Robert (Bob) James Garbs, 88, Washington, passed away Saturday, May 13, 2023 after years-long battle with COPD.
His passions were golf, Elvis Presley, Rothschild’s Restaurant and his beloved wife of 66 years, Marita (Schulte) Garbs. On most mornings, the two of them could be found in booth 33 at Rothschild’s, chatting with fellow regulars as they awaited their breakfasts. Bob was a frequent partaker of Rothschilds’ infamous Chili Bomb “for the adventurous spirit”! He challenged many a great-nephew to finish the tower of hash browns topped with sausage, two eggs over easy, homemade chili, sausage gravy, cheddar cheese, jalapenos, and onion--in a single setting, just as he did from time to time.
Known for his effervescent smile, upbeat attitude, legendary hugs and story-telling ability, Bob—or UB, as his many nieces and nephews called dear Uncle Bob -- was adored by all.
Son of the late Gustave Garbs and Bertha, nee Meyer, Bob was born August 14, 1934 in New Haven. He was the ninth of 11 children. Like many large families of that era, money was tight, so clothes and shoes were simply passed down from kid to kid to kid. Bob recalled that nobody paid any attention to the proper size needed; you simply shoved your feet into whatever shoes were available. Later, as a 6-foot, 3-inch adult, Bob was convinced that his shoe size would have been at least an 11, rather than the 9.5 he regularly wore, if not for his curled down toes, a result of all those years of too-small shoes.
Bob received his education from Holy Family Port Hudson and St. Francis Borgia grade schools. But mischievous Bob was never a fan of school, so he quit after the eighth grade, thinking he’d have more fun running and causing trouble with his friends. It wasn’t long, however, before Bob recalled sitting down to the breakfast table, only to discover that his plate was missing. He glanced first to his mom and then to his dad who said: “Son, when you begin putting something on the table, your plate will return.” The next day, Bob got a job mowing neighborhood lawns and began putting money into the family jar. His plate returned soon after.
At age 16, Bob got his first full time job at the International Shoe Factory in Washington. He worked there until he turned 18 in 1952, when he began a 30+ year career with General Motors. Bob worked the GM line for 17 years until he became supervisor, a role he held for 11 years, until cutbacks moved him back to working on the truck line until his retirement in 1982.
A few years into his GM career, on July 21, 1956, he was united in marriage to the love of his life, Marita Schulte, at St. Francis Borgia Church. They enjoyed many fun evenings going to the drive-in theater and the Top Hat Club and other local nightclubs, dancing late into the night to the music of Elvis.
Early in his GM career, a colleague invited Bob to play golf at a new golf course in Pacific. Having never played the sport before, Bob decided to give it a try, which launched a prolific career as a decorated local golfer. On most Sunday mornings, he attended 6 a.m. Mass at St. Francis Borgia, then rushed home to change clothes and grab his clubs for a round of 18 at Elmwood Golf Course. Those rounds helped him become a regular winner on the local tourney circuit. A September 1971 Missourian photo shows a picture of Bob and three other local golfers who, as a team, had won the state championship for three successive years.
A few years after retiring from GM, Bob decided to return to the workforce for “just a few years” as a tour bus driver for MidAmerican Coaches. Twenty-five years later, he finally hung up his leather driver’s vest for good, having safely transported hundreds of groups to tourist sites in every state in the US, except Washington and Oregon. He was one of the first to drive MidAmerican’s innovative articulated bus, which bent in the middle. Bob loved to tell stories “of the road” and his ability to recite exact highway routes and trip details became legendary among his close family.
Bob served his country from 1957-59 as a member of the US Army’s Big Red One, First Infantry Division, training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO and Fort Riley, KS before enjoying a 13-month tour in Germany. He was a proud lifelong member of UAW Local 25 and the Knights of Columbus.
Bob is survived by his wife, Marita (nee Schulte); siblings, Francis Garbs, Lillian Bockover, Gustave and Jenny Garbs, Bertha Becker, all of Washington; brothers-in-law Donald Schulte and Donald Willming, both of Washington; and many, many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents; siblings, Mary Holt, Eugene Garbs, Helen Kandlbinder, Ervin Garbs, Theon Garbs, and Theresa Mohesky.
A celebration of his life will be held on Friday, June 2nd at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Visitation will be from 9-11 a.m. with a recitation of the rosary at 10:45 a.m. Funeral Mass will follow at 11.
Memorials suggested to the Washington Fire Department, Washington Area Ambulance District, Promedica (formerly Heartland) Hospice, or a charity of the donor’s choice.
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