bob.” I am Latin, my interest in family is prime, but due to distances and work, we did not get to visit as much as we should have.  I made sure that my kids had a close relationship with their grandparents though, and we visited Lou and Arizona as much as Bob’s work permitted it.

Today, July 20, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space shuttle to the moon.  Everyone says that as you get older, you remember the past better than the present.  I can attest to this.  The past is so clear to me nowadays, and when something triggers a long-ago event I can remember it like it was yesterday.  Like today, celebrating Neil Armstrong’s feat. We lived in Sunnyvale then, and our son David was almost 2-1/2, dressed with a light blue jump suit and a very cute undershirt.  We headed to the house of our Redwood City friends Ronald and Tere to watch the launch and have dinner. When the shuffle lifted Bob also lifted David and said:  “Don’t you ever forget this day, David.  Your dad worked on this shuttle program.  The guy next to my desk was your mom’s boyfriend, he introduced me to her.  It was meant to be.”

I will continue my life with Bob later on, but now I want to move forward. Nine months ago, after 52 years of marriage, Bob passed away.  It took a while for his medical team to find out what type of cancerous tumor he had.  We were in Texas, and even though our first choice was to go to City of Hope, we realized that Bob was too weak to make the trip from Texas to California. We settled on MD Anderson in Houston, one of the world’s best cancer treatment centers. Bob was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma of the pelvis, but it was impossible remove it surgically and radiation was not an option.

We were there for three months, but chemo didn’t work and his oncologist suggested we go home and we did. Our daughter and her husband came to drive our motorhome back to Lakeway which is only 25 minutes away from downtown Austin.  This was Sept. 2, 2018.  Our son David arrived later as did Rich. Our daughter had made arrangements for us to stay with her during Bob’s hospice care, and he died Oct. 11, 2018. 

We had a celebration of life Jan. 11, 2019, at my brother Rod and his wife Carmen’s house in San Diego. More than 120 people came, some from as far away as New Mexico, as well as former coworkers from Cubic and Antekna along with friends and relatives from Northern California and Oregon. Bunco friends from Hemet and farther way, came also. It was a marvelous afternoon for all.  I am sure Bob would have been very happy to see people that shared our lives over a span of 52 years and much more. I now spend time with family and friends in San Diego.  I am very fortunate to have my family close by and wonderful and caring friends, like Richard and Karen who lent me their trailer to live while in this beautiful city. BUT …

It has been extremely difficult to live by myself without my husband.  Everyone says “time is a great healer.”  It has not been for me, but I am trying to learn how to live with his memory and at the same time without him. 

We became committed bird watchers after Bob was sent to New Zealand for work.  If you haven’t been there, put it on your bucket list. We did everything together since his retirement in 2005 and throughout our marriage.  In 2005 we bought an 30-foot RV.  In 2010, we decided to become RV full timers, and enjoyed being volunteers at nature centers, concentrating mainly in Texas, New Mexico, Washington state and San Diego.  Pretty soon, we cut it down to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department venues, mainly in NM and TX.  We also traveled to Colombia to visit friends and, of course, bird watch.  A trip to Peru and Bob’s lifelong dream of visiting Machu Pichu was made possible by our niece Arlyne (named after me, what an honor.)

Since his parting, I had an impulse to continue birding and keep his blog alive.  For the trip, I needed someone to accompany me. I shared my idea with many, and I got a hit.  My cousin Vicky.  She had never been to Texas and was not into bird watching. My idea was to go to South Padre Island for the spring migration, featuring birds flying across the Gulf of Mexico all the way to their summer nesting sites in the U.S. and further. I was thrilled. We planned our trip, rented a car, and I picked her up at the Austin airport on April 17 then drove for six hours to our destination.  Going across the bridge connecting the “mainland” to the island is a marvelous experience and the views are phenomenal.  If you like shrimp and seafood, this is the place to go.

We checked into the Best Western, right on the main street, then I got my camera and headed to the Convention Center where the birds always land after their hardship of flying more than 850 miles across the Gulf.

