Robert R. Reese, of Geneseo, IL, founder of Springfield Armory, died peacefully on June 22 at the age of 87. He was born in Moline, IL, to Thomas William and Ruby Rose Reese.
Reese married Carol Schillinger in 1952 and served in the U.S. Army National Guard at Camp Cooke in Santa Barbara County, CA. The couple returned to the Midwest upon his discharge from the military, where he began farming with his father. During that time, he also sold agricultural equipment in Tipton, IA, was a real estate developer and Army surplus dealer with a store in Geneseo.
He resurrected the Springfield Armory name in 1974, and in doing so preserved iconic and historically significant firearm designs, including the M1 Garand, the U.S. M14 and the 1911 pistol. He, his wife and their son, Dennis, were the first company employees. The trio was later joined by sons Dave and Tom, and together the Reese family grew the business to become the global force in the firearm industry it is today.
Reese was a lifelong, committed advocate for the Second Amendment, who cherished its significance and lived his life guided by the principles of independence and personal responsibility. He loved trips to Camp Perry, exhibiting on Commercial Row and supporting the Highpower Rifle Championships and Bullseye Pistol Championships—an annual tradition that began only months after founding Springfield Armory. He was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and has several firearms patents to his name. At the young age of 17, Reese became the North American Junior Trapshooting champion.
He is survived by his wife, Carol; three sons and daughters-in-law, Dennis J. and Jane Reese of Geneseo, David R, and Colleen Reese of Colona, and Thomas William and Jane Reese of Geneseo; seven grandchildren and their spouses, Stefany and Chris Toomer, Nicholas Reese, Robert and Bethany Reese, Jon Reese, Kelly and Houston Holt, Carolyn and John Kozlik, and Thomas William Reese; and two great-grandchildren, Ruby Grace Holt and Eli Joseph Reese. He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister, Carol Kleeman.