Robert J. Kolyer, a longtime Stony Brook and Southold resident who piloted planes for the Coast Guard during World War II, died Nov. 9 at his home in Southold. He was 91.
Kolyer joined the Coast Guard in 1941, piloting planes during World War II and eventually becoming chief aviation pilot in Alaska's Aleutian islands, according to his son Robert "Jay" Kolyer Jr. He later became involved in the commercial flight industry, and was among the first to earn a helicopter pilot's license.
Following the war Kolyer flew planes for Pan American Airlines, flew seaplanes for Long Island Airlines, and was a co-founder of seaplane operator Atlantic Air Service, his son said. He later became a journalist covering aviation and flying, working for the Daily News as well as other Long Island publications. He eventually joined Grumman Aircraft, helping to establish its internal technical publishing department and serving as a flight test engineer.
Kolyer was described by friends as a "rugged individualist" who enjoyed restoring antique American clocks and watches, and who helped build the original houses on Kenney’s Road in Southold, Jay Kolyer said.
Kolyer and his wife Helen moved to Stony Brook in 1956, where they remained for more than 40 years to raise their family. His parents' original home in Reydon Shores in Southold became a seasonal residence before he retired to live there full-time.
He is predeceased by his wife Helen, daughter Karen and son Michael; he is survived by sons Peter, Steven, and Robert "Jay;" and four grandchildren.
Visitation is set for Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon at Coster-Heppner Funeral Home in Cutchogue, followed by interment at 1 p.m. at Calverton National Cemetery.