This trip was a remembrance of our bird watching days with Bob through travels and our volunteering days in the U.S. It was also a trip to visit our dear friends at Santa Ana NWR, where we volunteered over the years. I also wanted my cousin Vicky to enjoy the Texas state parks. After coming to Austin on April 29, she flew back to her home in the East Coast and I headed to Lakeway, where I live for part time with our daughter Alex and her family. If you plan a birding trip to south Texas, first order the birding trail guide form the Texas State Parks webpage.

I have been in San Diego since May 15 visiting family and friends. My sister and brother live nearby, and I see them almost every day.  I spend some weekends with our son and his family.  My longtime friends keep in touch and we go out to lunch or just hang around.  My cousin Lorena and her husband live in orange County and visit often.  My sister Vilma lives in El Salvador and she spends time with me also.  I look forward to sharing my adventures with Bob and by myself.  My best to all of you and hope we meet and connect soon.

Here’s some of my favorite bird photos from South Texas:

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Posted by on July 20, 2019 in Bird Lover


An old friend remembers Bob from the 50s and 60s

By Don Curtis

The summer of 1963 has special memories for me.  My dad had major back surgery done in San Francisco, and my mom went up there to help with his recovery.  I stayed with the Stauffers, my dad’s business partner, to finish my school year, and then headed over to Las Cruces with Bill Draper in his Porsche. 

 Bob and my oldest brother Army were sharing an old farmhouse in Mesilla Park, and that became my home for the summer.  I remember that Bob and I were the only ones that liked rock and roll music, my brother being more of a jazz fan, and we used to CRANK IT UP!!!  We spent the summer building and flying model airplanes, including radio controlled ones, and just having a blast.  Bob had built a scale replica of the German Fokker D-1 triplane.  I was amazed at his craftsmanship and attention to detail.

There was one sour note while I was there.  It seemed that one of the fellows that he and my brother worked with at White Sands Missile Range was either retiring or being transferred.  They decided to have a keg party at the house to see him off.  Now big brother put me in his bedroom and told me to stay out of the party and NO BEER.  Now my brother by another mother, Bob, didn’t quite see it that way.  He and another friend would bring me all the beer that I wanted, and WAY more than I should have drank.  Safe to say, the hangover the next day almost killed me.  I thought that I had to get better or die. 

(Note: The Curtis and Draper families were neighbors on Pomeroy Street in Mesa for several years in the Fifties)

Don Curtis

Bob sent me this photo from the Mesa Tribune from around 1955 or so, showing our moms and the work they did for the Desert Club, a women’s organization in Mesa.  It’s one of my prized possessions.  I can truthfully say that I loved Bob like a brother. 

In 50’s newspaper style, wives rarely got their first names in captions. How quaint.

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Posted by on July 9, 2019 in Bird Lover


Bob Draper — a brilliant, creative engineer who helped America’s military be the world’s best

By Terry Bibbens

My condolences to the Bob Draper family. It is an honor to be asked to provide some comments on the life of a good friend and highly respected life-long colleague in the defense business.

You know him from his loving support of his family and his world of retirement and bird watching – and blogs. I hope this short story helps you understand the valuable contribution that Bob made in helping our military be the best trained in the world.

Arlyne asked me to provide some comments on Bob’s work at Antekna, a defense contractor in Silicon Valley in the early 1970s. He was one of the earliest founding members of the Antekna team and was selected because of his stellar reputation as a creative and dedicated engineering expert. 

Bob was a very modest man and never bragged about his contributions to our defense efforts. However, he was instrumental in developing a pioneering concept to provide modular, off-the-shelf Electronic Warfare simulators that could recreate the Soviet Electronic Order of Battle at one-tenth the cost of previous products. This let our Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Allies have complex trainers and testers to make our Electronic Warfare officers the best in the world. This helped make a generation of the US and our allies be the best trained war-fighters in all of our battles in the past 50 years. The concepts he helped pioneer are still in use today – that is how visionary he and his team were.

Bob was one of those unique engineers – he could write as well as design. As you know from his popular blogs, he was a great story-teller. This made him invaluable in writing proposals to win new contracts. Bob not only was instrumental in the conception and actual design of these products, he helped integrate them into the military training and test stations. He could be relied upon to teach the instructors and test engineers how to operate these complex systems and was always praised by the local commanders on how effectively and professionally he worked with the customers.

