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No. 40: Robert E. Dwelle

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 40
August, 1992
Copyright 1992, Biblical Horizons

I met Bob Dwelle on the first of June, 1980. We had just arrived in Tyler, Texas, from Philadelphia, and I was to organize and oversee Geneva Divinity School. Bob Dwelle and his family were moving to Tyler from Dallas, and Bob helped me unload our moving van. I did not know then that this quiet, friendly man would become one of my best friends.

Bob Dwelle died suddenly of a heart attack last spring. During the funeral, his pastor commented that he knew perhaps a dozen people who counted Bob as their best friend. Bob Dwelle was one of the most beloved people I have ever known.

Bob had moved to Tyler in 1980 to take over management of a pawn shop, and also to become, as soon as possible, an elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church. At first glance, a pawn shop may seem a strange business for an elder to be involved in, but for Bob it meant that he would have an opportunity to meet and help poor people.

A few years later I also became an elder at Westminster Presbyterian, and I can testify that of the four of us who served as elders, Bob was the one who was most pastoral and helpful to people. He devoted hours and hours of his time taking the children of a widow on camping and fishing trips. He found work for young men in the church who didn’t have it, and as a very skilled painter and wallpaper hanger, he trained a dozen or so other men in those skills. There are many men in Dallas and Tyler who can always fall back on these basic skills thanks to Bob Dwelle.

The Dwelle home was always open; sometimes it seemed like Grand Central Station. Rare was the Lord’s Day when Bob and Lynn Dwelle did not have some member of the church for Sunday dinner.

Bob loved to cook, and had a French cookbook whose recipes he was mastering. He also loved to party, within the bounds set by Scripture. He had a true delight in the diversity of people and in the wonders of God’s world. He enjoyed reading theology and Christian science fiction and fantasy. Naturally, one of his favorite movies was Babette’s Feast. In these respects he set a healthy, Biblical example to many families within the congregation.

In the church, it was Bob Dwelle who organized numerous camping trips for the men and boys, and sometimes girls, of the congregation (and other kids as well). After going it alone for a few years, Bob finally joined up with the Boy Scouts, and became one of the most respected Scout leaders in the Tyler area. Bob was also active in anti-abortion campaigns in Tyler, and for years was a leading figure on the board of the local Christian Action Council’s Unwed Mother’s Home.

The pawn shop job did not last forever, and Bob tried several other things for a few years, but Bob Dwelle was never really happy unless he was helping people. He felt that he had finally found a niche when he began training as a paramedic, but God had other plans, and Bob never finished that particular course.

In his twelve years in Tyler, Bob Dwelle became one of the most influential men in the evangelical Christian community. At his funeral people from many churches packed the church to overflowing. They came from all over Texas and from other states as well. His death leaves a hole that it will take more than one good man to fill.

Bob is survived by his wife Lynn, whom some of you know as the Executive Secretary of the Institute for Christian Economics in Tyler, Texas, and by three sons and a daughter. No better epitaph for Bob Dwelle can be provided than the one spoken by his youngest son, Dabney, to his mother a few weeks after Bob’s death. Dabney pointed out that Bob loved babies–his face always beamed when he had a chance to baptize one–and Dabney pointed out that because of all the abortions, heaven is currently full of babies. "I guess God knew that Dad would be a good person to have up there helping out," said Dabney. I guess so, too.

Bob Dwelle will be sorely missed.

Jim Jordan