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Robert J. Fangman

Robert J. Fangman

Robert John Fangman enjoyed red wine, dancing, gourmet meals, pinball, as well as dyeing his close-cropped hair. Before taking a job with United Airlines in January, Mr. Fangman had worked for Verizon Wireless. "He found his calling when he joined the airline", according to his mother.

Ruth Fangman spoke to her son Robert for the final time on Saturday. Robert, a United Airlines flight attendant, had telephoned his mother at her Claymont home from Texas, where he was visiting his oldest brother, Marty, and other relatives.

"Bobby said he might come home to visit on Sunday," Ruth Fangman said Thursday from her tidy brick row house off Philadelphia Pike. "But he stayed in Texas an extra day and never made it. Now I'll never see him again."

So instead of anticipating the next visit from her son, Ruth Fangman has spent the last two days learning of his death, exchanging teary embraces with her other six children, accepting condolences from friends, and making plans for a memorial celebration in Bobby's honor.

"He was my baby," Fangman said, fighting back the tears. "It hasn't really even sunk in yet."

Ruth Fangman, a widow who had four sons and three daughters, spent an hour early Thursday at her kitchen table reminiscing about her youngest child with daughter Terri, who rushed up from her Virginia home after hearing Bobby was on the doomed flight.

They spoke of his love of wine, gourmet food, big cities and international travel. They said he brightened many family gatherings with tales of his European journeys or by bursting into song, a cappella.

"He had a such a beautiful voice," said Terri, 43, who was in Texas last weekend with her brothers.

The women said Bobby, a Claymont High School graduate who had sold cellular telephones for about four years, had found his calling as a flight attendant.

He had met some attendants on a flight to Paris last year, became enamored with the lifestyle and decided to apply for a job with United. He was assigned to Boston in January.

Bobby's happiest days were the last eight months, as he hop-scotched around the country and the globe, often taking last-second assignments to Europe, they said.

"But now he's gone," Ruth said. "Words can't express how I feel. There's just a big hole in my heart."

He died at age 33 in the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack on board United Airlines flight 175.

He was survived by his sister Debbie, and his mother Ruth.

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