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Published: Monday, 10/22/2007

Auto shop owner known for honesty

Robert Henry Mayberry, 67, the former owner of Mayberry's Towing and Automotive Repair Co. in Holland, died Tuesday in his home in Austin after a five-year battle with nonsmall-cell lung cancer.

When Pamela Solly, his youngest child and only daughter, was a little girl, she thought her father knew everyone.

"He would drive down the road and a car could not go by without somebody waving at him.

"He was like Holland's king," she said. "Everybody knew him. Everybody loved him."

Known for his warmth, honesty, and sense of humor, Mr. Mayberry accumulated and kept friends - and customers - with ease.

Gretchen Moffett, who used to take her car to Mayberry's, remembers her first visit to the shop. She watched Mr. Mayberry finish a conversation with an attractive woman and then lean across the counter and kiss the lady. Mrs. Moffett guessed it was his wife, but she couldn't resist a joke.

"So, do you treat all your female customers like that?" she asked. "And before I could do anything else, he reached across the counter, grabbed me by the shoulders, and gave me a big kiss."

Friends sent her to Mayberry's because he was known for his integrity.

"We had been told he treated women customers fairly, and didn't try to sell you things you didn't need," Mrs. Moffett of Swanton said.

"He was a really personable guy. And he took his time with your car, like you were his only customer."

John Yoder of Holland flew to Austin last week with another friend of Mr. Mayberry's to say good-bye. Every Friday for 50 years, he and Mr. Mayberry and four other men had dinner together.

"Bob Mayberry, you could trust him with your wallet."

"He knew so many people. He knew more people than anybody. He enjoyed a lot of conversation, and a lot of laughter."

He can't remember any longer how he met Mr. Mayberry, with whom he owned real estate, but he remembers the day 15 years ago when his friend met his wife, Diane Judah Mayberry.

"When he met her, she was laughing, and he said, 'You can't laugh and have more fun than I'm having. I'm laughing longer than you.' And that's how they met."

Mrs. Mayberry recalls the day he won her over. She was having dinner with girlfriends at a restaurant on Airport Highway. Mr. Mayberry, whom she knew from various political gatherings, sent over a bottle of champagne. Then he pulled up a chair.

"That was it. That was it," she said.

"He was just very kind, considerate, and compassionate. Very comfortable in his own skin," Mrs. Mayberry said.

"I'm a very strong woman, and he had no problem dealing with that," she said. When her job took her to Austin, he pulled up stakes and relocated.

"He was the kind of man every businesswoman should be married to, because he was that supportive. He was my biggest cheerleader."

His daughter said his confidence in her gave her confidence: "The reason I'm strong is because of my dad. Knowing you have somebody on your side no matter what makes you a little fearless."

Sandy Harlow met Mr. Mayberry through his wife.

"The thing that stands out to me most about him is he was just so loyal to all his friends. Every time he came back to town, he got in touch with his classmates he went to Springfield High School with. They always made sure they had dinner together, like a class reunion."

Surviving are his wife, Diane Judah Mayberry; daughter, Pamela Solly; sons, Robert, Bradley, and Andrew; brothers, Ronald, Guy, Gary, Jimmy, Thomas, and Jack; sisters, Janice Sell, Judith Hicks, and Barbara Husley, and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be 1 p.m. Friday in the Neville Funeral Home, 7438 Airport Hwy, Holland.

The family suggests tributes to the Anne Grady Center, Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio, or Odyssey Hospice of Austin.


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