Robert G. Halston was born Nov. 27, 1927 in Chicago, he was a longtime member of Chicago’s St. Ignatius Parish in Rogers Park, where he grew up and raised four children with his beloved wife of 50 years, Jean. He passed peacefully on February 9, 2021 at 93 years of age. He was a wonderful father, husband, brother, son, grandfather, great grandfather and friend.
Bob restored antique automobiles, was an avid reader of books, loved a good story, was a fan of steam-era railroading, had interest in really any form of transportation, woodworking, photography, was a stock car driver and NASCAR pioneer, he was interested in steam ships, sailboats and open cockpit airplanes, was a tinkerer and hobbyist, model builder, Bob rode a motorcycle until a serious crash turned him from a rider to an admirer, and he was always available when a car needed fixing.
He served in the U.S. Army near the end of World War II where he learned to drive large trucks, a skill he would utilize throughout his life. After the war he worked for Railway Express and later bought a truck with his brother George and moved freight all over the country as an independent. Eventually he went to work as a Teamster with Continental Can Company, Gateway and Yellow Freight. Bob was proud to have received awards for 3 million accident-free miles driven and safety awards each year until retirement at age 72. As an entrepreneur and devoted provider for his family, Bob also owned Hydro Sales transmission shop and later Robert’s Wood Finishing in Chicago.
With two childhood friends, he built and ran stock cars for about 6 years until, as a condition of marriage, he retired from racing to raise a family (too risky!). A favorite racing story he would tell (among many) is the time he had his stock car on the beach at Daytona in 1952, when races were still held on the beachfront before the Daytona Int’l Speedway was built. Bob had his modified Nash roadster and jazz drumming legend Buddy Rich appeared with a brand new Jaguar, challenging the drivers to a race. Bob took him up on the challenge and they ran down the beach where Bob’s old Nash won the heat! He said Buddy was not pleased having lost but did invite Bob and his friends to the nightclub where Buddy was performing that night as his guest. Problem was, Bob and his band of racers didn’t have proper attire to attend a fancy nightclub so they couldn’t go! He was satisfied though having beaten Buddy Rich in his brand new Jaguar.
Bob was an enthusiastic conversationalist; no one enjoyed a good conversation more than he! When he and Jean took cruises later in life, if you couldn’t find Bob just look in the engine room where he was likely talking over the boiler situation or how much thrust each propeller was capable of. When he would go to an auto parts store, a paint store or a hobby shop, you could count on long conversations with the experts behind the counter on the intricacies and nuances of whatever item caught his eye. Bob cultivated and cherished a great number of diverse friendships with people from all walks of life, from the wealthy to the unemployed, the mechanic to the commodities trader, the tradesman to the insurance executive, the waitress to the business mogul to the neighbor down the street. He was affable, interested, curious, helpful, well informed and a good friend to many and was always game for whatever crazy thing was afoot! When his childhood friend restored a 1936 Tiger Moth bi-plane, of course it was Bob in the second seat of the cockpit when they flew it from Colorado to Chicago at 5,000 feet altitude, navigating by the highway road signs and small town water tower names below due to lack of instrumentation.
Bob married Jean McNally in 1955, after a mutual friend brought Jean to see him race at Soldier Field. She later recalled how he “raced like crazy all around the track, then got out of the car and walked calmly as if he were just taking a stroll”. That night meeting back with friends at Anthony’s tavern on Thorndale Ave in Chicago, he was dressed in his ‘racing whites’ jumpsuit and ran into Jean. She asked him for an ice cream bar. Puzzled, Bob asked why she’d ask him for ice cream? She replied, “oh, I thought you were the Good Humor Man dressed in that suit!” The rest is, as they say, is history. Married just short of 50 full years, the love of his life passed away in 2005. Together they raised four children, Bob, Jeanne, Jim and Mike in the two-flat where Bob grew up. A child of the depression, the extended family shared a single apartment flat in Rogers Park. It was Bob with brothers George and Clay, their mother Cecelia, his aunt Irene and his grandparents who emigrated from Castlebar, County Mayo Ireland and married in Chicago in 1892, living together until Bob went off to serve in the war.
Bob Halston didn’t live a cautious life, he rarely sat still, always pursuing his curiosities. A story emblematic of Bob is when Jean bought him his first electric shaver, he disassembled it and had parts scattered all over the dining room table. She asked what happened; he replied ‘nothing, I just wanted to see how it worked’. His was a life well lived.
Robert G. Halston is survived by his children Robert M., Jean I., James (Valerie) and Michael Halston; grandchildren Jessica (John) Asbury, Samantha, Madeline and Ryan Halston; great-grandchildren Timothy and Audrey Asbury, his brother Clay A. Halston, and many friends and relatives. He is preceded in death by his late wife Jean A. (McNally) Halston, mother Cecelia Halston, father George W. Halston, grandparents Martin & Celia (Davitt) Glynn, beloved aunt Irene M. Glynn, dear brother George and Dorothy (DeLeonardis) Halston, and sister-in-law Joanne (Curran) Halston.
Services private due to the pandemic, a proper memorial service will be held when friends and family can safely congregate. Interment All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, IL where Bob will rest eternally beside his beloved wife Jean. In lieu of flowers, donations to Have Dreams (https://havedreams.org/donate) or Center of Concern (https://centerofconcern.org/make-a-donation/) are appreciated.