Bob was also very well-liked and respected by his fellow Antekna teammates. You won’t be surprised to learn that he was instrumental in the installation of the basketball court in the company parking lot – and was out there leading his team at lunch. He was also a leader of employee recreation activities, always including the families of fellow teammates.

I especially respected Bob for his devotion to his family. There was no question as to what came first – it was always Arlyne and the children. We were very sorry to see him leave Antekna to go to San Diego to support Arlyne when she faced her first bout of breast cancer – but that was typical Bob, and obviously the only decision for him. We were happy to see his success at Cubic in their different world of defense simulation and training. We miss him and are grateful for his help in making the US a stronger nation.

With condolences to all of you.

Bibbens was Bob’s boss/owner at Antekna and became lifelong friends with him and Arlyne. He also helped Arlyne after she founded breast cancer support groups, assisting her advocacy in a Clinton-era national organization.

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Posted by on July 5, 2019 in Bird Lover



My name is Arlyne Draper, and I was married to Robert L. Draper (Bob) for a month short of 52 years. I met Bob in Los Angeles, California. My ex-boyfriend worked with him at North American in Downey during the Apollo program and introduced me to him. It was meant to be, and we were married a short time after. Our marriage was unique. We enjoyed being together, doing things together and exploring nature, birdwatching, and travels with each other.

A native of Costa Rica, I came to Los Angeles to study. After graduation, I decided to stay and became a naturalized citizen. I love this country like my own. After I met Bob my life was complete. We were married on November 22, 1966 in my hometown of Puntarenas. At the time, Bob was working at Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach as a field engineer, and this became our home for almost two years. Our son David was born there. We were long- term car renters at Avis and they considered us “the longest car rental people they ever had.” After this assignment, there were many others in the U.S. and overseas through the years. We lived at the Rocket Motel in Alamogordo, NM and our daughter, Alexandra, was born in Las Vegas, NV. We moved around in California and settled in San Diego. Bob worked for Cubic Corp for 26 years and loved every minute of his career. He was able to travel to more than 26 countries, including Israel (I tagged along for some of his trips). The highlight of his travels was New Zealand. We were there for 1-1/2 years and this is where we became serious bird watchers. He retired in 2005, so bought a small RV and became full-timers in 2010 until he was taken from me by a sarcoma cancer October 11, 2018. Losing the love of my life and companion through 52 years left such a void and a terrible feeling of loneliness in my heart. Life is not the same without him.

I am not a writer, but Bob loved his blog and he was an excellent writer. He always said that engineers should be able to write to succeed and he did succeed during his career. He won proposals and awards, got some instruments patented, and earned the respect of those who worked with him and under him. I want to continue his blog and take pictures of birds. His twin brother Rich has offered to continue it with me. I hope you enjoy the future postings as Bob would love to have you read them.

Bob mowing the lawn at our first volunteer assignment at the Matagorda Nature Center in
Bay City, TX.

War Stories from my Career as a Defense Engineer

I was an engineer in the defense industry my entire career.  I met and worked with a lot of engineers and military people of course, many of them brilliant.  An entire career is a long time.  I worked endless hours with government and military people.  I worked on many truly intriguing projects and accumulated a lot of “war stories” from guys (and gals) that I found fascinating.

I worked with WWII, Vietnam and Gulf War vets, even a few from foreign countries.  Although I never actually served in the Armed Forces, I was a good listener and rubbed shoulders with brave, patriotic and tough hombres.  I’ve forgotten many of their names but a lot of them shared their stories with me.  The following represent some of these stories.  This may be old news to some of you warriors but a lot of these guys are still alive and I’m sure they remember their “war” stories.

