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Saying goodbye to a founding father

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Without George Washington, we might be living in the United Colonies of England, and without Bobbye Gene Rheudasil, Flower Mound’s first mayor, the town’s residents might be living in a satellite suburb of Irving, if Bob had not been a leader in the fight against annexation efforts by Irving and even (the city of) Denton, some 50 years ago.

Bob went to his Glory the morning of September 19, 2011 while at home in Flower Mound, surrounded by his loving family and friends. He was 80 years old. 

I didn’t know Bob well, as did many of you, and feel a bit unworthy of the privilege of writing this tribute.  My family does love retelling the story about how I grew so frustrated at Rheudasil Park one very chilly November day, when my son’s toy motor boat became stuck in the middle of the duck pond, I stripped to the waist and swam to the middle, like Gulliver rescuing stranded boaters.  Heavy-jacketed bystanders looked on, probably telling their children “Don’t look at that man, Jimmy.  He’s obviously deranged.”

I was skidding my car to Bob’s home for a sit down interview through an ice storm last February, surrounding the town’s 50th anniversary, when I gave up on driving and resorted to the telephone.  Even that half hour shared was special.  The man defied physics, exuding warmth and mirth through the phone connection.

Nothing I say here could approach the love that his family, friends, and associates have already expressed.  But, for those thousands of us who just moved to Flower Mound over the past 20 years, we’re living the lives of children who never saw the efforts that their parents had to endure to provide such comfort. 

After moving from Paris, Texas in 1953 to work for Edward Marcus of the famous Marcus family, Bob managed the 4,000 acre Black Angus cattle ranch, then known as Black Mark Farm.  Bob and Mr. Marcus eventually retired the farm to make way for roads, schools, rooftops and commercial growth. 

Bob’s second career was as a tree farmer.  Bob and Mr. Marcus had one of the finest tree farms in North Texas right here in Flower Mound.  Many of the trees they grew stand strong today along Morriss Road, at Marcus High School, DFW Airport, and in many Flower Mound subdivisions. 

Bob served as a leader in the aforementioned “Denton County Land Wars,” then received “only” 51 votes in the first mayoral election in 1961.  It was sufficient to win, showing just how tiny the population was. He served three consecutive three-year terms as Mayor from that point.

Bob and his first wife, Pat Rheudasil, the volunteer Town Secretary, struggled to get an infrastructure built, including obtaining right-of-way and utilities.  Bob credited Edward Marcus’ foresight, commenting in February, “Way back in 1957, he told me, ‘Don’t let the bulldozers hurt the big trees’”.

Nonetheless, while Bob was always one for progress, especially road development, he was not one to run roughshod over homeowners, adding, “I’m very proud of my involvement in the planning and zoning of the town after its incorporation.  We certainly didn’t want to harm the interests of property owners whose families had been here for years and years.  When the town was first incorporated, the only paved, safe roads were 1171 and 407.  Heading west on 1171, once you passed Kirkpatrick, the road was full of dangerous twists and turns.

“The road construction was the main thing.  I was so thrilled when we got the right-of-way and the county money.  Look at FM 3040 now, going all the way from I-35E to 2499!”

Bob gave credit to too many to name here, but he cherished working with (Arlington) Mayor Tom Vandergriff on the Mid City Freeway, now FM 2499.  “This was before DFW Airport even existed.  To see that now,” Bob beamed last February, “almost all the way to Denton, is amazing.”

Bob saw the rights of the gas drillers – through the eyes of the land owners, “People who have lived here and paid taxes for generations should be able to profit from their mineral rights.”  What if that potentially lowers the value of neighboring properties?  “If you own the mineral rights, you should have the right to use them,” he reconfirmed, earlier this year.

He was a strong naturalist and conversationalist as well, evidenced by all he did to save trees, plant trees, and preserve natural environment in the midst of Flower Mound’s rapid growth.  His vision included responsible development and maintaining a high quality of life for Flower Mound citizens.

Bob was a leader, but never full of himself, not only eschewing the honorary title of, “Mayor” Bob, but chuckling, “There’s nothing more useless than an ex-mayor.”

He was also a fighter.  Bob suffered a massive stroke and aneurism in 1984 that partially paralyzed his right side.  He was not expected to live, much less walk and talk again, but he made a miraculous recovery and was a blessing to many after his stroke.  For many years, Bob would walk the halls of Lewisville Hospital daily to encourage stroke victims and patients in pain.  He carried an oak cane that Walt Garrison ornately carved “Bob Rheudasil” on.  Meeting Bob was a memorable experience with his cowboy hat, red suspenders, limp, oak cane, and warming smile.

Bob had many hobbies prior to his stroke, including woodworking, beekeeping, gardening, and raising his prized Bluebonnets.  He was one of the best known tree experts in the region.  After his stroke in 1984, he enjoyed being involved with the CCA Food Pantry, watching football, and most of all, drinking coffee at the Lewisville Feed Mill.

Bob remained our town’s ambassador extraordinaire until the end, saying that he would tell outsiders that Flower Mound, “Was the land of milk and honey.  Everything is close: Dallas, Denton’s colleges, recreation, DFW Airport, the Cowboys, the Rangers…what could be better?”

For those who missed the comments posted on Facebook, Debi Law Miller reflected on Bob’s regular trips through the hospital “making rounds,”  “(He was) always sharing a smile, making me feel like I was someone important!  His red suspenders have a special place in my heart.”

Doug Kilough added, “I have had the privilege of knowing a lot of good men in my life and I say without reservation that Bob is at the top of that list.”

Bob did enjoy 80 years of life and was here to see 50 years of Flower Mound’s.  Perhaps our nation should celebrate George Washington’s birthday with his own national holiday…and maybe Flower Mound should have a town celebration every year on Bob’s birthday. 

“A “Red Suspenders Day” may be one way to remember Bob’s positive outlook and determination. I will be wearing his red suspenders on his birthday, December 2, as a reminder that we can overcome tremendous hardships with a positive attitude and determination,” said Bob’s son-in-law, Flower Mound resident Mark Glover.

As for outsiders coming here, Bob was known for saying, “I welcome you to Flower Mound as long as you welcome the next person to come to town with open arms…and then the next person with open arms!”

No doubt, he’s probably saying the same thing about Heaven right now.

Bob selected Camp Sweeney in Gainesville to establish a scholarship for diabetic children from Flower Mound and the American Heart Association.  Donations to Camp Sweeney can be mailed to Camp Sweeney, P.O. Box 918, Gainesville, TX 76241.  Donations to the American Heart Association can be mailed to P.O. Box 841125, Dallas, TX 75284.

John LaVine can be contacted at johnlavine99@gmail.com.

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