May 7, 1940 - Dec. 1, 2020
Bob was born in Hugo, Okla. to young, poor farmers. His childhood was one of abject poverty, neglect and abuse.
Bob realized at a young age that education was the key to provide opportunities to better himself and his future. He applied his quick, sharp mind, and his thirst for knowledge of a myriad of topics, and graduated from high school with top honors. Bob's love for learning continued throughout his life, and he applied it in both his professional and personal life.
At the age of 16, while attending Sweet Home High School, Bob met the love of his life, Carolene "Carol" Burks. Bob and Carol married in 1958, and moved to Salem shortly thereafter. Bob and Carol shared many interests over the years, enjoying camping, dirt bike motorcycle riding, and buzzing around in their yellow dune buggy with family and friends; traveling the world together; creating beautiful flower gardens and bountiful vegetable gardens; entertaining family and friends, to name a few.
Many have shared their favorite memories of eating raspberries while picking them with Bob in the garden, or the delicious raspberry pies Carol would make from them for all to enjoy. Memories of summer gatherings in the backyard, feasting on Bob's perfectly grilled steaks from the brick BBQ designed and built by Bob. The ideal dessert to end one of those summer gatherings of home churned ice cream to complement one of Carol's Gravenstein apple pies.
These memories included the treat of Bob teaching his stovetop method for making popcorn, from that first "pop" to sharing the most tender, delicious popcorn ever tasted; the delight of being invited for a Sunday afternoon or summer evening ride in one of Bob's restored classic cars; of being teased by Bob; of being fondly referred to by a special, silly nickname he came up with just for you; of being blessed with his magnificent smile; the pride and joy one felt after mastering the difficult but magical Native American hand call Bob would patiently teach. Above all, Bob was devoted to his family, and provided a rich life of adventures and experiences.
Bob would be surprised and touched to learn that several nieces and nephews considered him and Carol to be their second parents. Bob and Carol were blessed with 47 years of marriage before Carol passed and went to be with the Lord while on one of their adventures abroad.
Some of Bob's other accomplishments were serving six years in the Air National Guard, working for the Oregon Department of Revenue for 35 years, participating as a volunteer reading mentor for Salem grade school children, volunteering as a guide for the Northwest Vintage Car and Motorcycle Museum, and most importantly, putting his faith into action.
As a member of Salem First Church of the Nazarene, Bob went on work and witness mission trips to locations such as Israel, South Korea, and South Africa, where his focus was repairing broken down vehicles for the farmers and missionaries. Bob and Carol faithfully served as full-time church greeters for 22 years, and fill-in greeters for several more years.
Bob was born with a passion and natural gift for auto mechanics. He began learning engine and transmission repair at the age of 9. In his youth, Bob built and raced dragsters, becoming an undefeated victor at the Woodburn Dragstrip in the mid-1960s. Bob then went on to restore and show classic cars for the remainder of his life, initially specializing in 1937-1949 Buicks, then broadening to include a few classic Fords and Chevys.
Over the years, Bob won many First in Class and Best of Show trophies. Having earned a reputation for his excellence and expertise, Bob was sought after by collectors all over the U.S. to rebuild motors, transmissions, and all things mechanical for their particular classic car.
Bob would have told you the most meaningful thing that came out of this hobby was meeting Jim Comfort, who would become his restoration buddy and best friend for nearly 40 years. Bob and Jim worked as a team, blending their unique knowledge and skills to produce dozens of flawlessly restored classic cars. Their friendship saw each man through life's joys, celebrations, challenges and hardships, steadfast in their loyalty and love for each other.
During the last several years, Bob was a volunteer mentor in the Speedster Program, through the Northwest Vintage Car and Motorcycle Museum. The program is in partnership with Salem-Keizer Schools, in which at-risk high school students are taught auto mechanics, body work, painting, etc, as they rebuild and restore a vehicle throughout the school year.
Bob shared his passion for cars with the students, and believed teaching them skills to earn a good living and being an encouraging mentor was his way of giving them support that he never had as a young man. Located at Powerland Heritage Park in Brooks, the Speedster Program has seen over 350 students complete the program. Please visit http://www.nwcarandcycle.com for more information and to make donations to this valuable program.
Bob was an inspiration and example to those of us fortunate to know and love him. He modeled for us foundational life lessons – lessons of determination and perseverance, a "never give up" attitude; lessons of learning to make better choices from failures and mistakes; lessons of forgiveness; lessons of the importance of having the right life partner to encourage and challenge you to grow and be a person after God's heart; lessons of freely giving your time, talents, and love to others; lessons of commitment and loyalty.
The love Bob could not always verbalize he demonstrated through his actions. While his family and friends mourn the loss of Bob in their lives, they rejoice in the knowledge that he is now reunited with Carol. That Bob promised he will be waiting for us "on that beautiful shore".
Bob's daughters are planning a graveside life celebration service to be held in the summer of 2021 at Gilliland Cemetery in Sweet Home. Family and friends are welcome to attend as we honor Bob's life and legacy. Details will be made available next spring, via social media and Salem First Church of the Nazarene.