Ray Von Bobo

I've been thinking about this all day.  Sometime tonight, around 11:15, it will have been one week since my dad took his last breath.  I have a feeling that this will be how I measure time for a while: It's been one week.

The next day, my brother and my sisters and I met his wife, Marilyn, at the funeral home to make arrangements. She wanted us there. She wanted us to have input and to be a part of the decision making regarding how our dad would be remembered.  Part of the process was providing the funeral director with information  about our dad that would become the obituary for the local papers and websites.

The funeral director was kind and compassionate. But once we had given the information to him, my sister Sheila was disappointed and a little upset.  We had reduced our dad to the dates that he was alive, his occupation, and who his relatives were. It was like Dragnet when Sgt. Joe Friday used to say, "Just the facts, ma'am." And all of us at the table at Herndon-Pharr Funeral Home knew that Ray Von Bobo was much more than just the facts.

Ray Von Bobo grew up in an area outside of Hope, Arkansas known as Spring Hill.  He was the second of five children raised by Rex and Jewell Bobo.  He and his brother Jesse were lifelong best friends. The two of them adored their sisters: Helen, Pauline, and Doris. The family was close. 

When my dad was nineteen, he married my mom, Elizabeth Lauterbach.  By the time they were each thirty years old, they had four children. I can't even imagine what that must have been like. Thirty years old and married with four kids? In those days, my family lived in Dallas, Texas, and my dad was a Volkswagen mechanic at Economy Cars on Lemmon Avenue.  We lived on Valley Ridge, and I went to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades at David G. Burnett.  And what I remember about my dad is a collection of random things:  If we had ice cream it had to be one of his two favorite flavors - either tutti-frutti (store bought) or banana (homemade). My parents played a lot of dominoes (usually a game called "42"). He smoked Winston cigarettes in those days. When he got home from work, he would take a bath, put on clean clothes, and relax in front of the TV, watching whatever western program he could find on the local stations (Bonanza, The Rifleman, etc.).

Back row: Ray and Jesse. Front row: Doris, Helen, Pauline.

During the time that my family lived in Dallas, we would travel about once a month to Arkansas to visit both my parents' families. We would all pile in that metallic blue Chevy Impala station wagon and off we'd go up Hwy. 67, headed for Hope.  Eventually my parents moved us back to Arkansas, just down the road from Grandpa and Grandma.

I've gotten way off track here, but you get the idea.  There's so much more to a person's life than the few lines you read in an obituary. Last week, as we were trying to think of possible pallbearers, I had a fleeting thought: Wouldn't it be great if we could get some (of the the many) coffee shop waitresses that he used to flirt with to be pallbearers? Breakfast was his favorite meal of the day, and you could always find him in a coffee shop somewhere, giving one waitress or another "the business." He always swore by this: If you're food's taking too long to come out, light a cigarette.  Your food will magically appear.

Mr. Bobo, Dad, Sheila, Larry, Charlotte.

My dad's second cousin, Kenneth Bobo, a Baptist preacher, spoke at his funeral.  I was so happy when he talked about my dad's sense of humor. He had a quick wit and he seemed to have a mental rolodex of clever comments for any occasion. I hope that I inherited some of that wit, some of that easy manner he seemed to have with lots of people.  

As the years went on his health deteriorated and kept deteriorating.  He couldn't participate in the outdoor activities that he had loved earlier like deer and duck hunting.  Thankfully, though, he still managed to get in more than a few good, relaxing  fishing trips.  But it seemed that his real joy was grandchildren and great grandchildren.  he couldn't get enough of them.  The night he died, his wife kissed him on the forehead and said to Sheila and me, "He was a sweet man."  "He sure was," my sister answered.


  1. Yes , Michael Ray, that is how you will measure time. also, it will be, "before daddy died" and "after daddy died". He was a sweet man, but ornery too. I remember having cousin sleep overs and him pouring ice water on us to wake us up. He loved to tickle me because he knew id pee my pants. If I was barefoot he'd grab my toes and pop them. It was all in fun - he loved to laugh and that was his way of showing affection.


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