The soldier who survived D-Day the Hard Way.  Following my graduation from college, my first job put me next to some of these hombres where I listened to riveting tales.  Sitting at a desk near mine, one engineer told me of his experiences on D-Day and D+1, 22 years earlier.  He was a young soldier who waded, crawled and ran across Omaha Beach and managed to reach the cliffs.  He hunkered down under what cover he could find and survived the first day and night.  The next morning, he and his mates cautiously crept inland for about a mile.  As they walked through bushes, a German soldier suddenly leaped out and fired point-blank at him, hitting him right in the middle of his chest.  He showed me the little wrinkly spot right next to his heart.  The German was killed immediately by another Allied soldier.  My friend somehow held out for a day or so and was evacuated to England by boat and eventually to the U.S.  It was a short war for him.  He recovered but received 100% disability for life.  A likeable and interesting man, I had dinner with him a few times and he taught me to drink only Pinot Noir, which I do to this day.

The F-105 Pilot Over Hanoi.  Whether or not you supported the Vietnam war, I recall several courageous men that served in that conflict.  My colleagues and I were discussing the performance of electronic warfare equipment at my company with a group of F-105 fight-bomber pilots who had flown missions over North Vietnam.  One pilot I had lunch with told me he was at about 30,000 feet over Hanoi when he was forced to


perform a violent maneuver to avoid a SAM (SA-4 surface-to-air missile).

NOTE:  During that conflict, it was not generally known by civilians like us that avoiding a missile rising toward your aircraft entailed pushing the stick down hard and diving right at the ascending missile.  In attempting to intercept an aircraft, the missiles were unable to make the sharp turn that was necessary to hit the aircraft.  The missile missed his plane by a little bit but his life-saving maneuver caused a flame-out of his single engine.  He did what he needed to do to restart the engine but was down to about 8,000 feet before it reignited.  He told me his stress level was way, way up there.  I don’t recall if he managed to drop his bombs before he high-tailed it out of there.  He probably did.

When Your Mission is Cancelled In-Flight.  I do remember a super guy named Walt Lifsey.  He was a steely-eyed F-105 pilot who I couldn’t help but admire.  He first proceeded to tell me that a mission to North Vietnam is carefully planned and briefed to a squadron of bomber pilots.  This involved the study of detailed maps, target photographs, radio protocol, entry/egress routes, likely enemy search radar, anti-aircraft (AAA) sites, and SAM locations and types.  Early on the day of the mission, pilots and crew checked operation of flight controls, communications equipment and armament loads.  Quite often, the pilot or the electronic warfare officer (EWO) would vomit on the flight line during this walkaround due to nerves.  It usually took at least a couple of hours or more to fly to the target area.  Sometimes the pentagon would relay a message to aircraft commanders during this period that a specific mission was cancelled.  This was usually due to politicians who would have second thoughts or better intelligence or various other reasons to interrupt a bombing mission, even if it was in progress.

During the flight, aircraft crews would review mission data and build up their strength and courage.  Calling off a mission created anger and frustration.  It also meant that the crews needed to “discard” their armament as they couldn’t land at their home base still loaded with fuel and bombs.  What to do?  Pilots needed to burn off their energy as well.  Walt told me that they would bomb or shoot at wild camels, North Vietnam “soldiers’ pushing bicycles, anything shiny on the ground, even people, of course, who were usually shooting at them with small arms.  They had to come back empty.  I was not then aware of this but I understood it.

I learned this while playing golf with Walt at Eglin AFB a couple of times.

Medal of Honor.  I met several airmen during my career.  In 1967, Capt. Merle Dethlefsen, who I met and talked to at an Air Force base in the Midwest, refused to fly his badly damaged F-105 Thunderchief back to Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand.

Dethlefsen, flying the number three aircraft, and three other F-105s, flew ahead of a strike force of 72 fighter-bombers (F-105 Thunderchiefs from Korat and Takhli, and F-4 Phantoms from Ubon) heading to the Thai Nguyen iron and steel works.

Their job was to attack surface-to-air missile sites, antiaircraft guns and a ring of other automatic weapons guarding the target. On the first pass, his flight leader Maj. David Everson and Capt. Jose Luna, both of whom became POWs) were shot down by 85mm AAA fire and his wing man was forced to withdraw with severe damage.

Capt. Dethlefsen then took command of the flight while fending off MiG attacks and responding to his own battle-damaged aircraft.  As he maneuvered, he evaded an intercepting Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 by flying into heavy enemy antiaircraft fire. His F-105 was severely damaged, but he determined the aircraft could still fly.

