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
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
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
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".