Robert Richard (Bobby) Totah was born on Aug. 1, 1927 to Andrew and Julia Totah in Rochester, New York. The family relocated to Victoria, Texas in 1933. The Totah family then settled in Palestine, Texas after they purchased the Jay Shop, a women and children’s clothing store in 1938. Bobby graduated from Palestine High School in 1945 and enlisted in the Navy the day after he graduated. He was proud that the Navy took advantage of the fact that he could type 86 words per minute on a manual typewriter. In 1946, he went to the University of Texas (UT) with four of his cousins. After three and a half years at UT, he bought The Jet, a drive-in restaurant in Victoria with his uncle. His passion for cooking stemmed from his mom’s lessons and from helping several relatives in their restaurant businesses as a young boy. In 1955 he met his future wife Jean Abraham on a blind date. He won her over when he carried her a mile after she broke her ankle while they were attending a football game at Cotton Bowl Stadium. Bobby sold his partnership in the Jet and bought into partnership of the Jay Shop with his parents and Hazel Condos in 1957.
During his life he was very involved in charitable and civic causes, some of which were: president of the Chamber of Commerce, president of the Kiwanis Club, and a long-term board member of the East Texas National Bank. Bobby was instrumental in helping build up Palestine and went on the road to bring several businesses downtown. He was very involved in Meals on Wheels and would add extra treats to the plates.
He was a devout Catholic and lifetime member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. He loved to sing and you could always find him leading the church choir. Bobby was a member and officer of several church boards and organizations including: the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, the Knights of Columbus where he served as Grand Knight, and St. Joseph’s Assembly of the Knights of Columbus where he was a 4th degree member. He was also involved in raising money and recruiting for the Holy Name Retreat Center. He truly believed in the teaching of St. Vincent de Paul: to serve others who were less fortunate. He lived a life of devotion to God and charitable giving and was known for his selflessness. Whether it was giving a dollar coin to a child in line at the grocery store or taking a sack of groceries to someone in need, giving was second nature to him and he never expected anything in return. His goal in life was to put a smile on everyone’s face, young or old and his creed was helping others. Many disagreements and hard feelings were resolved between his relatives and friends because of his strong penchant for peace making. Not only did he strive to instill these qualities in his children and grandchildren, but he also ensured that they had many lasting fond memories from their childhood.