PORTLAND — Robert A. Skilling, or Bobby, Bob, Dad, Pa, Pops, old Pops and Bib, as he was known to all who loved him, 83, of Gray, passed away quietly at Maine Medical Center with his beloved wife holding his hand and all of his sons, spouses and their families surrounding him with love on the evening of Tuesday, April 25.

Bob was born April 1, 1934. He graduated from Pennell Institute in 1952 and delighted in attending the yearly Pennell Alumni Association reunions. He was a proud member of the Presumpscot Lodge No. 70 and the Kora Shrine.

Bob started his own business, which came to be known as Robert A. Skilling and Sons Excavation in 1962 with the help of local neighbor and friends, Perley Witham and Steve Foster until his boys were old enough to join the company. With the help of his boys and grandsons, it is still operating as a family-owned and -operated business under his name today. He had previously worked for Thomas Laughlin in Portland and the Maine Department of Transportation.

He married the love of his life, the former Cora Leach, on July 17, 1954. Together they had five sons and Bob regularly worked 20 hours a day to support his family. He loved his family. He dearly loved his wife, Cora, whom he had been married to for 62 (almost 63) years. Having been raised by a mother who was seen as an angel on Earth to so many, he aspired to be a great husband and father, a task in which he succeeded in every way possible. He had it as his mission to be as strong of a presence in his sons’ and their families’ lives as she was in his. He loved his family without reservation and valued being a hard worker, two of the major tenets in his life. Because of this, he stressed to his sons the importance of family and that any job worth doing was worth doing right. He took tremendous pride in the work that his family company did. Bobby also took pride in being able to run his business on a handshake. His customers knew through his reputation that he always honored his word.

He was an avid sports fan and loved his Boston Red Sox, as his mother did before him. He supported local sport teams and along with Cora, was a fixture at all of his sons’ and grandchildren’s sporting events and most recently, all of the GNG boys’ and girls’ basketball games. He and Cora were always given preferred seating at the games by both fans and the school athletic administrators. They were true ambassadors of GNG sports.

Bob always found time to talk, and after 10 minutes he would know your life story and you would know his. He also loved to go to bean suppers with Cora. It was said that the only friends that he didn’t have were those he hadn’t met yet.

Bobby enjoyed taking the boys to Camp Lucky Seven in Eustis. This is where he taught them to fish, to have a good time and where they shared so many laughs with their dad. But as he instructed them, “What happens in Eustis, stays in Eustis.” Pop also enjoyed dickering with salesmen. He would never buy anything unless he felt he was getting a good deal. He left many a salesman feeling humbled, shaking their heads, but most important, with their respect. Bobby enjoyed receiving hugs from the ladies, and handshakes from a friend he hadn’t seen in a while, evident through the big smile it always brought to his face. He loved the community of Gray deeply for he was born in Gray and chose never to leave. He questioned those who did. He kept up daily on the local news and ‘goings on’ around town; that along with a fondness for food, made Lonnie Dogs and Cole Farms regular stops. He also enjoyed visits with Bobby Emerson, who came to his rescue often and who he thought of as another son.

Bob bought a Harley Trike at age 80 because he always wanted to ride again with Cora just like when they were younger. These past few years, he thoroughly enjoyed taking Cora on rides and loved to exchange small talk with anyone wearing a leather riding jacket, especially if it said “Harley” on it. He missed and loved his recently departed, lifelong friend, Charles “Junior” Qualey and he loved to share the stories of all their adventures.

Bob will be greatly missed by his lifelong love, Cora; their sons and spouses; his grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and all of his friends and the townspeople of Gray, all of whom he cared for and loved to interact with every day.

As his sons, Pop taught us family should always be our first priority. He showed us how to be good fathers and husbands, how to be a good friend and how to be kind and generous to those who could use help, to be selfless, for as long as you have family, you have everything you really need — all this through the example of how he led his life. He believed hard work made you a stronger person and taught us how important it was to be true to our word. He was genuine and self-made, generous and caring. We were the lucky ones, just to be able to call him our Dad!

Bob was predeceased by his mother, Catherine; and brothers, Albert, Carlton, and Kenneth.

Surviving are his sisters, Yvonne and Beverly; his sons and spouses, Bruce and Kathi, Brad and Donna of Gray, Barry and Becky of Auburn, Brian and Bernie, Blaine and Peter of Gray; 11 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

The family would like to give special thanks to the Gray Rescue Service and the nurses at the Maine Medical for all their care over the years, and most recently the CICU doctors, nurses and chaplain for their compassion in this difficult time. They would also like to extend their thanks to Jason Wilson, a lifelong friend to the entire family, for his compassion and support.

Condolences may be expressed at www.willsonfhllc.com.

 Robert A. Skilling

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