ROBERT E. "BOBBY" SAUNDERS ("Roberto" to those in Taos, NM) quietly passed away in his sleep Wed, April 1, 2020, as a result of end-stage vascular dementia. Bobby was born at home in Catlettsburg, KY, to his parents Okey Paul Saunders and Sally Annette (Sparkman) Saunders, March 3, 1934, as the fourth of five children. His family soon moved to Texas City, TX, where he later attended Texas City High School. Bobby learned "A hard day's work for an honest day's pay" early in life. When other boys his age were playing ball and going to movies, Bobby and his older brother, Paul, were hand digging holes for large fuel tanks at area service stations. It wasn't long before Bobby sought a more rewarding endeavor: becoming a US marine! Serving as a marine in the US Marines Corp was an experience and a pride he held dear his whole life. He might have spent an entire career in the USMC had it not been for his father's early death. When his dad passed, he was forced to take a hardship discharge to return home to help his mom raise his little sister, Sandra, and his niece, Barbara Carol. As a result, he and Barbara remained the best of friends throughout their lives - always more like brother and sister than uncle and niece. After his hardship discharge from the US Marine Corp, Bobby became a Marine Corp Reservist and owned a busy Texaco station in Kemah, TX. As a husband, devoted father of three children and entrepreneur, he worked hard and played hard. He loved his family and, even into his 80s, he consistently greeted the parents of small children with a big smile and the encouraging words, "You're in the BEST time of your life!". Yes! He loved fatherhood and everyone he met soon knew he was a Dad and a Marine. Two significant parts of his life! But Bobby made his name and garnered his reputation as a successful entrepreneur in the early days of the waste management industry where he built and sold three growing companies serving residential and industrial customers throughout the Texas Gulf Coast region for two decades. At the height of NASA's space exploration effort in the mid-1960s, Bobby was awarded the contract for NASA's waste-management account and was honored to serve in that capacity until his retirement in the early 1980s. After several years of retirement life in Texas and Florida, Bobby traveled to Taos, NM, where he instantly fell in love with the beauty of the high desert as well as the climate, culture, music, food and people of Taos. With a lifetime of success behind him and only in his mid-50s, he decided he had too much life left to stay retired. One thing led to another and "Roberto" and Plaza Parking were born! Robert's business thrived as he shared his love and enthusiasm for Taos with thousands of tourists a year. Many returned year after year, always parking at Plaza Parking. With hard work, along with a love for Taos and respect for its diverse population and rich history, "Roberto" made friends easily and heartily supported local businesses and talented artists and craftsmen who, like him, were in mid-life and learning to be free. Making others smile was always as important to Robert as making money. Virtually every woman he knew at one time or another in his 25 years in Taos must have heard him say, "You sure have a beautiful smile!" and men were always greeted with, "Hey man! How're you doin'?" Robert greeted everyone with one of those two phrases. It may have sounded disingenuous at times but it wasn't. He loved people and people loved him. He especially loved dancing and laughing with both close friends and complete strangers. He experienced real joy in living and working in Taos, and real pride in being a part of the US Marine Corp. In fact, part of his legacy in Taos were the signs on Cantu Hill along Paseo del Pueblo Sur honoring active and retired servicemen and women from Taos representing EVERY branch of our United States Armed Forces (although always in the red and gold of the USMC). He personally paid for those signs to honor local heroes who have served or are serving our nation with honor and courage. Each year he gave to the Taos Lions Club to support their giving free rides to children on the Tio Vivo Carousel. Seeing those children smiling ear-to-ear riding that carousel was truly an annual highlight for him in Taos. Since his passing, the descriptions given most often of Robert have been, "He always had a smile on his face;" "He was such a character!" and "Robert was a truly great ambassador for Taos, NM." He will be deeply missed. Robert was preceded in death by his parents; his son Reg D. Saunders of Austin, TX; and his four siblings: Paul Saunders, Evelyn Spencer, Caroline Brewer, and Sandra Whitten. He is survived by his two daughters: Karen Saunders (and her spouse Patricia Herndon) of Carrollton, GA, Robin Saunders of The Villages, FL, and by the mother of his three children, Melba Saunders, his niece Barbara Carol Sheppard, and numerous other nieces and nephews. The family would like to thank the staffs of Peachtree Creek (Smyrna, GA) and Cottage Landing (Carrollton, GA) Memory Care Communities for the daily care, friendship, laughter and joy they shared with our Dad, as well as Amedisys Home Health and Hospice for the specialized attention and comfort given to him this past year. We are most grateful to you all. Robert's wishes were to be cremated and to be remembered as a hard worker. Due to restrictions surrounding COVID-19, a celebration of his life will take place next spring in Taos, NM. Because he was a devoted marine and a lover of all things Taos, we are requesting that in lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in his name to one or more of the following: 1. Taos Lions Club - MAIL TO: Tio Vivo Carousel Fund, c/o Gary Oline (Treasurer), PO BOX 1347, Ranchos de Taos, NM, 87557 2. Not-Forgotten Outreach, https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/NotForgottenOutreach 3. The Alzheimers Assoc., http://alz.org/donate Arrangements by Rivera Family Funeral Home, Taos. To share a memory, please visit our website at www.riverafuneralhome.com
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