The family of Robert Albert Savage announced “with heavy hearts, but great admiration for a life well lived, the passing of a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend,” on Nov. 4, 2023, two months shy of his 90th birthday, at his home on Hilton Head Island, S. C.
Bob was born on Jan. 5, 1934 in London, England to James and Florence Savage. He was predeceased by his brother Frank. He is survived by Pam, his wife of 62 years, and his three children, Nicholas (Beth), Ian (Sonja) and Rachel (Lou). Bob adored his eight grandchildren — Jack, Aidan, Claire, Daniel, Ben, Mackie, Kipper and Brady — who affectionately called him Poppa.
Bob was also a wonderful uncle to his numerous nieces and nephews who relished family visits.
Growing up in London, Bob was among the many children sensibly evacuated at the outbreak of World War II to remove them from harm’s way, a group known in history as the “Children of the Blitz.”
When the anticipated attack did not materialize, Bob returned home to London with his older brother Frank. Shortly thereafter, the family’s home was destroyed in a bombing raid, fortunately with no casualties.
Bob excelled academically and at age 13 his high test score on a standardized exam earned him a coveted spot in a selective London private school. But Bob was also eager to enter the workforce, and found himself restless in the classroom, so he opted to leave school at 16 and work for Barclays Bank.
Ambitious, but also realistic about the need to start at the bottom, Bob’s duties at Barclays included stoking the furnace to keep the offices warm and carrying the heavy ledger books to the desks of senior bankers. All the while, he watched and listened intently, with an appetite to learn.
In 1952, Bob joined the Royal Air Force in fulfillment of his national service, hoping to enroll in flight school. But by his own admission, Bob was not shy about speaking his mind, a trait not admired by more senior brass in the military. This ultimately led to a court martial for Bob, but also the enduring legacy among his peers for Bob’s independent streak and fortitude.
After leaving the RAF in 1954, Bob returned to Barclays Bank — this time at the chief foreign branch where he was recognized for his superior talent as a foreign exchange trader and then was elevated to chief trader. It was then that Bob met his future wife Pam. After several years of courtship, they were married in October 1961.
In 1965, Bob was recruited by the American Express Bank to develop its foreign exchange trading business. By 1972, American Express asked Bob to move to the main office in New York, so Bob and Pam and their three young children relocated across the pond. The family resided in Short Hills, N.J. for the next 22 years while Bob traveled extensively for work, often accompanied by Pam.
Bob ascended to president and CEO, and then to chairman of American Express, before retiring in 1994. Pam and Bob then relocated to Hilton Head Island, S.C., where they have lived ever since.
Bob and Pam also enjoyed their extensive time on Shelter Island, which they discovered on a visit in 1980. After purchasing a home in 1983, they loved hosting family and friends from both sides of the Atlantic. Bob was the consummate host, particularly at the helm of his boat and his head spot at the large, inviting dining table, where laughs, funny stories, and broad smiles were abundant.
Bob was an excellent tennis, squash, paddle and ping pong player, but golf frustrated him enormously. Undaunted and with a relentlessly competitive spirit, Bob made sure that there was no such thing as a friendly game; he always played to win.
The garden was his sanctuary. He spent hours pruning, planting and caring for his many species of shrubs and flowers at his homes in Short Hills, Shelter Island and Hilton Head. He rejoiced in giving garden tours and would speak for hours with an encyclopedic knowledge of each plant, bush and tree.
Bob will be immeasurably missed by his family and friends. A celebration of life will be held on Hilton Head Island, S.C. on Jan. 6, 2024. Details to follow.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Memory Matters of Hilton Head Island, 117 William Hilton Pkwy, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926, or Crescent Hospice, [email protected], [email protected], 855-784-0254.