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Harvey
Harvey
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Burial for Robert Harvey, who served with the United States Army in Japan during the Second World War, will be at 9 AM on Friday, December 23, 2023, at the Rock Island Arsenal.

From the obituary for Robert Harvey, posted on Wendt Funeral Homes,

Robert Earl Harvey, 97, passed away peacefully in his home during the early hours of December 16, 2023, while under hospice care.

 

He was born in Thompsonville, Illinois, to parents Robert Earl Harvey Sr., and Jess Harvey.

 

The eldest of two sons, Robert showed a keen interest in all things mechanical from an early age, constructing a homemade motorcycle from a disused washing machine motor and a bicycle, with an antifreeze can as a gas tank. He held a part-time job at Harvey’s Feed Store, the family business, and apprenticed with local auto mechanic Nick Droit.

 

As a teenager, he learned to drive early on, chauffeuring his grandfather to wrestling matches 60 miles away in Evansville, Indiana—often on school nights—to watch the exploits of legend Verne Gagne. He yearned to escape the confines of his rural farming community, fleeing with a friend to Chicago where he worked for a summer in an auto plant, and later to St. Louis, the two indigents reduced to looting vending machines for survival before returning to Thompsonville.

 

During the waning days of WWII, he sought to join the Navy but was rejected because of a heretofore undiagnosed case of color blindness. He was drafted into the Army and sent to Japan, where, as a clerk typist, he saw little action, but the experience allowed him to savor the exotic sights and sounds of a foreign country. The frugal recruit sent home his pay and upon his return to Thompsonville, he purchased his first vehicle, a 1935 Chevrolet.

 

He met Mable Harvey and after a three-month courtship, they drove downstate to Morganfield, Kentucky, where they were wed on August 29, 1947. Robert attended the David Rankin Trade School in St. Louis, studying auto mechanics on the GI Bill and returning home on weekends. The couple moved into their first home, a hardscrabble outbuilding with no indoor plumbing. Formerly a smokehouse and a garage cobbled together on family property, Robert and his friends had dragged a portion of it across town via tractors and chains, fashioning a hallway to connect the two structures. Robert continued working for his father, who now owned both the feedstore and a service station.

With a wife and newborn to support, Robert followed the lead of many struggling financially in the south, heading north to the Quad Cities where high-paying factory jobs with union benefits were plentiful. At various points, he labored for J.I. Case and ran a Texaco station, ultimately landing a position at Farm-All, installing transmissions on the assembly line for 23 years until the plant closed in 1984, pushing him into early retirement at age 62. He continued servicing cars in his garage for several more decades, a second job he had begun during his factory years.

He was often the reluctant volunteer when it came to unpleasant duties. When his second daughter was stillborn at birth, he drove her tiny casket to southern Illinois for burial where in-laws had provided a cemetery plot and a makeshift headstone. When his bride Mable fell ill, he was her primary caregiver, both spouses shunning the coldness of nursing homes, preferring the comforting familiarity of home hospice and loved ones. They celebrated 73 years of marriage before her death in 2020.

 

He disparaged bad language and the risqué, favoring G-rated TV westerns and car shows. He loved Groucho Marx, Mr. Bean, and The Mills Brothers, while the Lawrence Welk Show remained a personal favorite. He was a frequent diner at Mulkey’s, The Maid-Rite, The Windmill, and Hardee’s. Their collective bottom lines will no doubt suffer greatly without his patronage.

 

Up until a month before his death, he was still driving and collecting cans for recycling. In no way was he anyone’s image of a feeble nonagenarian. A child of the Great Depression, he believed in a helping hand, not a hand-out. His family and countless others benefited greatly from his humor and endless generosity.

 

He was preceded in death by his parents, brother William Harvey, DVM, daughter LuAnn, son-in-law John Flowers and great-grandson Curtis.

 

He is survived by daughter, Brenda “Jill” Flowers, son Brad (Joyce) Harvey, sister-in-law Ruth Harvey, five grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, and best friend Henry Toops.

 

Burial will be at 9 AM on Friday, December 23, 2023, at the Rock Island Arsenal.

 

In lieu of flowers, Robert would ask that you be kind.

Family and friends are invited to share memories and express online condolences on his Memory Page at wendtfuneralhome.com.

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