Memorial service set for Chattanooga booster Bob Elmore
UPDATED THURSDAY, OCTOBER 14, 7:50 P.M.
From David Carroll: Bob Elmore passed away today at 2:10 p.m., after a seven-year battle with cancer and two major surgeries. His son-in-law Jeff Kisiah said, "He passed very peacefully, as we read Psalm 23 to him in his final moments."
He will we buried at the National Cemetery at a time to be announced. There will be a public Memorial Service at Brainerd Presbyterian Church, 1624 Jenkins Road on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. The family will receive friends after the service, and there will be no visitation at the funeral home.
Bob had many friends here at Channel 3, where he once worked, and we join his family in celebrating a life well-lived.
Here is the original story from Sunday, October 10 about Bob's final days:
By David Carroll
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Chattanooga's most tireless promoter knows his days are numbered. Doctors told Bob Elmore last week that it was time for hospice care, after confirming that cancer had spread throughout his body.
"Dying is a full time job," he told me on the phone. "My pain is under control, and as far as I know I'm thinking straight, but just getting everything in order is wearing me out!"
At the age of 85, he survived the Great Depression and World War II, but says "the big C" is too much for him to overcome. He has lost forty pounds in the past few months, and says, "I don't look like myself anymore." His first battle with cancer was in 2003, with treatments continuing for a couple of years. He underwent additional surgery last April, but says, "just recently the cancer returned with a vengeance."
His daughter Candie, and son-in-law Jeff Kisiah spent last week with Bob, taking time out from their duties in Charlotte, where Jeff is an associate pastor. Jeff told me that Bob's mind is alert, and I found that to be true during our conversation, when we reminisced about his colorful life in Chattanooga.
RECALLING "BACKYARD SAFARI"
Earlier this year, Bob published his memoirs, "A Funny Thing Happened...On My Way to the National Cemetery," and the book became an immediate hit, requiring a second printing. He dedicated it to his wife Bettye, who died in 2009. Bettye was the longtime owner and operator of the Backstage Playhouse (and a frequent stage performer), while Bob was the director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, making them one of the city's best-known couples.
For twenty years, Bob was a familiar presence on television, hosting "Backyard Safari" on Sunday afternoons. Donning his trademark pith helmet, Bob invited local residents to enjoy "your own backyard," pointing out local attractions both popular and obscure. He welcomed United States Senators, fishermen, historians and others in one of the longest-running local television shows of its era.
"The book has been a real blessing for me," he said. "And I'm glad I didn't wait any longer to get it out. It has brought back a lot of memories for people about that TV show. That's probably what I'm best known for. It makes me feel so good to hear people say that I introduced them to their favorite fishing hole or scenic view."
HE HELPED BUILD CHATTANOOGA
But Bob was more than just a tourism promoter. After returning home from his service in the Army Air Corps, he quickly became one of the city's busiest young men. He immersed himself into civic life, helping establish the Jaycees and the Better Business Bureau. He also dabbled in politics, serving as campaign manager for Ralph Kelley in his successful mayoral drive in 1963. And he was one of the original advertising sales executives for Channel 3.
I was honored to serve as his "roast-master" upon his retirement in 1990 when his friends gathered for a huge send-off as he ended his career with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. During our recent phone conversation, he singled out that night as one of his favorite memories. "There's nothing better than laughing with your friends," he said. In the twenty years since that night, he says he's been busier than ever. "I've tried to keep in shape, and until recently I managed to do that," he said. From Senior Olympics softball, to his beloved Brainerd tennis league (the "Brainerd Tennis Nuts"), and his enthusiastic support for the UTC Lady Mocs, he has remained active in his hometown. He held regular gatherings of his Central High class of 1943, the Half-Century Club (made up of folks who have lived in the city for more than fifty years), and other "old-timers" groups.
Son-in-law Jeff Kisiah says, "He has loved this city tremendously, so much so, he has kindly abstained on our offer to bring him to Charlotte these past few years for more
comprehensive care." Bob says, "I've tried to stay independent, and now I'm not able to do anything. I'm just not used to that."
STAYING POSITIVE UNTIL THE END
But he still has his sense of humor. "Even in the shape I'm in, I've had to meet with lawyers, bankers, realtors and all, trying to figure out the best way to handle my affairs and how to donate some things, and it has just about worn me out. Dying is just too much trouble, and it's really taking up a lot of my spare time," he said with a laugh.
"And I could tell you some stories about medical care," he says. I asked him if he was in any pain, and he said, "Not now, they finally got it right." I asked him to explain, and he said, "I was in terrible pain for a while, and it turned out I was on the wrong medicine. Instead of giving me the pills that were meant for Robert Elmore, the pharmacy gave me the ones for a Mr. Robert L. Moore, who was being treated for diabetes. That's about the only disease I don't have, so those pills didn't help my pain one bit!" And of course, he laughs about it, realizing that would be a great story if he was able to write another book.
He expresses no fear of dying, and has told family members he looks forward to being reunited with Bettye, his wife of 57 years. "We sure made a good team," he says. He says as word has spread of his terminal condition, he's hearing from friends and acquaintances, and it always cheers him up. "And I'm telling them all, including you, that I will not have a sad funeral. That's not me. My family knows that I want my friends to remember the good times, and just tell some amusing stories. There's plenty of them to go around."
Just as the title of his book says, some funny things have happened "on his way to the National Cemetery." And Bob Elmore has contributed so much during his 85 years, from serving his country, to helping start the local branch of Big Brothers-Big Sisters, to spreading the word about the Scenic City he loves so dearly. As he prepares to take his final bow, it would only be fitting to serenade him with his TV theme song of so many years: "You'll find your happiness lies, right under your eyes...right in your own back yard."