We have to say goodbye, R.I.P. Vogey

(the following was used as one of many remembrances at Robert’s funeral on February 16, 2009.)

Robert Voglino
Robert Voglino

Goodbye, Vogey, but thanks for the richness you gave to our lives. Our friend Robert Voglino may be gone but he was the sort of fellow never to be forgotten.

People who have died are often eulogized as having been special in various ways. In Vogey’s case it’s true. His Italian heritage (thus his “Godfather” nickname in Rotary) created an often bigger than life persona, yet gentle as a teddy bear with a charisma we will all remember.

How he came into my life was literally to define our years together and he, and those connections, are worth remembering and sharing. I want to share a unique view of Vogey from that perspective.

It was the spring of 2002 and a motorcycle tour through the Davis Mountains in far West Texas was planned. Mike Atkinson suggested that a friend of his come along, riding one of Mike’s extra bikes. Mike always had extra bikes. So along come Robert and Beth — unknown to me at the time — and away we go.

As motorcycling is more about the ride than the destination we rode and enjoyed the stimulation of seeing God’s world in that special way. Not much visiting, but a lot of riding. Until dinner at the Olympia in Fort Davis.

Serendipitiously seated together, the conversation naturally was a recap of the ride and compliments to the meal we were enjoying, and then, then the conversation turned to religion and church. We quickly discovered that we both were churchmen (little did I know the extent of his involvement) and talked of spiritual things. I soon asked “where do you attend church?” Robert answered: “Trinity, in Marble Falls.” “You’re kidding,” I said.

Laughing, it turned out that they had been attending the 10:30 service for about a year while Jennifer and I always attended the 8:30 service. I would eventually discover the depth of Robert’s spirituality.

An adult Sunday School class was eventually formed — and they let both of us attend! 🙂  I then discovered Robert’s knowledge and understanding of the Bible and of God’s will. He would often become quite emotional when speaking of his God. You see, they had a tight relationship — an unbreakable bond.

We would come to spend weeks at a time on motorcycle camping tours covering thousands of miles at a time and encompassing the entire United States west of the Mississippi.

At Eureka Springs, AR
At Eureka Springs, AR

Sharing that many meals and campsite venues meant sharing a lot of stories and feelings. We quickly became the best of friends and I understood was a large man this was, this robust Italian fellow nicknamed “the Godfather” who was truly a son of God.

You know, God must ride a motorcycle. Robert and I always marvelled at God’s world as revealed from atop the throbbing machines as we alternately dipped into valleys and crested mountain tops.

Jim Bridger National Forest
Jim Bridger National Forest

We saw God’s hand in the outdoor vistas we soaked up and in the characters we always met out on the road. But God has a sense of humor, even on the road.

It was 2004 and we had just left a wonderful vacation time with our families in Lake City, CO. Headed north and eventually to go Westerly, we passed up our intended stop for the night and pushed onward toward Craig, CO located on the northern plains of Colorado. It got dark on us, not a good thing in Colorado, and when we finally approached a town and saw a KOA we instinctively pulled in. We pitched our tents (mine as far as possible from his — you see, Robert could snore with the best of them), took warm showers and turned into our respective tents. ” ‘night Robert.”  “Goodnight, Gil – God bless.” (as Robert was prone to do).

Within 30 minutes, only exchanging a few quick reminisces of the day, we were both asleep. I could tell he was asleep, you see. Remember the snoring thing? Earplugs back in, I was soon also asleep. Then it began.

First a faint clatter. Then I heard the whistle. The clickety-clack. The distinctive clickety-clack and whistle of a train. And suddenly it was clear that it was whizzing past us just yards away. It was so close my initial fear was that we had pitched tents ON the tracks! Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, woo-whoo and on and on. And on.

We shouted to one another and laughed about our choice of campsite. We remarked about the length of the train. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, woo-whoo and on and on. And on. Then the laughter began. He laughed, I laughed, and then it became contagious as this train of at least 2,000, maybe 3,000 cars rolled by. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, woo-whoo and on and on. And on. By now our laughter was not only contagious but hysterically out of control.

We laughed often, but that one took the cake for all time. And we had more adventures than time here allows. And we always talked. We talked of God, country and family. Always family.

We all know what a multi-dimensional person Robert was, but he could be summed up in a single term: integrity. His moral compass pointed one direction – straight up – and nobody questioned his integrity.

My only regret is not knowing Robert, Beth, Jackie and their entire family — sooner. But I treasure the years we had. You see he was the kind of fella that if God had come along and said “I want to send a guy into your life who will become your best friend, one with whom you can share your faith and your love of the open road, one with whom you can be totally comfortable —  but here’s the deal, you can only have him for about six years because after that, I’ll need a little better class of Italian biker up here” — would I have taken the deal?

You bet I would. God speed, Vogey. May your engine stay in tune with that throb of the motor and gentle purr of the exhaust with the wind always at your back and the sun on your face, as you wind along God’s highway.

The obituary:

Robert Voglino

May 19, 1947 – February 12, 2009
Robert Voglino, 61, of Kingsland, went home to be with God on Thursday, February 12, 2009. He passed away at home surrounded by his family, after a courageous battle with brain cancer.
Robert was born May 19, 1947 in Hamilton, Texas to Jackie and Albert “Shorty” Voglino. He grew up in Odessa, graduated from Permian High School in 1965, and from Howard Payne University in 1970. There he met Beth Gardner, his wife to be for 38 years. The couple moved to Ft. Worth, Texas where Robert attended Southwestern Theological Seminary.
In 1972 Robert joined the U. S. Air Force and served in Big Spring, Texas. He remained in the Air Force reserves, retiring with the rank of 1st Lieutenant in 1982. Robert, Beth and their family remained in West Texas moving to Kingsland in 1985, to enjoy living in the Texas Hill Country.
Robert enjoyed a successful career in sales, and retired in 2000 from Central Transportation in Austin as a moving consultant. He joined the Century 21 Real Estate team in Kingsland, building a clientele until his illness. Robert was a charter member of the Daybreak Rotary Club of Marble Falls.
He is survived by his wife, Beth Voglino; daughters: April Burney and husband Brian; Annah Jimenez and husband Anthony; Esther McCormick and husband David; granddaughter Avah Jimenez; mother Jackie Voglino; brother Richard Voglino; sisters Toni Freels, Roslyn Voglino; many uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, and numerous friends.
Robert lived his life fully and deeply. He enjoyed a personal relationship with God and shared this with many others. He loved spending time with his family. In a recent prayer he thanked God saying he was a “blessed man, more than [he] could possibly have dreamed.”
God gave Robert a beautiful singing voice. He sang with wonderful friends and groups throughout his life, the first being the Sherwood Singers of Odessa, the final one being the Hill Country Blenders.
Robert impacted many lives throughout his journey on earth. His passion for life, his steady personal strength, his ability to be a true friend, his being the light in his wife’s eyes, and his love, guidance and faith as a dad, will all be greatly missed.

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