MEMORIES OF A GREAT MAN
David Dow Bentley III
From here at my mother's home in faraway New York my heart sails across the miles to my beloved Texas and the family and friends of one of the finest men I have ever known. The passing yesterday of Robert Blake Tabor has undoubtedly created another angel in the heavens as this joyfully courageous life has come to an end. I say “joyful” because he was always that. No matter what problems life sent his way he always greeted you with a smile, a warm handshake and a cheerful welcome to his home so full of love. I say “courageous” because he met every challenge with that courage and an uncomplaining determination to carry on. There would be plenty of challenges. His serious heart problems go back to the early 1980's when, if the Good Lord had not been so kind to us all, Bob could very well have died. But that was not to be. Countless other episodes of heart failure would threaten in the years that followed. But with each episode his love for living and the love of his family would join God's grace to pull him through, and once again Bob would demonstrate his courage to carry on in spite of all the odds. There would be many other battles for Bob. An accident cost him one eye many years ago, but that did not stop him from happily reading the morning paper from cover to cover every day. Cardiac issues and diabetes would land him in the hospital countless times, and there would be dental problems and hearing loss. But none of that would diminish his smile or prevent Bob from bravely living life to the fullest.
I first met Bob and his ever-devoted wife Mattie in 1986 when I bought a home in the condominium complex they managed in The Woodlands, Texas. I had barely met Mrs. Tabor when she cheerfully invited me to come to supper that very evening. I can still taste that delicious spaghetti and the meat sauce that was so full of Mattie's love and kitchen skill. But that didn't keep Bob from complaining that she had not sufficiently chopped up the meat in the sauce to his satisfaction. It was all in fun of course --- the kind of fun that was the secret of a loving marriage that dated back to 1950. Late last century Mattie was nervously looking forward to their 50th wedding anniversary in the year 2000. She was afraid Bob's various health concerns might whisk him away before that all-important date. She could not know then how the Lord would bless them with so many wonderful years to come. I have special memories of that 50th Wedding Anniversary. Being asked to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the warm and wonderful gathering of their countless friends and terrific family was an honor for me. And what a family it is with so many wonderful children, grandchildren and other relatives who have stood by Bob and Mattie through thick and thin. Not the least of those has been the Tabor's devoted daughter, Ruthellen, the angel that has led the family army of support for this cherished couple.
A talented engineer, and a Coast Guard veteran, Bob was not only kind, he was very, very smart. If you could break it, he could fix it. Car or household repairs, and plumbing problems were his specialty. Many the times he helped me solve my own problems with just a cup of coffee for his reward. It was always fun to look out my window and see his brisk walks through the condominium courtyard while on his way to help another of our many neighbors. It was even more fun when he dropped in to join me for coffee and pleasant conversation on all the topics of the day. He had such wonderful knowledge of current events, history, politics and above all, sports! With his adoring children and grandchildren at his side he enthusiastically supported the school and hometown teams, and of course, his beloved Dallas Cowboys. But as close as we became as friends, I was never able to get his support for our New York Yankees! That was a small price to pay for his continued friendship.
I have reminisced a lot about Bob's ever-present smile, but we all know the real source of that smile. It was his cherished wife, Mattie, and their large family that completed this “match made in heaven.” Her love and devotion, and that of his treasured daughter, Ruthellen, would have made any man smile, but there was only one man for Mattie, and while we think he is gone now, I am sure he will always be with her.