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Robert Sours

December 27, 1933 - June 19, 2024
Casa Grande, AZ


Life Story / Obituary


As written by Rita:

Robert was born in Allegan County, Michigan at home on December 27, 1933. Robert remembers that at a very young age, somebody kept taking the pencil out of his left hand and telling him it belonged in his right hand. Since his mother and both her sisters were school teachers, we can only guess who it was. His mother was always bragging about how he “drew” his letters so carefully when he was a child learning to write. Her sister, Ruth, and her husband, wanted to adopt Robert and Robert’s parents had three children and Ruth none. But Robert’s parents said, “no way!”, even though his grandfather kept trying to convince them.

Robert’s father worked on road and bridge construction and the family moved around Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, and finally settled down in Plainwell, MI when Robert was around 11 years old. There they always raised a big garden including lots of strawberries. They discovered a great ice cream store called Dean’s Ice Cream. One of their family traditions was Sunday lunch of toasted cheese sandwiches and ice cream.

Robert started working for a farmer soon after moving to Plainwell. He liked to drive his Aunt Ruth’s tractor. His next employer was Simcox Grocery, Hardings Market, then Valley Metal Industries and then planting trees. Robert liked working on his own cars from the very first one he bought, a Plymouth. He soon discovered he could wrench with either hand, which came to be a big help. His second car was also a Plymouth. After graduation from Plainwell High School in June 1952, a friend suggested that he apply for a job in the printing division of Sutherland Paper Company on the east side of Kalamazoo. They hired him and sent him to the north side plant on Pitcher Street where there was an opening in the printing division.

While in high school Robert enjoyed roller skating at the Plainwell Roller Rink and at the roller rink Robert met Rita Siertsma. Not long after, Rita and Robert were married January 17, 1953 in the First United Methodist Church in Kalamazoo. Rev. Robert Willoughby, assistant pastor officiated. Rev. Willoughby later became pastor of Plainwell United Methodist Church and officiated at their children’s baptisms. They first lived in an apartment in a big old house on South Westnedge Avenue for a few months. Then they moved to an upstairs apartment on Summer Street. There was an ice storm on January 17th and all the decorations on the car froze on. They planned to stop at Robert’s grandparents in Indiana on their honeymoon but ran into black ice and had to turn around and go back to Three Rivers.

Robert just didn’t like working night shift so he announced he was going to start looking for a print shop that didn’t have a night shift. He soon got a job at Master Craft Corp. where they printed business forms.

While still living on Summer St., Roger Kent Sours was born May 7, 1954 in Bronson Hospital. In 1955, they bought their first home, a little house on 105th Avenue in Plainwell, Michigan. They planted Christmas trees on their 18 acres there. Robert had his medical for the service. He received his greetings and in the same envelope was his deferment due to dependents. He didn’t have to go to the Korean War. Steven Dale Sours was born while they lived at 105th, on November 12, 1957 in Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo. When Steven was two years old, they moved to Sixth Street in Plainwell. This place had 3 bedrooms, a one-car garage, and 53 acres. And they again planted a Christmas trees. During this time Robert moved on to DeLano Printing in Allegan, Michigan. Then, Thomas Neil Sours was born in the Plainwell Hospital on May 24, 1962. While the kids were young, Deans Ice Cream became the family’s weekend stop. Or at home it was toasted cheese sandwiches and ice cream, carrying on the Sours tradition.

The last print shop Robert worked at was Premier Printing in Plainwell. Premier had an employee retirement plan, but lost it all in the stock they purchased. Robert was still working on his own cars and had built a doodlebug. Soon the dunebuggy craze started and he started building dunebuggies after work. During 1977, he went into business naming it Sours Engine Center, working on Volkswagons, dunebuggies, and other vehicles. Also stocking parts parts for Volkswagons and dunebuggies, and dunebuggy accessories. The one-stall garage was increased to two and then a big pole barn was attached on the east side as well. During this time, he acquired two antique wreckers. During the oil embargo of 1977, he added Ashley Wood Stove sales. He put an insert in the fireplace in the living room and a wood heater in the the dining room and continued heating the shop with wood, but with an Ashley he and his brother cut a lot of wood at the time.

With the engine building being slower in the winter, they started traveling in the winter. The first trip west was to the Grand Canyon, Arizona; south to Tucson to visit a friend; through Texas, along the gulf coast to Alabama, to Florida, and back home. Tom was still in high school and they went during Christmas vacation.

Robert and Rita travelled to Florida a couple of times, then started going west because of Rita’s allergies. The drier climate helping her immensely. They started going to Tractor and Farm Engine Shows. Robert bought his first flywheel engine in 1992. They showed at shows all across the United States and a couple in Canada; and accumulated full-size engines, model engines, and toy engines plus some other farm items to display. When in Indiana and Michigan they also visited with relatives and friends.

In 1985 they purchased a 3-acre lot in Hidden Valley, nine miles west of Stanfield, Arizona. In 1987 they sold their home in Michigan. Robert got a job at Verde Grande Vineyards near their home in Hidden Valley. Then he delivered propane and finished off his working career driving school bus. Rita worked at the Casa Grande Public Library for a short time.

In 1994-95, Robert fulfilled his dream of converting a semi-tractor into a motorhome. Having a Six Pac pickup camper on a dually Chevy pickup, he took that and put it on a Freightliner tractor changing the title to motorhome. A patio was installed on the back with a Tommy Lift to lift the antique engines up to the patio. The antique engines were shown out on the Tommy Lift at many shows across the United States and Canada. Many pictures were taken of this rig on the road and at the shows until we finally made a sign that proclaimed: this is the most photographed motorhome in the world. During this time Rita kept a file of all the comments made about the motorhome on the road and at the shows.

In 2005, they moved from Hidden Valley into Casa Grande, Arizona. Robert and Rita found a place where the alley didn’t have any overhead wires and they installed a back gate so the motorhome could get in.

As the years went by and ice cream stores evolved, that old love of ice cream brought them to soft-serve and Wendy’s Frosties. But nothing matches up to that old Sealtest cone.