There was a long-running joke in The American Legion Department of Florida that Legionnaires Robert Proctor and Dennis Boland were brothers. It stemmed from the pair going to an airport restaurant while on Legion travel and being mistaken for brothers by a woman there.
"We played that up," said Boland, Florida’s Alternate National Executive Committeeman and chairman of the Legion’s National Commission on Children & Youth. "We looked alike. We were around the same height, and we both had mustaches. But apart from all that, I truly felt like (he was) my brother.
Proctor, the longtime NECman for the Department of Florida, passed away Aug. 15 at age 66. Boland had known Proctor since 1987 and said the two had become close friends.
"He was one of the most dedicated Legionnaires around, and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am at this point without Bob’s guidance," said Boland, who will deliver the eulogy at Proctor’s funeral. "He had a vision for Florida, and he looked at how he could make Florida the best, membership-wise. He always put The American Legion first, and luckily his wife Ruthie felt the same way."
Proctor, a 45-year member of Orlando Memorial Post 19, served in the U.S. Army from 1965-68, and then went to work for the U.S. Postal Office and had a lengthy leadership career in the Legion. He served as post and department commanders, and various other national leadership positions, including National Executive Committeeman from 1999 until his passing.
For years he had served alongside Department of North Carolina NECman Jerry Hedrick on the NEC’s Resolutions Subcommittee. Hedrick, the subcommittee’s chairman, said Proctor brought moments of levity during the committee’s hours of reviewing Legion resolutions.
"There was never a dull moment with Bob Proctor on the committee," Hedrick said. "He knew more jokes and stories than anyone I’ve ever met. He kept us all a little light and gave us a little bit of a break."
Hedrick had known Proctor for 26 years. "Bob and I became close friends, and we became even closer serving on the Resolutions Subcommittee," Hedrick said. "There will definitely be a void left behind, not only on the subcommittee but in The American Legion. He was very instrumental in the state of Florida. He was a team player, and if you ever needed him, he was solid as a rock."
Proctor was originally from Massachusetts, just one town down from that of American Legion Past National Commander John "Jake" Comer. "Beyond that, I’ve probably been on 4-5 cruises with Bob and Ruthie, and when I’d go to Florida in (the winter), I would probably stay 1-2 nights at Bob’s house. They call the room I stayed in ‘Jake’s Room.’
"We were very, very close, he’s one that we’re going to miss in The American Legion. We lost a great one in Bob Proctor."
Proctor is surived by his wife, Ruth, brother Thomas (Rhea) Proctor and step-grandson Jay Delgado.
Interment will be on Aug. 21 at 11 a.m. at Sarasota National Cemetery with honors. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, IN 46206 in memory of Robert Proctor. Memories of Proctor may be shared online at www.englewoodfh.com.