Sgt. Nolan goes home to his beloved Peggy

Veteran dies at 80; The State had told his story

jmonk@thestate.comJuly 29, 2012 

He’s back with Peggy.

Former Staff Sgt. Robert Nolan, 80, whose loyal love for Peggy, his wife of 51 years, eight months and 18 days, was chronicled last year in The State, died Friday at a local hospital. (See photographer Gerry Melendez's video from last year's story.)

“At least he’s with Mama now,” his daughter, Kathy Nolan, his primary caregiver, said Sunday.

When he died, two daughters — Chris and Cindy — were at his bedside, said Nolan.

“They said he was looking up, lips together, kissing the air, kisses to Mama,” she said. “He kissed the air four times.”

In a story last August, The State related the tale of how Nolan — a career soldier and Korean combat veteran — had met young Peggy Williams at a USO dance in Georgia in 1954.

So smitten was he that he told a buddy, “Look at that beautiful Southern belle. I’m going to marry that girl.”

They married in 1955, and she moved with him through his Army transfers to California, France, Germany and finally to Columbia, where his final posting was at Fort Jackson. Leaving the Army in 1969 after 20 years, he and Peggy spent the rest of their lives in South Carolina, raising four children in their Northeast Richland home.

Some 10 years ago, Nolan began to care for Peggy full-time after she began to suffer from Alzheimer’s. He didn’t want her to go to a nursing home and refused to leave her.

When she died, on April 29, 2007, she died in his arms. “I love you,” were her last words. She was 77.

Since he was a veteran, he had her buried at the national cemetery in Florence. After the national cemetery at Fort Jackson opened, her remains were transferred to that cemetery.

Every day, he would visit that cemetery, often bringing roses, planting a kiss on her gravestone or praying. Her gravestone read, “Bob-Bob’s girl” — a reference to his family nickname.

In recent months, he had bouts of pneumonia. When he was well, he visited her grave daily. Twice a week, he placed flowers there, said Kathy Nolan. “A dozen roses each time.”

“Every day, he was saying he wanted to be with Mama,” she said.

His last visit was Sunday, July 15, when he took roses.

A graveside service will be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Fort Jackson National Cemetery with full military honors. Dunbar Funeral home is assisting the family.

Video: An undying love

Bob Nolan knew he'd marry Peggy Williams the moment he spotted her at a USO dance in Georgia in 1954. For nearly 60 years they made a home for themselves and four children in Northeast Richland while he worked at Fort Jackson. Today, she is buried on the fort with his Purple Heart, and he visits her daily, rain or shine. Video by Gerry Melendez

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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