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People on the Move: Bob Gassaway
05/06/2008 - By Helene Dortheimer
Surrounded by hundreds of model trains on dozens of shelves in his workshop, Bob Gassaway couldn’t be more at home.Surrounded by hundreds of model trains on dozens of shelves in his workshop, Bob Gassaway couldn’t be more at home. This 69-year-old, long-time Colts Neck resident was just 10 years old when he received his first model train set for Christmas. That gift became an instant passion, and through the years it has become so much more. About 6 years ago, Bob recreated his original 4’ x 4’ model train layout, and recently donated it to a silent auction sponsored by the Sunrise Optimist Club of Freehold, the proceeds of which benefited Freehold Open Door – an organization that provides food and services to area residents and schools in need. The auction was a success, bringing in a total of $1,400; Bob’s train set went for $300. You might ask how, so many years later, was Bob able to rebuild that set. Luckily, at the time he had the foresight to photograph it, so when he decided to rebuild he set out to different train shows, with photograph in hand, and purchased each piece, down to the smallest detail. It took him about 2 years, and when it was complete he mounted it, hung it on a wall in his workshop, and enjoyed the fruits of this labor of love. When he heard of the auction, however, Bob didn’t hesitate. He has definite plans to build more train sets for the charity that may become a bi-annual event. Asked how long it takes to put together an entire layout, he says he can do it in about 40 to 50 hours, or 4 to 5 days of concentrated effort.
Bob’s willingness to give of himself is also evident by his passion and involvement in the Colts Neck Dutch Reformed Church. He serves on the Consistory (governing body) and is the commissioner for the building and grounds. Coincidentally, one of the missions his church supports is Freehold Open Door. Part of the monies collected at church is given to that charity. They also support missionaries overseas and several other charities.
Bob is a member of the Train Collectors Association (TCA) and attends many trade shows each year. While his collection is varied, his main interest is in steam engines – especially East Coast railroad replicas that date back from the 1800’s to the 1950’s. His all-time favorite models are of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which he says has a lot of romance connected to them as one of the oldest and most unique of the railways.
Besides being an avid hobbyist himself, he also works 5 days a week at the Hobby Shop in Aberdeen selling — you guessed it — trains. While Bob’s careers have been varied, he decided early on that office work was “not who he was”; rather, he needed to be creative and hands-on. Along the way he has built fire engines and homes, but really found his niche when he began doing body work on cars. He had restored a Model A Ford and was told he could actually make a living doing restoration work, so that’s what he did. For years he restored many antique and classic cars and counted some famous people among his clients. One of his more noteworthy clients was George Wallace, founder of Litton Industries, for whom he restored a Dusenberg and a Packard, among others. He produced some prize-winning autos and gained a great reputation for his work. “Someone once said to me, ‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ ” It’s evident that he latched onto that philosophy.
Bob and his wife Lilyan are the parents of a son and three daughters (all grown) and the grandparents of seven. At some point in time, each adult member of the family has worked at Delicious Orchards, yet another tie to this community. Bob once worked there baking pies. Currently, their son Ron is produce manager, and Lilyan is a buyer for the company. Ron and his family, as well as his sisters, Maria and Debbie, with their respective families, all still live in the area, and sister, Linda, teaches at the University of Kentucky, but from near and far this family remains close.
Giving up his childhood train set, which held such fond memories, was not that difficult. “The older I get, the more I realize the need to give back. I am very fortunate and have many more trains than I deserve, so as part of my credo…you have to give back. There is a passage in the Bible that says, ‘To whom much has been given, much will be required.’ ” Bob truly lives by those words.
Favorite restaurant: Murphy’s Style Grill (Red Bank)
Favorite music: classical
Favorite movie: Casablanca
Pet peeve: bad drivers, especially people who pass on the right
Three people you would like to have dinner with: Billy Graham, Humphrey Bogart, and Charles Lindbergh (boyhood hero)
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