Robert Boomhower, former longtime Youngstown schoolteacher, was honored as Hometown Hero in Winter Springs, Fla., the community to which he moved in 1990 after retiring.
A disabled Navy veteran, Boomhower, 75, was recognized during a Veterans Day ceremony for his military and community service. He was nominated for the honor by VFW Post 5405 in Winter Springs, of which he is an auxiliary member.
“I’m honored, but I don’t feel like a hero. I just do what I can,” Boomhower said. “I wish other people would get involved in their local veterans organizations. It could make a huge difference in people’s lives.”
Boomhower is a member of American Legion Post 53 and the Disabled American Veterans, both in Sanford, Fla., and numerous other military and veterans organizations. He also is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Salem and a lifetime member of the Eagles.
He said he has fond memories of growing up in Youngstown, where he was a Vindicator paperboy for three years.
Boomhower grew up on Breaden Street on the city’s South Side, graduating in 1954 from South High School. He lived in Canfield while he taught sixth grade at the former Science Hill Elementary School for five years and at Sheridan Elementary School for 20 years.
“The funny thing is when I was in school, I skipped the sixth grade and then ended up teaching sixth grade,” he said with a laugh.
“We went swimming at the South Side Pool and enjoyed Idora Park and Mill Creek Park and made a few bucks unloading trucks at the farmers market on Pyatt Street,” he said.
It was either college or the steel mill after graduating from high school. His father had worked more than 30 years at Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.
“At that time, I wasn’t interested in college, and I wanted no part of the mill, so five days after I graduated from high school I enlisted in the Navy,” he said.
He was stationed in Washington, D.C., for more than two years as an intelligence photographer and then went aboard the USS Yosemite at Newport, R.I.
He was returning to the ship after a photo shoot when the driver of the car in which he was a passenger fell asleep on the Massachusetts Turnpike and crashed in May 1957.
Boomhower was paralyzed from the neck down and spent a year in a Navy hospital before coming home for more rehabilitation at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Cleveland.
After the Navy, he graduated from Youngstown University with a degree in education and received his master’s degree in education from Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa.
Boomhower is the son of Ira and Jennie Fly Boomhower, both deceased, as is his sister, Shirley Sampson, who was a secretary at East and Woodrow Wilson high schools.
He has five children, a son, Eric Boomhower in South Carolina, an Air Force veteran; and four daughters, Amy Boomhower McCon of Austintown; Mary Boomhower Zins of Girard; Melanie Boomhower Diana of Canfield; and Paula Boomhower Temelkoff of Canton; 14 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His fiancee is Beverly Majors.