Dethlefsen made repeated strikes with his new wingman, Maj. Kenneth Bell, against the enemy’s defensive positions. Evading a second MiG, Dethlefsen dove through the obscuring haze to locate the missile complex when he was again hit by flak. Making a final dive bombing attack and a strafing run with 20 mm cannon fire, Dethlefsen effectively destroyed two missile sites before finally leaving for Takhli, 500 miles away.  The mission was considered a success although two F-4s of the strike force were shot down.

Dethlefsen receives the Medal of Honor

Dethlefsen could have pulled out of the mission with honor many times: when attacked by MiGs, when he and his wingman were hit by flak, or when the smoke of battle made it difficult to locate the enemy.

But he made a conscious choice to make repeated passes, each one more dangerous than the one before.  For his heroic actions, Dethlefsen was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson on February 1, 1968. He became the third of 12 airmen so honored during the Vietnam War.

Female transport pilot during Gulf War.  I won’t name any names here but it’s a harrowing story.  This transport pilot flew cargo aircraft (probably including wounded troops) from somewhere in the mid-east to Germany during Gulf War I.  Her missions were fairly uneventful until she and a colleague stopped in Italy for a brief layover.  She and a male friend were doing some recreational swimming out in the ocean.  After a relaxing (I presume) swim, they both realized they were too far off the beach.  Due to strong currents, they were unable to make it back to shore.  They both drifted further out to sea and lost sight of land.  Sometime later, she lost contact with her friend.  She used survival techniques to preserve energy.  Night fell and she thought constantly about her husband and children and what was going to happen.  On the second day, she found herself on a coral reef in rough water.  She scraped back and forth on the coral, barely able to maintain a position and suffering nasty injuries.  After another night, she was spotted by an aircraft which was looking for her.  I don’t know the details about her being picked up but she was rescued and eventually recovered, at least physically.  She determined quickly that the Navy life wasn’t for her, with a young family.  She left the Navy soon thereafter.  Her friend was never found.  It’s unusual that her husband was a commercial pilot and still is today.

Flying saucers at WSMR.  I worked part-time at White Sands Missile Range while attending college.  I met and worked with several engineers and military people during the four years I was there.  In conversation, one engineer, who had been working at WSMR several years, told me about a “flying saucer” that he and others had seen over C-Station (Control Station) during the day.  The radar operator at C-Station began tracking this object.  It was stationary for several minutes before it “flew” off.  The radar operator, presumably experienced, said it exceeded the velocity of anything he had ever tracked.  My engineer friend said it was oblong and had circular windows.  When it quickly took off, he said that it disappeared so fast he only saw it briefly.  Now, I was only in my early twenties and he could have been passing along a “war story” that he told to every young engineer who came through our lab.  He seemed credible, however, and I certainly remember his story.  I wonder.  This sighting happened in the mid- to late fifties and there are still unexplained UFO stories from that time.  I don’t have any pictures of this object.


The Landing Craft Operator WWII.  I had a close friend during my college period.  He was a WWII veteran of the war in the Pacific.  Roy and I both worked at White Sands Missile Range and we both loved building and flying model airplanes.  Among other things Roy did during the war, he “drove” a landing craft for transporting and off-loading soldiers on island beaches.  I don’t, unfortunately, recall which island(s) he “landed” on but probably more than one.  The story I remember is an incident he told me about as he approached a beach.  As the operator of a landing craft (of which there were many types), he was not able to see ahead of the boat until he dropped the forward door to let soldiers exit.  One day, as Roy skidded to a stop on the beach and dropped the door, he saw a single armed Japanese soldier run out of the jungle onto the beach, shooting at soldiers.  He said that so many Allied soldiers shot him, he literally came apart.  No way to understand why he did this but he certainly knew what was going to happen.  I don’t mean to offend anyone with this description but this was war.

POW Story.  A carrier pilot I worked with after he had left the Navy told me harrowing stories about being in a few camps as a prisoner, including the Hanoi Hilton, a major POW camp in North Vietnam.  Harry Jenkins flew A-6 bombers off a carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin.  He was a cantankerous guy and early on after being shot down and captured

I believe this is an SA-2 missile

they used to torture him by simply laying a heavy iron pipe across his shins as he was strapped to a slab of wood.  He said it wasn’t too bad at first but after 30 minutes he couldn’t stand it.  After an hour, he would be screaming.  He and several South Vietnamese POWs would tend fields of rice and vegetables every day.  He said prisoners would floss with electrical wire to save their teeth.

