Model Aviation Icon and All Around Nice Guy!

Let it be known to all Spirits Members that the value Robert “Bob” Underwood has provided to our Hobby over the decades is immeasurable and to show our appreciation we have granted him a life membership to the Spirits of St. Louis R/C Flying club!  Bob is forever endeared as a fellow Spirits member and friend.  We have all personally enjoyed spending time with Bob on the flight-line and we look forward to seeing him at the field in the future!  When we notified Bob of this rare achievement by sending him a spirits membership card without an expiration date and asking for a picture that embodies his favorite R/C memory, he responded in a way that further exemplifies the man that he is with a picture of his family and the following prose:

A letter from Bob Underwood:

Dear Ralph,
What an absolutely wonderful surprise that came in the mail yesterday!  When I received the envelope with the “other Ralph’s” return address in the upper corner my first impulse was to think that there must be a mistake! “How could Ralph D. have sent me a membership card?”.  Only after I saw the card did I actually have time to catch up on my email.  My wife and I live at Breeze Park, a senior living facility, and our lives have many added factors regarding coping with “social distancing”, meals, mail delivery within the facility and all sorts of things. While I am not an employee, I am the president of the Resident’s Association and there has been much time involved in coordinating volunteers and interpretation of regulations that are literally changing every few hours. That sort of fell in my lap!  

Fortunately, during the time I served AMA from a volunteer role to that of Technical Director, Education Director and Executive Director I absorbed a phrase passed along to me by John Worth, the Executive Director, when I joined the staff.  He stated that, “If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t answer the question”–period.  While that sounds logical and simple, many times voluenteers are inclined to develop a narrative which they THINK is correct, but is not.  That failing exists today. That thought is holding me in good stead today as I attempt to clear up misinformation. .  

With that thought at hand, please know how very much I appreciate the honor the club has bestowed upon me!  I blush to think that I actually deserve it.  I recognize that since my wife and I moved back to the St. Louis area in 1994 and I joined the Spirits, I have not been in a position to become as involved with the Spirits as I did back in the 1970s and 80s when I served as the president of the Signal Chasers and chairman of the Greater St Louis Modeling Association.  There have been many activities that simply devoured time and energy!  It didn’t help that the latter item has begun to disappear at age 88!

Last night I sat and stared at that membership card and waves of memories washed over me.  I’m certain that there are not a huge number of Spirit members who remember our local modeling activities represented in the time frame mentioned above.  It was a “spirited” time and it seemed that two clubs were always “chasers”in the “battles”.  And it was always filled with good fun and friendship!  Do I miss those times?  Of course! There is a degree of irony in your gift for actually now I am a life member of both clubs!   What I lament the most is that our hobby/sport more often than not now lacks that type of spark once we moved from the realm of builders and competitors to assembliers and fliers.  Will it return to that earlier state?  It’s not likely. One can have memories of earlier times but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to recreate the world they existed in.  There is nothing more certain than change!

A last thought!  You requested a “favorite” picture of me while enjoying our hobby/sport. I have included a photo which reveals the most important feature I can think of.  It’s not me with a specific model. It’s not me posing with a trophy.  It’s me with my family at the 1980 Scale WC.  It represents the fact that as a scratch-build scale modeler, a contest director, an AMA employee, a competitor and much more, the long hours and expense has always found the complete support of my family.  The awards you mention below are in some cases mirrored on our wall in recognition for my wife, Rae’s activities.  Our two daughters, Anne and Cathy, also contributed many hours at various local, national and international events in a host of different ways. They had no interest in building or flying but they loved and appreciated the fellowship. None of the honor you have bestowed upon me is likely to have occured without the dedication, patience  and love shared by those three!

I recognize that the photo leaves something to be desired as far as digital quality is concerned, however, it was generated from a scan — of a scan—possibly of yet another scan!  In spite of its quality, it best presents my “favorite”.  Actually, my “really, really  favorite” would have been a group picture of all the wonderful individuals we have gained as “family” from all over the world.  Be assured the Spirits are an important set of that family!  Unfortunately, I don’t have a wide enough lens for that.

I certainly will treasure your kindness and also try to get by the field and club meeting from time to time. However, first, we have to try and clear up the issue of a virus.  I’m guessing you’ve all heard about that!

Best Regards and 


Bob U —Spirit LIFE Member! 

AMA Honors:

  • 1974: AMA Distinguished Service Award – Leadership in St. Louis area
  • 1980: Missouri Park Board Award – For funds gathered for their scholarship program
  • 1985: AMA Meritorious Service Award – Executive Council membership
  • 1997: Model Aviation Hall of Fame
  • 1998: FAI Paul Tissandier Diploma – For “Service to Aeromodelling and Air Sports”
  • 1988: NAA Certificate of Congratulations
  • 2002: AMA Fellowship Award
  • 2009: District Service Award
  • 2009: President’s Award


  • Been flying R/C since 1993. Building balsa airplanes since I was a kid. I love warbirds, aerobats, and just about anything that will fly.

1 thought on “Bob Underwood: Life Member

  1. It seems like I’ve know Bob Underwood all my life.
    Beginning when I was 16 flying u control rat racers.
    Glad to have him as a life member.
    Hope to see him at Gizzie field!


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