My friend Bob Dillard died a couple of weeks ago and I have been missing him ever since.

Bob was the owner and publisher of the Jeff Davis County Mountain Dispatch in Fort Davis and the Martin County Messenger in Stanton. At one time or another in his long newspaper career, Bob also owned and published newspapers in Alpine, Marfa and Greenwood.

Bob was among the first in our business to offer his help and encouragement when Kathy and I purchased The Eldorado Success in 1994. I called on him often in the early days, as we struggled to learn the business, and I continued to rely on his advice and friendship until his passing on July 20th.

A community-wide memorial service was held in honor of Bob’s life on Saturday, August 3rd at the Kelly Pavilion in Fort Davis. Suffice it to say that there were hundreds of people in attendance, all of whom had crossed paths with Bob at some point in their lives. They came not only to mourn the passing of their friend, but to support and lift up Bob’s wife Christi and their two sons, Luke and Tate.

Much of Bob’s life away from the newspaper business was devoted to helping the youth of West Texas. Almost every weekend he could be counted on to cook barbecue for one event or another. He also logged countless miles pulling a livestock trailer, sometimes as far as Iowa, to find show animals for 4-H and FFA kids in his communities.

His two passions intersected Saturday as a barbecue dinner was held in the pavilion following the memorial service. Several massive barbecue cookers were set up around the perimeter and dozens of side dishes were arrayed on tables, pot-luck style, with FFA and 4-H members serving and otherwise helping those in attendance.

The newspaper business was well represented, too. There were six past presidents of the West Texas Press Association in attendance including Russell Skiles, publisher of The Lamesa Press-Reporter, Bill Crist, publisher of The Snyder Daily News, Mac McKennon, former publisher of The Pecos Enterprise and The Dublin Citizen, Bob Brincefield, former publisher of The Brownwood Bulletin, my son J.L. Mankin, editor of The Big Lake Wildcat, and myself. Included in that group, were three past presidents of the statewide Texas Press Association.

Bob Dillard was a force in our business. He was also a past president of the West Texas Press Association and served as chairman of its Scholarship Committee for many, many years. I will always remember his booming baritone voice and the fact that he never needed a microphone, regardless of the size of the room.

Bob Dillard leaves behind a legacy of community service and love for his fellow man. He was 74-years-young and will be sorely missed by all who knew him, especially me.

Adios, my old friend.