Robert Eugene Covey – Obituary

Robert Eugene Covey

1927 – 2021

Robert Eugene Covey (Bob) died peacefully at the age of 93 on February 1, 2021, after a brief illness. He was predeceased by his wife of 68 years, Joyce Hanson Covey, and his daughter Janis Covey Koch. He is survived by his two sons, Alan and Paul, and two grandchildren, Keegan and Kyla.
Bob was born in 1927 in Pasadena, and he grew up there, attending Pasadena High School and PCC. He had a lifelong love of airplanes, building countless models, and learning to fly. He served in the Army in Korea in 1946-1948, returning with many stories, including one about facing down a cobra on midnight sentry duty. Back in California, he was accepted at Caltech where he received a Master’s in Aeronautical Engineering and then began his long and successful career at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
At JPL, he held many positions over his 44 years of service, starting with the wind tunnels (where he wrote the book on Wind Tunnel Data Processing), and then the Space Simulator, that tested spacecraft, including Ranger, Voyager, Galileo, and Viking. Later he spent time as Deputy Manager of the Environmental Sciences Division, and Director of the Electronic Parts Division. One of his favorite assignments was overseeing the building of the Keck Telescope on top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. “It was done on time and under budget,” he liked to say. He also served as lead for JPL’s Affirmative Action Program for many years.
Bob was active in the community, receiving the Les Tupper award in 1977. He continued to be the JPL liaison for the Les Tupper awards after retirement and volunteered as a docent at the Lanterman House in La Cañada Flintridge. He contributed his many memories to the oral history project organized by Lanterman.
In retirement, Bob and his wife, Joyce, traveled the world extensively, going on African safaris and exploring the Great Pyramids. They enjoyed their second home in Yosemite and spent fun times there with family. Bob will be remembered for his humor, his sense of precision, his love of the natural world, and his long stories. He will be greatly missed. There will be no memorial service, and, in lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Yosemite Conservancy (Yosemite.org).