Robert John “Bob” Sorby, age 63 of Melrose, formerly of Zumbrota, passed away peacefully, on Thursday, September 23, 2021 at his home in Melrose, Minnesota.
The Celebration of Life will be Saturday October 2, 2021 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Stary-Yerka VFW Post 5727 Zumbrota located at 25 First Street Zumbrota, MN 55992.
Robert John Sorby was born on April 22, 1958 to Helen and Herb Sorby in Zumbrota, Minnesota. Growing up in small town America during a time when it wasn't unusual to see a young boy walking through town with a gun or fishing pole over their shoulder, Bob and his dog Duke often headed out to enjoy the adventures of the day. The local police would wave them on or ask where the best fishing spots were. When Bob was 8 years old his uncle Fred took him to the post office to get his Social Security number so he could pay in on the 25 cents he made every day on the farm. Bob was proud of the fact that he had lived long enough to collect back some of his hard-earned money. He remembered the talk around the table among his elders about how one should work hard all their life so they could relax later on. He really thought it should be the other way around. Bob had many fond memories of his grandparents, Grandpa Hickey playing the fiddle and grandma making grandpa his hiccup medicine. He often talked about the egg route that he helped with. He learned many lifelong skills spending time on the farm. As a young boy Bob enjoyed pranking his Aunt Mary who was watching over him, by putting a hamster in the chair cushions, or picking on his sisters and their girlfriends. He once hit his dad with a water balloon from the top of a store on Halloween. He often wondered if his dad knew it was him. Bob attended Zumbrota high school but did not graduate, receiving his GED at age 36 from jail. He walked out of school one day after an argument with a teacher and went to work at the Ford garage in Zumbrota. On March 19, 1975, his daughter Bobbi-Jo was born and even though he didn't have a hand in raising her he worked hard to pay child support. As a young man with a driver’s license, he loved cruising around town and racing down Broadway in Rochester in his 1969 green Grand Torino with its big bell carburetor that got 3 miles to the gallon. Another form of entertainment was to drive the car on to the railroad tracks, put it in gear and lay on the top as the car took itself down the tracks. Bob was a hard worker, often working double shifts at Mid America Dairy for 18 years. 1987 Bob survived a horrible motorcycle accident that left him unrecognizable for some time. Bob married Tina Smith on October 12, 1991, and his son Bruce was born a year later. After Tina died in a tragic accident and Bruce was awarded custody to her parents, Bob hit the road breaking rail, scraping iron, and tiling fields. Bob often found himself on the wrong side of the law. Trying to make the best of his time locked behind bars, Bob read westerns and law books. He was well versed in renter’s rights and one of the jailers took away the synonym book as he kept using words nobody knew what they meant. Confusing people with words was something he was good at. For the most part he thought jail was ok as he got to run equipment for the city parks and the food was pretty good, even though the guards would sometimes steal your dessert. By the mid-nineties Bob had lost his driver's license and walked everywhere. One time he walked from Bellchester to Wabasha to report to jail. The jail refused to accept him since he was 2 days late and he refused to leave. They decided to let him stay after talking to his probation officer. When the drama of life got to be too much, he laced up his boots and slung his backpack over his shoulder and went off to the woods. He lived in a camper on his friend’s land for about 7 years where he became very connected to nature even having a pet raccoon. Bob could often be seen walking the 7 miles to town to pick up work from the local farmers, often fixing fencing or moving the bull. Only a gentle, brave soul like Bob could move a bull. Eventually he moved to the basement of W. D.'s bar and worked for Orrin Pudding and plowing snow for Donnie Dahl.
On October 1, 2011, Bob came into my life; Chris Barron. He offered to show me his fish aquarium which was the Zumbro River. He claimed to check on them daily as he pointed different ones out. After we both decided that we would not domesticate each other we got along fine. We had been together a few months when I was given a puppy. He said, "No dogs!" I said, "goodbye" he stayed and so did the puppy. The puppy was named Peaceful EZ Feelings after I watched a restless soul sit down and relax because he had a dog in his lap. Ez became Bob's best friend and defender. Nobody was going to mess with Bob not even me. Bob was a teacher; he taught whenever he could to whoever would listen. I learned how to fix 3 different Coleman lanterns, chop wood with an ax, read a barometer, tell how fast you are going when the speedometer doesn't work, the five things that make an ox an ox, how to talk to the crows, how the trees and birds predict the weather, are just of few of the practical life skills that he taught me. One time when he was cawing at the crows he started to say “Sorby, Sorby”, the crow returned the call with “Sorby, Sorby” and flew off!
