Bobby F. Zager
Bobby F. Zager
LONGVIEW — Bobby Frank Zager of Kilgore and Longview, Texas, and late of Columbia, South Carolina, died at the age of 92 on 7 October 2020. Born in Oak Hill, Texas, in 1927, he was the 5th of Peter and Lola Zager’s eight children. Lola’s family, the Watsons, were among the first settlers of Rusk County, in the days when Texas was a republic; Petar Zagar (original spelling) was a turn-of-the century immigrant from what is now Croatia--at that time simply part of the far-flung Austro-Hungarian empire. The Zagars were originally from the Gottschee enclave.
Bobby was graduated, at age 16, from Henderson High School, class of 1944, and went to work in construction to support himself, his parents, and his younger siblings--three older brothers being overseas with U. S. forces. To get a better job at the naval shipyard in Port Arthur, Bobby became a certified maritime welder, and presently--turning seventeen--he was plying that trade while hanging upside down inside the fuel and water tanks of destroyers and destroyer escorts being readied for World War II’s immense naval effort. His work was the more arduous for the endless cacophony of rivets being driven into the hull--small wonder that he hadn’t much hearing in later years.
Bobby’s own call to arms came when he turned eighteen, late in 1945, even though he had been doing work deemed essential to the war effort. He didn’t complain, just shipped out to boot camp in San Diego, after which he participated in the occupation of Japan before crossing the oceans of the world--Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian, as well as the Andaman, Java, Coral, and Red Seas--aboard the U.S.S. Nantahala, an oiler tasked, among other things, with refueling the vessels in which former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her entourage crisscrossed the globe on goodwill missions. He was discharged in December 1947.
Then began a remarkably varied and successful career. With the G.I. Bill, he studied business, mathematics, metallurgy, and engineering, first at Le Tourneau College in Longview, Texas, and subsequently at Texas Christian University. His studies enabled a career that ranged from highway construction to technical sales in oil and gas. Deeply religious, Bobby always credited God with his good fortune. He never forgot his devout mother’s sitting him down on the occasion of an especially successful venture to read him Jeremiah 9:23-24. Lakeview Baptist Church of Longview/Lake Cherokee numbered him among its charter members--an affiliation in which Bobby took great pride.
Bobby was a fine amateur musician, notably on guitar, and delighted in performing in barbershop quartets (sometimes aboard cruise ships). In later years, he was among the most esteemed of the volunteer docents at the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore, where his life-long experience of regional culture and history perfectly complemented his knowledge of the oil and gas industry.
Bobby was predeceased by his parents, Peter and Lola, by brothers Eugene, Talmadge, and Vernon, and by sisters Estell Zager and Annie Ruth Zager Dorsey. Survivors include his daughter, Pamela Zager Cowart, of Columbia, South Carolina; son-in-law, David Cowart; sister, Betty Zager Anderson; brother, Billy Zager; nieces Beth Freeman, LaVelle Jenkins, Sandra Zager, Jackie McKnight, Karen Caldwell, Genia Nelson, Judy Masucci, and Rosetta Rickson; and nephew, Alvin VanWart. Also bereaved: cousins Claude Gray, Velta Gray Morris, and Gloria Rousseau; special friends Clark Sexton and Ernest Williams; and many others that he held dear.
The family will receive friends for a time of visitation at 1 PM Wednesday, October 21, in the Chapel of Rader Funeral Home of Longview followed by a Celebration of Life at 2 PM. Masks and social distancing required.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donating to a favorite charity--or simply doing an act of kindness in remembrance of Bobby Frank Zager.
A memorial guestbook may be signed online at

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