One day, after a few years, he noticed that a door in his building was open.  He had never seen it open before.  It led to another section of the “hotel”.  He went through the door, looked to his left and saw an American pilot in a cell like his.  Where most of us would have perhaps been overcome with emotion, he simply looked in the cell and calmly said “Nice little place you got here.”  He was a POW for 5-1/2 years and was involved in developing and using the tapping code that prisoners used to communicate.  I believe he knew John McCain, a future presidential candidate.  I really liked him but I didn’t press him for a lot of details.

F-105 Wild Weasel flies a world-class mission.  Because of what these guys did, I believe I correctly recall their names:  Major Pete Tsouprake and Major William Robinson.  Robinson was the pilot of a specially equipped F-105 fighter bomber and Pete was the EWO (electronic warfare officer). I knew a lot of EWOs having worked in electronic warfare for 10 years.  EWOs were also known as GIBs (guy in back).  It was 1966 and this is how I remember the mission as told to me.

First of all:  The “specially equipped” two-seater F-105 was outfitted with electronic equipment to detect and sometimes jam enemy radars.  This aircraft and its 2-man crew were called Wild Weasels.  These guys would lead a strike force of several (as many as

Pete Tsouprake

70) single-seat F-105s on missions to bomb designated targets.  The Wild Weasel, using its electronics, would go in first to locate search radars, AAA radars and SA-2 Guideline missile control radar systems.  These aircraft would “suppress” these facilities using bombs and rockets and, occasionally, their guns.  The entire strike force depended on the skill and heroism of the Wild Weasel crew.  The Weasels go in ahead of the strike force and then linger in the area until the other aircraft had completed their missions and left.  The motto of the Wild Weasels was “first in, last out”.

Two seater F-105 Wild Weasel

These two Weasels did something unprecedented on that July day in 1966.  They detected and located four SA-2 SAM (surface-to-air missile) sites.  Using bombs, rockets and their Gatling gun (when they ran out of other ordnance) and evading AAA (flak) they destroyed three SAM sites and heavily damaged the fourth.  Four SAM sites destroyed in one day had never been done before.  This performance earned both Robinson and Tsouprake the Air Force Cross, an award which is not casually offered, even in wartime.  During the conflict, both men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as well, for similar acts.  A painting was commissioned to commemorate their mission.

Note that in the F-105 photo above a small bulge can be seen just below and behind the nose cone.  There is a similar one at the top rear of the vertical stabilizer (tail).  These “blisters” housed antennas used to detect enemy radar emissions.  I worked on several of these aircraft, checking the antennas but primarily working on electronic equipment in the turtleback compartment just behind the cockpit on the back of the airplane

Two other things:  I played golf with Maj Tsouprake at Eglin AFB a couple of times.  A great guy that I couldn’t help but admire.

The F-105 aircraft was originally designed to carry a nuclear weapon into Europe and although it never did this, it still carried 3000 pounds of gear related to transporting and releasing the weapon.  It was never intended to do the kind of maneuvering it did in Vietnam.  It eventually was replaced by the F-4 Phantom.

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Posted by on February 24, 2018 in Bird Lover


Looking at Our Ancestors

I have two brothers, Bill and Rich.  Over the years (many years), we and others have managed to create, discover, collect, and store a great deal of information about our ancestors.  Particularly, we are fortunate in having a wealth of photographs of the people who came before us.  We particularly have our brother Rich to thank for his diligent and tireless work in interviewing people and researching data bases and historical websites to gather far more ancestral data than family 20002we ever thought possible.  My brother Bill is also a valuable resource for his penchant to maintain and store many of the original photographs and documents detailing the interesting people who now populate our family tree.

