The Obit For Bob Willard

Robert Willard

Published in Houston Chronicle on September 7, 2012

Robert Swain Willard passed away on September 3, 2012 surrounded by his loving family. Bob was born in San Antonio on February 3, 1927 to Alfred L. Willard and Mabel Swain Willard. The family moved to Houston in 1935, where Bob grew up in the Houston Heights.

Bob was an outstanding student and athlete at John H. Reagan High School where he captained the football team for two years, was an All-District Tackle and played point guard on the basketball team. Scholastically, he finished third in his class. Although HISD cancelled baseball during World War II, Bob was named the best 17-year-old baseball player in Texas, as well as most outstanding player in Houston. He was offered professional baseball contracts with the New York Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals when he was only 16 years old, but wisely declined to complete his education.

Bob was recruited by many major colleges, including Annapolis, but Rice University was his only consideration. After one semester, he served seventeen months in the U.S. Army Air Corps, mostly in Panama. He then returned to Rice and was the catcher on the baseball team for four years. He was named to the All-Southwest Conference Team twice. He then signed with the Chicago Cubs and played several years in their minor league system. In 1951, while playing pro ball, he met his only love, Sara Lazenby, in Rock Hill, S.C. Bob said the best thing about his baseball career was finding Sara.

Bob's successful business career included 35 years with Humble Oil, Carter Oil, and Exxon USA. He obtained his Masters Degree from the University of Houston and took classes at the Wharton School of Business, PA. He represented Exxon in numerous industry organizations and was well known throughout the United States.

After his early retirement from Exxon, Sara and Bob moved to Wimberley for ten years.
There they fed and loved the deer and other wild animals on their acreage. Bob enjoyed his golfing buddies both at Woodcreek Country Club and also in Houston.

He has been an officer and very active member of the "R" Association (Rice's ex-Lettermen's Organization) since 1987 and a member of the Owl Club for decades. He has been a member of St. Paul's Methodist Church since 1969.

In 2000, Sara and Bob moved back to Houston to be close to their children, grandchildren and Rice University. Although he had many interests, they were all secondary to his family.

Bob is survived by Sara and their children, Leslie Lee, Steven Willard and his wife Frances, Lizabeth Comiskey, Kelley Austin and her husband Brian. His grandchildren,
Michael Lee, Jonathan Lee, Caroline Willard, Robert Willard II, Kyle Willard, Courtney Comiskey, Hunter Comiskey, Sara Austin, Hanna Austin and William Austin. His sister, Effie Swenson, her three children and his special Jack Russell terrier, "Dixie".

The family would like to thank all the nurses and doctors at Methodist Hospital, Houston Hospice and his special caregivers.

A Private family burial will be held at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston. A memorial service will be held at Saint Paul's United Methodist Church, 5501 Main Street, Houston, Texas, 77004 on Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 10:30 A.M. with a reception immediately following at the "R" Room, located on the second level of the Rice University football stadium, West Lot 4, Gate 4 entrance.

In Lieu of flowers, please give to the "R" Association at P.O. Box 1892, Houston, Texas 77251 or St. Paul's Methodist Church.

To all those young potential ball players-make your dream come true "for the love of the game".