John Robert Dobbs

John Robert … Claire is in the background.

John Robert Dobbs was born on October 23, 1989. He was born a bit early and spent the first few weeks of his life in an infant ICU. Though he was less than 5 lbs at birth, he quickly caught up! John lived in Mississippi all his life. We lived in Kosciusko, Mississippi when he was born. For a few years after that we lived in Cleveland, Mississippi. When he was three we moved to Pascagoula, Mississippi.

John Robert was a brilliant little boy and often came up with the funniest things to say. I wish I had written them all down so I could read them now. He never went to daycare, mom took care of him and raised him until he went off to kindergarten at Cherokee Elementary School. His elementary years were spent at Beach Elementary School, where he made lifelong friends … many of which he completed school with. The picture above is a school field trip to Audubon Zoo. John, Jordan, Donovan, and Patrick were inseparable. It was at Donovan’s house where John Robert broke his arm one October. John spent as much time at Jordan’s house as he did ours. Patrick and John went to a thousand movies together, along with other friends. At Beach Elementary School Principle Shirley Hunter called more than once with stories about John Robert. Once John Robert came to her office and confessed to drinking the water draining out of the air conditioner, and he wondered if he would be OK! Another time he reported eating a rock, just to make sure it would not make him sick. Shirley’s husband is a police Captain. He is the officer who stood in front of our house in the early morning darkness of May 21st, to tell us that John Robert was gone.

John Robert went to Middle School at Trent Lott Middle School. During his years there he was active in the chorus. It was also during this time that John Robert and some others recruited lots of friends to attend Central Church of Christ. A Wednesday night teen worship time developed called “The Gathering”. At this time John Robert grew tremendously in spirit … and in his ability to lead worship. Many of his friends were immersed into Jesus Christ, including A.J., who became an important part of John’s life. Of course he had many friends and I couldn’t start to name them all.

John did have a special friend in Lanni Harris. John and Lanni grew up together and it seemed natural for them to be more than just friends. On his last visit to Pigeon Forge with us, Lanni came along. They spent a lot of time together. Lanni is no longer a “Harris”. She is married and has two beautiful babies. We still love Lanni and pray for her to continue to have a great life.

John Robert and Pawpaw Willingham - Both in Heaven
John Robert and Pawpaw Willingham – Both in Heaven

As John Robert moved to Pascagoula High School he chose not to remain in chorus. He did, however, begin leading worship at Central Church of Christ more and more. Like all teenagers, John Robert wanted to spend most of his time with his friends. We were always thankful he had good friends and that they enjoyed spending so much time together. He started working at Burnham Drugstore in Moss Point during the summer after his Sophomore year. He did whatever they needed him to do, and he liked working there. He enjoyed the people he worked with. Over the past few years we have received a card from them expressing their sympathy and that they miss him too.

In September 2005 John Robert matured quickly as our family dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Our home had almost 4 feet of floodwater in it. When we started tearing out walls and such, John Robert put on a pair of work gloves and acted like he had done it his whole life. For days we worked without electricity, eating government provided MREs … and in the sweltering heat and disgusting mold and mildew and debris … I never once heard John Robert complain. He worked hard in the restoration of our home. I was very proud of him.

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In January 2008, I decided to move to Monroe, Louisiana, to become the preaching minister for the Forsythe Avenue Church of Christ. John Robert had no intention of moving from the Mississippi Coast and began making plans with friends for living quarters, school, etc. I began commuting in February and for the next few months did not see John as much, although we talked on the phone nearly every day. As graduation approached I was at home on the Coast more … and looking forward to that significant milestone.

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On May 21, 2008, John Robert went to work. He came home and made a phone call to his mother. We were watching a movie at the theater. It was just a few days before graduation. After cleaning up, he went to a friend’s house.  The details from there are sketchy to me. The only time we heard John Robert’s voice from that time on was when we continued to call his cell phone, and hearing his voicemail greeting.  When he did not call or return home, we drove to the places we thought he might be. About 5:00 a.m. Captain Hunter knocked on our door. Our old lives were over, and we were given a new life … one without John Robert. A dark journey had begun.

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The next few days are a blur to me. There were visits, food, family, friends, phone calls, a funeral … a great funeral. John Robert would have loved his funeral. So many friends spoke on his behalf. Three of his friends from school played some songs on instruments. Most of the people who had great influence in his life were there to speak on his behalf. I am afraid to name them, for fear of leaving someone out. Calvary Baptist Church offered their facilities, for which we were so grateful. The church was full of people young and old. John Robert actually went to some Vacation Bible Schools there when he was a child. Both sets of John Robert’s grandparents were present, which because of poor health was very difficult on all of them. His paternal grandfather passed away just six months later.

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John Robert’s remains were laid to rest in Lehrton Cemetery, Ruleville, Mississippi. This is the town where his mother’s parents and family live. It was a gloomy day with rain pouring down out of the sky. Family and friends gathered, some from Monroe, where we had just moved. Longtime friend Tim McCarter, minister for a Church of Christ in Cleveland, MS spoke words of comfort.  On the first anniversary of his death, several family members gathered at his grave and Tim once again had some kind things to say.

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There are things that I did not share about John Robert here. One was his love for Gulf Coast Bible Camp. He started going to camp before he was old enough to be there. He seldom missed a camp week, retreat, or event if he could help it. It was at camp where John made the decision to be baptized into Jesus. I had the privilege of assisting in his second birth.

John Robert loved doing things with the youth group like going to Youth In Action or taking a trip to the Ocoee River (where he was once bitten by a tick and had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever). He enjoyed so much going to concerts, movies, staying up late talking, and other things with his youth group friends.

Central Church of Christ Youth Group White Water Rafting Trip
Central Church of Christ Youth Group White Water Rafting Trip

And John loved his family. His sister Nicole was more than a sister, she was his friend. They grew especially close over the last few years. Nicole and daughter, Claire, lived with us for nine years. Claire was more like a little sister to John than a niece.  John lived to see Nicole marry Robert, and to enjoy playing with newborn Blake. These, along with all of his extended family, love and miss him so much.

John Robert was not an angel. He trusted in Christ to save him, and that is what we all must do. But John Robert was a young man with a wonderful heart. I believe he would have helped anyone with anything they needed.


John Robert singing Beautiful One. Gary Boswell playing the music, Will Collins singing backup vocals.

A few videos I’ve made in John Robert’s honor.

 

Thanks for Reading this page. Feel free to leave any comments our thoughts about John Robert … or to John Robert.

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