Recently, the three of us have begun a project to organize, digitize and categorize these tiny treasures so they are preserved for years to come.  The characters hanging in the branches of our family tree can thus be looked at, admired and even analyzed.  Through Rich’s genealogy efforts and the fortunes of history, our lineage goes back centuries.  We know nothing about the four-legged creatures and cave people who started all of us of course, but looking at the recent past, we find people we can relate to and eventually people we knew.  Many of our ancestors were born, lived and died within a few hundred square miles of where they began.  They were farmers for the most part but we have learned of hounds-men, sheep “ranchers”, soldiers, ministers, homemakers, restaurant owners, historical figures, American Indians and, probably, a few nobodies.

As civilization and technology advanced and people traveled more, our early roots spread from England and Europe to the American colonies.  This travel was not always by choice as some of our ancestors were driven to leave their homelands by politics and economic conditions.

My purpose for putting my thoughts here is not to impress anyone.  Every family has anecdotes and interesting characters that are remembered either orally or on paper, both of which are equally strong.  My own thoughts are developing as I browse and study the family photographs and documents before me with a new ability and vision provided to me by age.

Mae Walker and daughter Virginia about 1918-20

Our mother and her  mother

In a few very rare photos, I see my mother’s grandparents as she saw them.  I see my mother’s young parents quite dressed up for some forgotten event.  I see my mother as a child of two and watch her grow through girlhood, high school,

Virginia Walker school picture abt 1918

Virginia Draper in grade school – early 1920s

first jobs, dating, marriage, motherhood, pastimes and aging.  I can see pieces of her entire life through pictures.  Delighted, happy, stressed, determined, and proud.  Looking at all these pictures, I can encapsulate her life.  I found it heartbreaking in a way.  A person’s entire life documented in a few dozen photographs.  I can view my mother’s whole life in five minutes.

Virginia Walker in high school - about 1925

High School friends about 1925

She was worth far more than that.  We know she had a sibling, acquaintances, dear friends, pets, neighbors, colleagues, artistic talent, a good-looking husband and a young, growing family.  We can at least fold our memories of her into the thread of her life and fill in details for some of those years.  She was a bit out of mainstream life as an adult.  We know her as one of the first beatniks. (look that up) Hippies came later.

A SPECIAL PHOTOGRAPH.  We have one photograph that is especially endearing to us.  Standing together by a train about


L to R:  Our grandmother, our mother, our great-grandmother

1920-ish, we see our grandmother, our mother and our great grandmother.  Over 100 years ago.

Further, on a business trip to Great Britain, I managed to visit the grave of my grandmother’s great grandfather, William Sebright.  We don’t have a photograph of Sebright, a master of the hounds at a castle, but we have a painting of him.  He was born in 1791, over 226 years ago and we can see him.  He was our great-great-great grandfather.

WE CAN SEE MORE.  A careful look through our family photographs reveals a short

Louis R

Our father (the kid) on an early dump truck

history of transportation technology, including horse-drawn wagons, early dump trucks, the first taxi cab, a variety of automobiles, airplanes and eventually, in my case, rockets.  It’s all there in the pages of our family history.

AND MORE.  We can’t overlook of course, the fashions in clothes for adults and children.  It’s incredible how

little Mae walker - far left

Our grandmother on the far  left

garment styles have changed over the last 120 years.   Through our photos, we can see the progression of styles in dresses, shirts, blouses, trousers, belts, shoes and hats.  Men had huge

George Draper Watts approx 1900 - died in military aircraft accident approx 1922

Little George Draper Watts – later in the military, died in crash of an early dirigible

starched collars and bow ties.  Women and girls looked like they had placed large doilies over their heads.  They way children were dressed it’s nearly impossible to tell girls from boys until they’re 5 or 6.  I notice that belts and all kinds of buttons were a BIG deal in the first half of the 20th century.  I don’t recall seeing covered buttons in my lifetime worn as an everyday thing.  Go back even a short way into the past and it seems men virtually always had their shirts buttoned right up to their necks.  Even workers on construction sites wore long sleeve shirts and sometimes pleated trousers.

