Between his military service and many years as a truck driver, Bob Simon has traveled extensively. He knows exactly what states are most amazing: Montana, Oregon, and Alaska because of their sheer beauty. However, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas are not his favorites.
Missouri made his bottom list because it wasn’t a truck-driver friendly state. Also on the list is Nebraska as he recalled a time when lightning struck and carved a hole in the ground right in front of his truck. “I nearly wet myself in Nebraska,” Bob laughed at the memory. His experience in Texas, however, gave him a whopper of a story, though it was not a happy one.
“Near the border of Mexico while I was in Texas, my refrigeration stopped working and I had a guy working on it. I was watching him and he wasn’t doing something right. When I told him that the part wasn’t broken, he pulled a gun on me.” Bob offered to pay him, and he and his wife and their children quickly left. Thankfully they made it out of the garage without any physical harm.
Bob was drafted at the age of 18 and served 20 months in Korea. When he returned to the states, he served 10 more years in the Army Reserve. In 1970, Bob used an inheritence from his grandmother’s estate to purchase a Detroit moving company that had been established in 1908. In 1980, he didn’t renew the Teamsters contract and faced sharp retribution.
“It was very abusive. They put glue in the door locks, hammered nails into the locks, and punctured radiators. I went to court, but couldn’t prove it was them.” Mr. Bob had 50 employees at the time and eventually auctioned off the busines. Afterwards he went to Denver and started Venture Corporation with his brother, then got back to driving, traveling through all of the lower 48 states.
In 1982, Bob bought a new Peterbilt and in 1985 was driving from Chicago to New Hartford, Connecticut carrying a load of berries. He spotted a woman hitchhiking alone. He felt sorry for her and felt he needed to help. She had no belongings at all, so he let her sleep in the front seat. Bob spent $300 buying her a suitcase, clothing, and bathroom items. As they got to know each other while they traveled together, he urged her to contact her mother to tell her she was okay.
Bob finally met his passenger’s Mom that Christmas, finding himself in Nashville. He brought gifts for his new wife’s family. His mother-in-law said Bob was her best son-in-law.
Bob and his wife lived on the road with two of their children. When they learned their third child was on the way, Bob and his wife sold the truck in Washington state and found their way back to his hometown of Denver (where he and his six brothers and sisters had grown up on a farm). Bob paid off all his debt and bought a van with the intention of moving to western Montana. However they decided it was far too cold there, so they picked Tennessee as their home. They first lived in Millersville, eventually moving to LaVergne. “Winters weren’t too cold in Tennessee and summers weren’t too hot. That’s all changed now,” he said.
“I like LaVergne. It’s a small town. Everyone I meet is friendly,” the now 81-year old volunteer said. “I got my son in Cub Scouts and my daughters in Girl Scouts.” As leader of the Cub Scout Pack, he supervised 125 scouts. He was also a Girl Scout leader. “I’ve been to Camp Sycamore Hills, Camp Holloway. Being a male leader was fun.”
Bob spent many hours at the ball fields watching games, and former Parks & Recreation Director Robin Grubb took notice. She approached Bob and invited him to consider being a member of the Parks & Recreation Committee for LaVergne. According to Bob, he has served 12-13 years or maybe 15. Bob has always been a very vocal advocate for a new community center for the city. “I want one big building, divided into an area for the youth of our community and a separate entrance and area for our senior center. I would like to see a swimming pool in the middle. The pool should also be divided so that there is a rehabilitation area with wheelchair accessibility”
As I do everyone, I asked Bob what he likes most about LaVergne and what he believes could be improved.
“I really like the events like Old Timers Festival. This was the first year I missed and I was very emotional about that. I couldn’t walk. I also like the sports we offer – baseball, softball. I love watching the kids play.”
“Politics. Everybody needs to come together, stop picking on each other, be truthful. Be lovable to each other and just get along. I don’t understand why people pick on each other.”
For now Bob is in a rehabilitation facility following surgery. Several months ago, he attended the opening ceremony for Fall Ball. Afterwards he went home, took a shower, and went to bed. “Chest pains woke me up at 12:00 or 1:00 a.m. and I called 911. I found out I had to have triple bypass surgery. That’s another thing I love about LaVergne. When you call 911, everyone comes! LPD, LFD, ambulance service. They were all there.”
Bob loves people. He is generous with his hugs, carries candies in his pockets to give to youngsters, and frequently sends uplifting and sweet facebook messages. But he always makes time for his big, beautiful family who he deeply loves. Bob has two daughters and one son, 11 grandchildren and two more grandchildren on the way. All of his kids and grandkids live in the LaVergne and Smyrna area.
“My oldest daughter home schools her six children. She has another one on the way! She had triplets first who are now 13-years old. My son has two boys. My youngest daughter, who lives with me, has three children. It’s expensive spoiling 11 grandkids!”
Clearly Bob’s passions include his children and grandchildren, but also traveling. “I drove from 1958 to 1986 with no accidents and only one speeding ticket. I love driving,” said Bob. “It’s in my blood. I drove my kids to California and back, stopping at all places on the way. We’ve been to Disneyland, watched it snow in the mountains.”
Bob also demonstrates what it is to have the heart of a volunteer. For years, his photo was featured on the city’s website as he grilled burgers for a fundraiser. He is the only remaining original member of Box 100, but also volunteered with the high school band when his children were in school. He hopes to go back to that volunteer role of loading and unloading equipment when his grandchildren go to high school and if they join the band. For his kind spirit and generous volunteerism, Bob was selected as grand marshal of the Christmas Parade of Lights several years ago. While he was honored by the invitation, we as a community are honored by his continued service.
Finally as we were getting ready to leave (I made plans to drop him off at the LaVergne Senior Center for their Thanksgiving meal), I asked what he wanted people to know about him. He was quick to answer,
“I’m a very happy and loving individual. I love to help people.”
I smiled at him.
“That’s enough, don’t you think?”
Yes, Mr. Bob. You have given LaVergne so much of yourself. We sincerely thank you for that and want you to know you are one of our finest treasures.
(As a former Girl Scout leader, let me personally add that male leaders follow specific, detailed rules that ensure the safety of all members.)