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Bob McAbee loved family, his country and baseball

July 24, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Robert Franklin McAbee, who died July 16, at the age of 79. His obituary appeared in the July 18 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.




Goldie Vance was a widow holding down two jobs and raising two of her four children still living at home when she first met Bob McAbee at the VFW in downtown Hagerstown more than 40 years ago.

"He was such a nice guy ... everybody liked Bob," Goldie said. "I was struck by the sincerity of his feelings."

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Before long, VFW Post 1936 had become the hub of their social life and in 1965, Goldie and Bob married. That same year, Goldie's son, Joe Vance, also tied the knot with his wife, Suzie.

"Bob and Joe wore the same suit at their weddings," said Bob's stepdaughter Donna West.

This past January as Bob's health was declining, Goldie and Bob celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Joe and Suzie will mark the same milestone in October.

And though Robert Franklin McAbee, who died July 16, won't be there to celebrate with them, there will be plenty of warm memories to share of all those years together.

The McAbees shared a love of country, community, family and baseball. Nearly all of their activities outside of work involved Hagerstown Suns games, family functions and veterans events.

Donna was 14 when her mother married Bob, which is what she and her brother, Joe, always called him. Goldie had two older children, Carol Corbett and Roy Vance, now deceased, while Bob was the father of one daughter, Cynthia Foreman.

"I lost my dad when I was 11," Donna said, noting that Bob quickly became a father figure to her. "After I got married and had my children, Bob was the only grandfather they knew - they called him Pappy Bob and he just loved having them around."

VFW Easter egg hunts and Christmas parties were favorite outings of Bob's grandchildren as was learning to drive in his old brown Chevette when they got older, Donna said.

Bob and Goldie lived downtown during the early years of their marriage before moving to Edgewood Hills Circle 27 years ago. They often took long walks through the South End of Hagerstown where Bob grew up so he could keep up with the changes.

"We always had season tickets for the Suns games," Goldie said, with their favorite spot in the stands behind first base. Goldie said she will still be going to as many games as she can because she enjoys being around people.

With that kind of zeal, it seemed only natural that the couple would join the Hagers-town Suns Fan Club. "We helped raise a lot of money for them over the years," she said. The club members host four picnics a year for the players, have them over for dinners and help them get necessities for their apartments when they are living in Hagerstown.

Goldie and Bob also volunteered at the food bank at St. Mark's Lutheran Church. "We joined up with Bob's brother, Harry, and his wife, Bonnie," Goldie said. Bob continued to volunteer once a month for about 20 years.

Beth Stouffer, longtime coordinator of the food bank, said she was very familiar with the two couples. "Bob was very faithful for all those years," she said. "He never missed."

Bob's patriotism was equally steadfast, having been forged in World War II when he joined the U.S. Navy as a boy of 17. After the war, he came home, finished high school and went to work.

As a member of the Military Order of the Cooties, Pup Tent 7, Bob spent a lot of time involved with hospitalized veterans for whom he had great respect. Goldie said the military funeral service for Bob was very impressive and comforting.

At that funeral, Bob's nephew, Steven McAbee, summed up his Uncle Bob's philosophy of life - it's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice.

"We know his real legacy - his love for his family, for his friends, his love of life and his smile," Steven said.

Just beginning the adjustment to life without Bob, Goldie said she will continue to do the things they used to do together - taking walks, being with family, going to VFW activities and rooting her beloved Hagerstown Suns on to victory from behind first base.

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