AND EVEN MORE.  Evidence of the proud professions and trades of our ancestors can be seen in these photographs.  We see (or read about) farm machinery

William G

Our grandfather William (R) working on an unknown construction project

and equipment, blacksmithing, product deliveries, restaurant ownership, soldiering, movie studios, early animation and cartoons, cowboys, homemaking,

Sybil Dehougne - our beloved nana - in her Los Angeles patio

Our beloved grandmother Sybil

architecture, stone-masonry and teaching.  We can sometimes see our ancestors as children, getting familiar with the work of their parents.

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE FUTURE.  With the accelerating pace of life, changing attitudes, decreased mores and increased self-absorption, I wonder what thoughts my own descendants will have of me and my two brothers.  Certainly, our lives have been more frequently photographed and our experiences better documented than the previous 100 years.  There are videos and sound recordings of us.  By the time we’re gone, however, the enormous distraction of other photographs, videos, sounds and documentation within a more complicated world may overwhelm any future interest or analysis of the stories of the Draper brothers.  That’s life.



Bob and Arlyne Draper


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Posted by on August 29, 2017 in Bird Lover



We waited a long time to visit Arenal Volcano and see the special wildlife there.  In the distant past we stayed near Arenal when the volcano was erupting every hour and a half and digital cameras hadn’t been invented.  Now quiet, the geologists say Arenal can be safely approached and hiked for about the next 400 years.  the road to arenlaThat should work.  The Arenal Observatory Lodge is 1.7 miles from the volcano.   Presumably wildlife chased away 10 years ago by the lava have returned.

Arenal cast its spell before we even got to the hotel.  Our first view of the volcano was shrouded in hazy rain and looked like King Kong lived there and we were the first to discover it.  DSC_6155 gray-headed chachalacaApproaching the hotel on pebbled roads, we saw gray-headed chachalacas Arenal Lodge entranceand a melodious blackbird, new birds for us.  Welcome to Arenal!

But after all, we were in Costa Rica and it rained very hard as we checked in.  As we learned, however, rain seems to be an afternoon-evening thing.  Mornings are typically sunny and wonderful.  An ordinary person can’t explain this but everybody knows it.  The rainy season arrives abut the end of May and this rain was a warm-up.

at the volcano

Drapers at Arenal

As promised, the morning came with a world class view of “our” volcano.  The Lodge is fabulous and we met interesting people from Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Los Angeles and Canada.   We came for these experiences and hoped to see wonderful birds and other creatures.  A pair of great curassows awaited us at a nice feeder we could see from an observation deck.  These are large birds, unmistakable and unique.  North America has nothing close.

I’m not going to describe all the details of how we saw the birds…….I’ll mostly show them to you.  The Arenal experience is a living wonder for birders and nature lovers.  As a bonus, other delightful animals included the iconic Costa Rican red-eyed leaf frog.

2nd leaf frog

Iconic red-eyed leaf frog…on a leaf

We went down to a frog pond at 9 pm and found several frogs (called ranas here) and got some beautiful photos.  The star of the frog show defies belief.  The red-eyed leaf frog is a symbol of Costa Rica.  The rain earlier in the evening brought them out, along with a little poisonous snake.poisonous toadcrested guanwhite-necked jacobin

I went the first night and Arlyne came with me the second night.

As another bonus, the next day we saw a poisonous toad that looked as menacing as anything I’ve ever seen.

We chased the white-necked Jacobin (large hummingbird) around some flowers until finally capturing a photo.  Brilliant.

Crested guans saw us but didn’t seem perturbed.

green honeycreeper (f)

a favorite of mine – lime green

Red-legged honeycreepers started showing up mid-morning.  Picturesque little guys for sure.  As a surprise, a yellow-crowned euphonia showed up briefly followed by one of my favorites, a female green honeycreeper.  This lime-colored bird was the jewel of the morning.  In the early afternoon, we saw two golden-hooded tanagers.  Sometimes lucky photographic “accidents” can happen and the two tanagers created one!  Great Stuff!  I never saw this coming.  I don’t know if these two birds were fighting, playing, showing off or what.  I caught them as I was photographing another bird.  What luck!  Don’t try this, I’m a semi-professional.

red-legged honeycreeper

a very acrobatic bird this guy

yellow-crowned euphonia







tanager acrobatics

Thanks for following us around Costa Rica…………wait until next time!!

The Drapers


Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Bird Lover