BY MICHAEL REISIG –
For the last five years Robert Toombs has served with distinction as the Polk County Veteran’s Service Office and many a veteran in this area will tell you it was Toombs who went to bat for him or her and helped them get the benefits they were entitled to.
Toombs was born in St. Louis, MO. He spent his younger years in Central Illinois, then the family moved to Houston, Texas, where he graduated from high school in 1961 and went on to join the Marines. After boot camp he was selected for embassy duty and served in Washington D.C and the Middle East. He was released from the marines in 1966 and returned to Houston, where he enrolled in the University of Houston. After college he went to work for Anheuser Busch Corporation as a computer programmer (one of the very early ones).
Toombs said during that time he met and married his wife, Michele, whom he said has a major foundation and blessing in his life. Today Michele works for the DeQueen-Mena Educational Co-op, teaching preschoolers. They have three children and are expecting their eighth grandchild in July.
“I worked for Busch until 1999, when I retired,” he recalled. “During that time I went from a computer operator to information systems manager, transferring to California briefly then returning to Texas. In the 31 years I was with the company I served as vice president of administration for the Houston area, supervising 22 people in all aspects of distributing for a 5,000-square-mile area.
“Computers and computer systems have, of course, really changed in that time,” he continued. “In the beginning the mainframe computers took up whole rooms and were elevated for the maze of cables and wiring underneath them. Repairs were a nightmare—nothing like today and the user-friendly computers we have now. In the beginning computers were used only in administration, but I watched it all change until all the operations, from bottling and production to shipping and distribution were all computerized.”
When Toombs retired in 1999 he and his wife moved to Mena, where they bought five acres and a home, but in 2003 his wife’s parents became ill and they returned to Houston to take care of them.
“We really missed Mena and when Michele’s parent’s health improved we came back in 2005 and bought another home,” he said. “But when we returned I discovered I hadn’t settled into retirement well – I needed something to do. So I began looking for a position that would allow me to serve the community and make me feel useful. I applied for the position as Veteran’s Service Officer, which was advertised in the paper, and after a couple of interviews with County Judge Bud Garmon I got the job.
“I began in 2006, and after a brief training at the Arkansas Department of Veteran’s Affairs, I was sort of cast into fire, but right away I found I really liked the position,” he recalled.” I genuinely enjoyed helping veterans and their widows or their dependents. It’s a very satisfying feeling to help vets and their families secure the benefits they deserve, and I like to think that during my time I made a difference for a handful of people within our region. I’m proud to say I never turned a vet away and I always did my best for them.”
Toombs retired on June 14 (for the second time) and is now finally looking forward to a little time on his own.
“I will enjoy remaining a member of the American Legion and the Marine Corp League, and feel honored to continue serving as a member of the honor guard for veteran’s funerals in our area,” Toombs said. “But now my wife and I are looking forward to purchasing a little travel trailer and seeing more of Arkansas and visiting the kids and the grandkids in Oklahoma and Texas. It has been my pleasure to serve the veterans of our region and I’m thankful I was given the opportunity.”