By CHERIL VERNON
The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award to the family of the late civic leader and former mayor Robert “Bob” McKelvey during the annual Chamber banquet Thursday.
McKelvey served on numerous local boards and was one of the catalysts in the formation of the nursing school at the University of Texas at Tyler’s Palestine campus. He served as Palestine’s mayor from 1997 through 2001 and was named Palestine’s Citizen of the Year in 1995.
Longtime friend, 369th State District Judge Bascom W. Bentley III, presented the award to McKelvey’s wife, Mary, and stepson, Robb Stewart during a special presentation.
“There have been a lot of good times here, but no day was more blessed than the day this man moved to Palestine,” Bentley said. “I think all of you who knew him knew that he was a gentleman in every sense of the word. I miss him daily and I know the City of Palestine and the State of Texas miss him as well.”
Accepting the award to a standing ovation, Mary McKelvey said, “I know Bob hears and is happy — thank you so very much.”
A Tennessee native who spent much of his early life in Alabama, Bob McKelvey graduated from Auburn University in 1966 with a degree in Business. He served as a captain in the Army as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, flying hundreds of rescue missions and herbicidal warfare missions.
He joined his father-in-law, K.A. Anderson in his family business, The K Way Equipment Company in 1971. Bob McKelvey developed new concepts in rental equipment and helped grow this relatively small business from one local location to seven locations in Texas and Louisiana, employing over 150 people.
After the sale of the company in 1999, Bob McKelvey did consulting work, and thrust himself into volunteer work. He served on numerous boards including the Palestine Industrial Foundation, the Palestine Library Board, the Cartmell Home Board and Foundation, Junior Achievement, UT Tyler-Palestine Campus, the Upper Neches River Municipal Water Authority and the Trinity Improvement Association.
Bob McKelvey was a 39-year member of the Palestine Rotary Club, joining the club in 1972, and serving as president in 1987-88. He was an active member of the First United Methodist Church in Palestine and was awarded the John Ben Shepperd “Outstanding Local Leader” award, given to only three distinguished community leaders in Texas each year.
In 1991, the McKelveys purchased Exploration Products Company in Palestine and Blasters Tool & Supply Company located in Lawrenceburg, Ky., successfully expanding and molding these small businesses in to oil and gas industry leaders in their niche markets.
Bob McKelvey passed away Dec. 25, 2011 in Palestine, after a battle with a malignant brain tumor.