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Robert Eugene Shoemaker

November 14, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes 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 Eugene Shoemaker, who died Nov. 2 at the age of 79. His obituary was published in the Nov. 4 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Bob Shoemaker worked a lot of different jobs in his adult life, but his last job as a greeter at the Hagerstown Wal-Mart might have been the most rewarding for him as well as the people he greeted.

Well into his 60s, Bob first went to work there unloading trucks and stocking shelves 13 years ago.

"After his heart surgery and when his balance began to go, Bob became the greeter," said his widow, Jacqueline "Jackie" Shoemaker.

An openhearted man to everyone who entered the store, Bob made a lot of friends who not only showed up at his Nov. 6 funeral, but stepped up to help Jackie when she needed it most.

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A move to a new residence nearly coincided with Bob's decline in health and subsequent death. Jackie was contacted by a group of Mennonites who had befriended Bob at the store. They helped her pack up her belongings and then hauled everything to the new apartment.

"I was taking care of Bob and they took care of everything else for me," Jackie said, still overwhelmed by their outpouring of support.

She also received a lot of help from her son, James, as well as Hospice of Washington County and Lutheran Home Health Care during the last few months of Bob's life.

The Assembly of God church in Hancock and Faith Temple in Cearfoss also assisted the Shoemaker family, Jackie said.

A shy man when Jackie met him back in 1957, Bob was a "fix up" for her when she was a nurse working at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va.

"I had a friend who worked there and he knew Bob," she said. "That friend got us together."

Jackie said she remembers thinking that Bob was too good looking, although he was quite the introvert on that first date.

Hardly love at first sight, the couple didn't hook up again until a year later, when Bob called her out of the blue.

"I asked him if he had a girlfriend and he said no," Jackie said.

Six months later, in January 1959, the couple got married and settled in Martinsburg. Jackie still was a nurse at the VA Center and Bob was working for Pennsylvania Glass Sand (now U.S. Silica) in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

They soon moved to Berkeley Springs to be closer to his work. Jackie gave birth to the couple's first child, James, in November 1959.

Ten years later, Jackie and Bob welcomed a daughter, Roberta Ann, to their family. She died at the age of 7 1/2 from complications of Reye's Syndrome.

"It was such a shock," James said of his sister's death. "We all had the flu ... Roberta got it last."

James said his sister came down with the flu on a Monday and died on Thursday as the family frantically rushed her to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

"Bob always called her dumpling," Jackie said.

At 33, Bob accepted Jesus into his life.

"He had always been a good man, but he hadn't taken that step," Jackie said.

Over the years, Bob -- a licensed preacher -- volunteered in the pulpits at three churches in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

James described his father as a disciplinarian who expected a lot from his only son.

"He was a strong man, both physically and in his beliefs," James said.

As his father's life slipped away, James said he had a tear in his eye when his father squeezed his hand. Jackie and James told him they loved him and that it was all right for him to "go."

"He was always a twinkler," Jackie said, referring to Bob's smile, which began in his eyes and soon lighted up his entire face.

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