Claremore Daily Progress

January 29, 2014

Bobby Neal Armstrong, Sr.

Staff Reports
Claremore Progress

CLAREMORE — A celebration of life service for Bobby Neal Armstrong, Sr., will be 10 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 at Memorial Heights Baptist Church. Burial will be 2:00 p.m., at Ft. Gibson National Cemetery. Visitation will be Wed., from 1-7 at the funeral home with family receiving visitors from 5-7.

 Bobby was born Nov. 14, 1946, delivered by a Mid-Wife at the family home in Weleetka, Okla. He and his sister Lawana grew up in Tulsa, attending McKinley Elementary School, East Central Jr. High and East Central High School through his Junior year. His family moved to Claremore and Bobby completed his Senior year at Claremore High School, where he stirred things up in Claremore as the new kid with an outgoing personality and long hair. Upon graduating CHS in 1965, Bobby enrolled and became a Cadet at Oklahoma Military Academy until he was called into service by the United States Marine Corp.

Bobby served two tours of duty for his Country in Vietnam from Jan. 12, 1966 to Jan. 11, 1968, where he was wounded in action while serving as a Forward Observer in a Reconnaissance Unit, thus earning his Purple Heart. He also received a Vietnam Campaign Metal, Vietnam Service Metal and a National Defense Metal. When he was released from the hospital he returned to the States via a Merchant Marine Ship with an Honorable Discharge with the rank of Corporal.  

Upon his return to civilian life, Bobby was employed by Ramsey Winch until he returned to a Civil Service position with the United States Postal Service in March of 1976. Soon after employment with the Postal Service he obtained his Associates Degree in Art at Claremore Junior College. Bobby possessed many talents and his love for art was evident in the workmanship of his hobbies.

He loved to paint with varied media and mastered his own style of painting and wood burning. This gift won him first place ribbons in a couple of Rogers County Fairs with his entry of a wood burning of a Motorcycle Rider and one at the Tulsa State Fair for an awesome Harley Davidson wood burning entry.

 In 1980 Bobby married Pam Kendrick and their 10+ year union was blessed with two girls, Ginger and Pepper Spradling and one boy, Bobby’s name-sake, Bobby Neal Armstrong, Jr., known as BJ. These three children have given Bobby nine grandchildren and one great grandchild whom he loved to shower with attention. He was definitely wrapped around all their little fingers and devoted all his personal attention to them every chance he had. Bobby continued the service to his community when he was commissioned as a Rogers County Reserve Deputy under Sheriff Buck Johnson in the early 80s until the early 90s.

In 1980-1981, Bobby held the title of Leading Knight in the Elks Lodge and served on the Elks Ritual Team at the National Convention in New Orleans. He served as the Exalted Ruler in 1981-1982.

 On May 24, 1992, Bobby wed Darlene Passmore in an outdoor service at the Will Rogers Memorial followed by a Reception Celebration at the Will Rogers Round-Up Club. Not many people probably knew it but Bobby played drums, a talent he shared with Darlene.

They enjoyed fishing and camping at Beaver Lake in Arkansas and traveling with the Stonehorse Band, in which Darlene was the drummer, to Rodeos and Stage shows from Oklahoma to Vegas. After a show in Monte Vista, Colorado, one year, Bobby, Darlene and some of the other band members were privileged to camp in a hunting shack on Mount Monte Vista and enjoy an awesome horseback ride up the mountain.

Bobby was an active member of Memorial Heights Baptist Church, assisting with the Royal Ambassadors and other activities, especially those for children and the seniors.

 Bobby enjoyed many pastimes, most of which involved his need for speed!  He nearly lost his leg from a motorcycle accident in his younger days. Despite that fact, Motorcycle Racing continued to be one of his passions and he and his son BJ enjoyed many years doing so together. They traveled all over the country, racing and supporting numerous regional riders.

Many times they showered off in car washes and slept in their vehicles while making their way to the next race. Bobby and BJ also enjoyed watching NASCAR Races on TV and even attended one in person in Texas. The Chili Bowl was also an annual event they rarely missed. Another passion Bobby enjoyed was watching Boxing on TV and you sure didn’t want to sit close to him when he was watching or he might take you out as he was a very active on-looker…..he fought the entire fight from his chair!

October 2002, Bobby was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which necessitated his retirement from the Post Office in March 2004. The freedoms of retirement were rather short lived due to the exacerbation of the effects of the condition that was re-diagnosed as PSP or Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, an Atypical Parkinsonian Disorder. PSP is a rare neurodegenerative disease that leads to progressive decline.

Or in layman's terms, the signals originating in the brain don’t reach the intended destination and, consequently, things stop working. Research shows that a majority of service men that were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam have developed these same diseases. Sadly, in Bobby’s case, it left an extremely talented and precious man trapped inside himself until too many of his organs ceased working at the same time!  

When the need for daily assistance became an issue in 2005, Bobby’s entire family rose to the occasion. He loved the time spent with each one. Lawana and Dewayne opened their home to him for a number of months as he adjusted to the new challenges he was facing, which also allowed him to spend more time with his mother.

As his disease progressed, they made sure his mustache and nails were groomed to his impeccable standards. He loved when his daughter Pepper brought him Strawberry Shakes and took him to the park to watch his grandkids play. He cherished each and every family member and he would always come to life, beaming with excitement, at the mention of a family function.

Eventually, the best solution was for BJ and Rachel to assist on a full-time basis, so they bought a house in town and became his caregivers. While taking excellent care of his father, BJ was also known to playfully pick on him….like father, like son! The daily caregiving duties Rachel assumed quickly turned a daughter-in-law into a daughter. The birth of their firstborn, Owen, nurtured a beautiful bond between the foursome. Due to his increased medical needs over the next several years, Bobby became a resident of the Claremore Veteran’s Center Jan. 17, 2012.

While he was there he participated in a variety of activities such as winning a prize for the Smallest Fish and always enjoyed winning at the weekly Bingo games. He never complained or questioned why. He didn’t take the easy way out. He knew what he wanted and always found a way to get his point across. He left this life with pride and amazing dignity, a Devil Dog to the very end! Semper Fi!

Bobby entered Heaven’s gate Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. He was 67. He was preceded in death by his Mother, Virginia Bowman Armstrong, his Father, N.C. Armstrong. He is survived by his wife, Darlene R. Passmore-Armstrong, his sister, Lawana and husband Dewayne Higgins, his son, BJ Armstrong and wife Rachel, daughter Ginger Spradling Page and husband John, and daughter Pepper Spradling Ilyushenko and husband Ruslan, his nine grandchildren, Owen and Hayden Armstrong, Audrey, Megan and Brad Page, Matt Petermann, Nikko, Lucas and Mila Ilyushenko, one great grandchild, Matthew Petermann, numerous nieces and nephews,  Brother-in-laws Monte Passmore and wife Melody, Joe Johnson and wife Georgia, and Sister-in-law Terri McAuliff and husband David. In lieu of flowers or other condolences, the family would be honored by donations in Bobby's memory to the following organizations:  Michael J. Fox Foundation, CurePSP, Military Order of Purple Hearts, Folds of Honor Foundation or the Claremore Veterans Center.