Life Story / Obituary
To know Bobby Lea was to know a person with a joyful heart and adventurous spirit. A husband, father, and mentor to many, he leaves behind a beautiful example of living life to the fullest and giving selflessly of his time and resources to others in need. With many small acts of love and large acts of sacrifice, he gave his all for the family he so loved. Bobby will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by all those whose lives he touched.
His story begins in the midst of the 1930s when the nation was bouncing back from tough economic times. The decade saw an expansion of new technologies. Aviation, radio, and film were making great strides. The tunes of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire made people dance and sing and the Shenandoah National Park was dedicated in Virginia by President Roosevelt. Robert Lea was welcomed home by his parents, Linwood Stone and Minniecelia Lea, on January 15, 1936, in Danville, Virginia. As a result of his mother dying when he was the tender age of six years old, he was raised by his Grandmama Lea. When he reached the age of fourteen, he and his grandmother moved to Englewood, New Jersey. His entire family of aunts, uncles, and cousins were soon to follow. Never one to shy away from a challenge, he practiced his bass drum and enjoyed perfecting his instruments, especially his voice. Born into a family of singers, most of the local church choir was made up of members of the Lea family! Throughout his life, he enjoyed singing in several choirs and groups, including a quartet with his neighbors at Hope Woods Apartments most recently.
Bobby, along with other family members and friends, formed the Do-Wap singing group, the Avons, in 1954. They recorded several records together and held a contract with Hull Records in New York City. Bobby cherished those years of singing in local theaters and variety shows including the Apollo in New York and the Steel Variety Show! A major contribution was the song, “Baby,” that he wrote and performed lead vocals and the song made it to the top of the charts around New York city.
During the height of this adventure in his young years as a musician he, and other members of the band, were drafted into the United States Army. Bobby ended up being stationed at Fort Knox and was assigned to the guard unit of gold depository. After being discharged, he returned to New Jersey and found work in manufacturing and installing doors with a local company. Anything Bobby set out to accomplish, he always gave his all!
Not to be forgotten was the meeting of his special sweetheart, Patsy Anderson. She was attending one of the Lea family parties, and they hit it off right from the start! They dated for some time and were eager to spend their lives together. They married in August 1962. Patsy had a son, Patrick, and Bobby accepted him as his own. Both drawn to music, Bobby and Patsy centered their lives around entertainment as well as their faith life. They regularly attended church together and raised Patrick with a strong foundation. Bobby and Patsy saved their resources to purchase their own home in 1965, a milestone they were quite proud of. They later moved to Michigan.
As a father, Bobby was very loyal and a strong provider. He knew how to listen and offer his wisdom when needed as well as step back and let opportunities and lessons unfold for themselves. He had a passion for carpentry and enjoyed making homemade pieces such as tables, a dollhouse, and many other items. He was known as Mr. Fix It for the family as everyone called on Bobby as their handyman. Over the years, the family had many pets. His love of animals started with his dog, Corkey, as a teenager. From there, he owned Brutus, who he referred to as Bad Daddy. Frisky and Muffin were his cats. When Frisky died, Bobby crafted him a special casket. One of his favorite pastimes was cruising around town with one of his dogs or his grand-dogs on his lap! Bobby loved his family. He had a real knack for remembering everyone’s birthdays and important moments. When Patsy became ill, he quickly learned how to keep the household running. There simply wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his family.
When it came to relaxation, Bobby held a wide variety of special interests. He was a long-time Brooklyn Dodgers fan and continued following the team after they moved to Los Angeles. He also enjoyed his science fiction television shows. Although he was a quiet, simple man, Bobby was committed to his family and friends and remained active in their lives. Even as his health began to decline in recent years, he faced each day with optimism and made sure to live life on his terms. His memories will surely endure in the hearts of the countless lives he touched over the years, especially those of his loving family.
Robert Lea, age 86, of Kalamazoo, MI, died on October 30, 2022. He lived in Englewood, NJ for most of his life before moving to Kalamazoo where he made many friends in his Hope Woods community. Bobby was preceded in death by his wife, Patsy Lea; and brothers: William Lea and Wendell Lea. Surviving are his son, Patrick (Colleen Gallagher) Anderson; his special aunt, Lakey; and many of his extended family. A private burial has been held at Genessee Prairie Cemetery. Visit Bobby’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories and photos and to sign his guestbook. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.