Rev. Robert J. Trobaugh, age 95, passed away Sunday at The Woods of Caledonia. Robert was born on March 4, 1921 in Murphysboro, IL, the son of John Ralph and Morris Agnes (Nee: Carty) Trobaugh. On March 18, 1925 the family survived what National Geographic (July 1998) called the Great Tri-State Outbreak tornado. Six hundred ninety-five people died, two hundred thirty-four of them in Murphysboro.
The family soon moved to Salem, IL (birthplace of William Jennings Bryan). Robert attended the elementary and high schools there, and was the class valedictorian in 1938. He attended the University of Illinois, becoming President of the University of Illinois Y.M.C.A. Student Cabinet in his senior year. He attended Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, KY) and what is now Garrett Theological Seminary on the Northwestern University Campus, graduating “with distinction”. He later enrolled in Vanderbilt University, eventually earning a PhD degree. During the Asbury years, he met and married Virginia Warner of Schenectady, New York. Two children, Barbara and John, were born.
While in various schools, Bob served part-time student pastorates (Methodist) at Mitchellsburg, KY, St. Paul’s Church, Chicago, and McKendree Church, Nashville. His full-time Methodist pastoral appointments were: Science Hill, KY (1944-46), The Wesley Foundation on the University of Illinois Campus (1946-49), Marshfield and Spencer, WI Churches (1950-55), Trinity Church, Richland Center, WI (1958-62), University Church on the UW-Madison Campus (1967-71).
The Madison years, including the Civil Rights struggle and the campus turbulence during the Vietnam War, were challenging and stressful. The Trobaugh marriage did not survive these years. Then Robert learned that, in Wisconsin, a divorced minister could not be appointed as part of a Methodist church. He had not been aware of this rule. He thought and prayed long and hard about what he should do. He contacted a management consultant who had previously been a Catholic campus minister in Minnesota. He was advised to join the American Society for Training and Development which trains people for personnel work. After acting on this advice, he took, and passed, a Wisconsin State employment exam. He was interviewed and hired as the Coordinator of Staff Training at what is now the Southern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled. At that time the center was the home for more than 1,000 residents. It was gratifying to Robert to have a part in caring for those residents.
In 1973, Robert met Rachel Billings Robinson of Concord, Massachusetts. She was a graduate of Earlham College and the mother of Joshua and Jennifer. Robert and Rachel were married in 1974. Rachel, a social worker, eventually became the Chief Social worker at Southern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled.
Robert’s work week was Mon-Fri. His many ministerial friends began to call and ask him to substitute for them when they were ill or out of town. During these years, and after his retirement, he was a guest minister in 571 Sunday services, 49 weddings, 18 funerals, 15 baptisms, including seven interim ministries. He was very grateful for all the ministers, parishioners, and fellow employees who welcomed him with sincere friendship during these years.
Robert was preceded in death by his parents, and his sisters, Jessie Brooks and Ruth Eddins. He is survived by his wife, Rachel; his daughter, Barbara Lamb; his son, John; his daughter-in-law, Mary Birkhead; his stepchildren, Joshua and Jennifer; his grandchildren, Heather, Chris, Nicole, Sean, Anna, Josephine, and David; his great-grandchildren, Walter and Leyna; and by numerous cousins, nephews, nieces, and friends.
A columbarium has been established in the beautiful Wesley Foundation building on the University of Illinois campus where Robert was a student in 1938-42 and a campus minister in 1946-49. His ashes will be inurned there after a Memorial Service at the First United Methodist Church, 745 Main Street, Racine on Sunday, February 5, 2017, 2 p.m. with Rev. Jakes Voker and Rev. Dr. Tony Larsen officiating. Relatives and friends may meet with the family Sunday, February 5, 2017 at the church from 12:30 p.m. until time of service at 2 p.m. Private inurnment will be held in the Wesley Foundation, Urbana, IL. Memorials to the First United Methodist Church or to the Health Care Network Inc. have been suggested.
A special thank you to the staffs at The Woods of Caledonia and Ascension Hospice for their loving and compassionate care.