He was 74 years old.
Robert Davis (family and old friends called him Davis) was born in Houston on Oct. 11, 1937, to Dr. and Mrs. Archibald Stewart McNeill.
After graduating from Lamar High School in Houston, he attended the University of Texas at Austin where he earned a degree in chemistry.
In 1960, Robert joined the Navy and proudly served more than twenty years. He attended several schools for naval line officers, including leadership school, destroyer operations, amphibious warfare, boilers and electronics schools, and he earned a degree in electrical engineering at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterrey, California.
Robert was a resourceful person. He was serving on a cargo ship en route to Vietnam when a wave guide in the ship’s radar failed. The radar manual said such failure required the ship to return to port for replacement of the part, but Robert took the damaged part to the ship’s machine shop, put it in a lathe, and with chemicals and gauze from the ship’s infirmary and a battery and wires, he repaired the silver plating and restored the radar to service. The technique was described in subsequent manuals.
After retiring from the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, he settled in Thorndale, near where he owned ranch land.
For several years he worked for a surveyor in Milam County, during which time he developed algorithms to simplify the calculations and increase the accuracy of survey results. The licensed surveyor tried to get Robert to become licensed himself and to take over the survey company, but Robert did not want to deal with the liabilities of that kind of business. He retired again.
Robert turned his attention to other interests. He tended to his ranch and began reading and studying something in which he had always had a special interest: Theory of economics and government.
He also began to spend more time caring for his friend and neighbor, Virgie Gilley. Robert devoted several decades to looking after Virgie. He was a kind and generous man. He took in every stray animal that came around. And he was an accomplished cook which a lot of people besides Virgie appreciated.
For many years Robert could be found at his house in Thorndale, his ranch, Virgie’s, or in his “office,” a booth at Carol’s café in Thorndale, where countless hours went to talking to his friends over coffee. If you called Carol’s and gave them a message for Robert, he would get it.
Robert wrote a booklet he called “Conversations at Carol’s,” a distillation of those discussions. He laid out in detail the reasons and philosophical assumptions to justify his strong opinions regarding the proper role of government in the lives of citizens.
Rober t is sur v ived by his brother and sister-in-law, Archie Stewart and Martha Parker McNeill of Austin; a nephew and his wife, Archie McNeill and Erin Ahearn of Plano; a niece and her husband, Helen Elizabeth and Joe Devine of Austin; three greatnieces; and a large extended family of cousins.
Robert was preceded in death by his parents and long-time companion Virgie Gilley of Thorndale.
The family would like to thank the staff at Manor Oaks Nursing Center and VistaCare Hospice, and a special thank you to Davis’s friend and caregiver, Barbara Starr of Rockdale.
Services will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Weed-Corley-Fish Chapel, North Lamar, in Austin. Graveside services will be held at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.
Arrangements by Weed-Corley Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78705 ( 512) 452- 8811. Obituary and memorial guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com.