Bob was a keen observer with eagle eyes, noting every detail down to the tiny bird in a tree. He also noticed when any of the details changed. He read instructions down to the last letter, and actually followed them. He was very aware of his surroundings by using his senses to detect changes in the environment. Bob was a watcher. As long as he had something to watch, be it birds or traffic he was content with his place of observation. He would comment things like, Joe must be late for work, or there are bird wars going on over the suet. Bob was an empath, feeding the birds wherever he went, acknowledging people he passed, noticing if someone was struggling. If something was out of place he put it back, if there was garbage on the ground, he picked it up. He was upset when he accidently weed whipped a frog and would still feel sad about it years later. Adults sometimes steered clear of him, but small children would come and sit next to him. Dogs, cats, horses all gravitated towards him. He loved the fact that at one time he owned a couple of horses. He was a strong man that wasn't afraid of tears. He cared deeply for nature planting trees on Earth Day (his birthday). Those that knew Bob knew that he was an honorable man, and his loyalty ran deep. His word was his bond and his gregarious personality made those around him at ease in his presence. Bob didn't have many possessions but what he did have he took good care of. Journaling almost every day, Bob wrote mostly about things like the weather, barometer readings, and small details. He had beautiful handwriting, was an excellent speller and a talented leather worker. He had maps and globes so he could place where things were when he heard about them on the news, or locations where his trucker friends were. He watched the fishing calendar and claimed people got along better when the fishing was good. When it was bad is when the domestics happened. He lived sun-up to sun-down following the laws of nature. Even though he was kicked out of anger management twice he based his decisions on something he learned in treatment. Is it needed, but not necessary, necessary but not needed, not needed or necessary, needed, and necessary? In 2015, we moved to Melrose so that I could be close to my mom. We spent most of the summers living out at Big Birch Lake with our camper and would rent somewhere in the winter. He taught me how to live a simple life without many amenities. Bob helped me with many odd jobs around mom's house and even volunteered to help with the VFW's egg dying fund raiser. He developed a relationship with my family, especially my grandsons. They would swap advice and stories sometimes laughing and sometimes crying. Bob was not judgmental but didn't hesitate to call someone out if they weren't up front with him. Bob suffered another severe head wound in 2016 where he punctured the main artery in his temple and almost bled out. After that it became very difficult for Bob to walk, so he traveled the world through his maps, and phone conversations, listening to the radio watching the birds. An endearing quality was that he was self- entertaining. Bob had the opportunity to spend time with his daughter and show her his fish aquarium. He told her to," listen to the river talk as it flows up and down the stream." He got to meet his great-granddaughter, Kiya and was looking forward to meeting his great grandson, Emmet. They were very special to him, and he was proud of them. Standing 6 ft. tall, size 13 boots and a big heart, Bob had a presence that will be long remembered by his family and friends. He was my rock. Bob left this world peacefully at home on September 23, 2021 after a head injury from a fall..
If you asked Bob what he wanted he would say "Amnesty" If you find yourself sitting by a river, listening as it flows up and down the stream and you hear a crow call “Sorby, Sorby” he is saying, “Stay out of the rhubarb and if you get caught poaching alligators, don’t give them my middle name, Enjoy!”
He leaves behind his parents, Herb and Helen Sorby of Wanamingo; sisters, Karen (Brian) Brownlow of Rochester and Lori Barden of Zumbrota; daughter, Bobbi-Jo Krusmark (fiancé, Jeff) of Chatfield; son, Bruce Smith of Rochester; two grandsons, Cody and Colin (Becca); two great-grandchildren, Kiya and Emmet; soul mate, Chris Barron; best buddy, EZ; and many nieces, nephews, and friends.
Bob was preceded in death by his grandparents, Olive and Clyde Mark and Hans and Belle Sorby; and wife, Tina Smith.
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