Bobby Stroud: A Mother Remembers

by Judy McAbee

Robert Homer (Bobby) Stroud, born December 13, 1957 to Robert and Judy Stroud. From the time he was born, Bobby was the apple of my eye. Then came two other brothers, then a divorce. A year or so later I remarried to Robert (Bob) Gillespie, who helped me raise my boys. A few years later we had Christine (Chrissy or Chris) whom Bobby treasured. He spoiled her rotten.

All his life, Bobby had goals. He wanted to do something to help out his family, so he got a paper route and bought us a dining room set with his money. Bobby always wanted to become a famous baseball player, but he also had a dream of joining the Navy. To do these things, he went to summer school and night school to get his credits, still doing a paper route in the middle of the night.

We joined the Temple in the early 70’s. Bobby was very close with Stephan Jones, like brothers. I loved Stephan and Marceline so very much, and always remained very close to them. Stephan hung around our house a lot. I would have to call Marcie and she would have to come get Stephan. He told me once way back than that he would rather live with us, that our house was a home, theirs was only a house. I was like his other mom and Stephan like my other son.

We quit the Temple after a couple of years, moved to Southern California, then back to Sacramento. Bobby was playing baseball the whole time as he always did, also always doing paper routes.

I had to board Bobby out with some neighbors, because we moved back to Ukiah and he didn’t want to go there – nor did the school want him to go – as he wouldn’t graduate a year early if he did. The Temple kids made fun of my other children, because Bobby didn’t get to move with us. They thought we were hiding him from them. That wasn’t true: we were only helping Bobby fulfill his dreams, which we surely did. With two weeks left in his junior year, the school promoted him to a senior so he could graduate.

Meanwhile, with my permission, he signed up for the Navy and served one year. He traveled the world, sending me money and gifts from all kind of countries. He was still in the Navy when the Temple got hold of him again and got him out. They made him believe that it was wrong to be in the Navy. But why was it wrong for him to be in contact with me? The Temple certainly wouldn’t allow it. They considered us defectors because we had quit, but it’s also true, Bobby had been free to attend Temple services even after we left. I just insisted he had to be home after service. Which he was. I couldn’t find my Bobby for a couple of years, although I always knew they had him. Sometimes in the middle of the night, my phone would ring, and it would be someone from the Temple saying “Ha ha, we got your Bobby and you can’t have him.” That hurt like hell!

I was so happy to remarry and move to another state, where the Temple could never find me, although I was back in Ukiah every month or so trying to find my Bobby. Finally on one of my journeys down there, I was at another “defector’s” house. They told me about Jonestown and Georgetown. They also suggested, since Bobby wasn’t allowed any contact with me, that I should write him the sweetest letter in the whole world, which I did.

He was estranged from us while he was in Jonestown, as he couldn’t have any contact with me then. He said he tried every way possible to leave Jonestown, but they had taken all his money, his drivers license, passport and all the other identification that he had. He was watched all the time and always had to have someone with him so he couldn’t contact me. That’s what he told me after he returned.

While Bobby was working in the jungle in Jonestown one day, he fell off a piece of heavy equipment which rolled on him, smashing him. At first they thought he was dead, then someone noticed some movement so they radioed for a helicopter which came and flew him to a hospital. He was in terrible shape. When he came to in the hospital in Georgetown, Marcie was there with him. He told her that as all he wanted was to walk again and see his mom. Marcie told him that with her help, he would do both. Also that’s also when she read him the letter I had written earlier; like he said, “Perfect timing, Mom.” He told me later he cried tears of joy to finally have some contact with me. He brought me a gift from Jonestown, something that they sold down there – a plaque.

Marcie kept her word. She got him out of Jonestown the night before the tragedy – I guess she knew what was coming – and he survived. She knew what she was doing; I always thought of her as an angel, and always will.

When he got back to the States, his whole lower body was put together with pins and plates. He couldn’t stand freezing cold weather, and said it was like dogs biting him all over. He would sob for hours from the pain and also from the tragedy he had been through. I finally sent him to my mother’s house in Southern California, where he was taken to a doctor for more tests and x-rays. They found a huge blood tumor in his left side, so he had to have surgery. I made him a quilt while this was going on to keep him warm, as he kept telling me that he couldn’t get warm. He treasured that quilt.

Bobby’s favorite thing to eat all his life was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I had a sign in our house that said “Try our Famous Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich” – that was for my Bobby. Every night after supper Bobby would make himself one. We always would laugh about it. Bobby always would say, “Mom, how I wish you had the stuff here to make me some of your famous jam.”

Bobby Stroud

Bobby fathered a child, Camille Tiffany Tom, while he was still living in San Francisco. She died at age two in Jonestown. Bobby’s first wife when he returned to the States was Janice Compton, and they had a son – Robert Jon Stroud – who will turn 25 in early November. His second or third wife – depending upon whether he truly was married in Guyana – was Beverly. He spent most of his years with her, and became a daddy to her son and daughter. His last wife was Jennifer Jones. They had two children, Hobbs Alexander and Parker Christine, who are about 6 and 4 now.

My son had horrible nightmares almost every night after he returned from Guyana. Both of his wives told me about how he would scream in the middle of the night. Many nights I was there and would hear him crying in the night because of all the tragedies he had been through. I would fly to Texas several times a year and always spend a week or so with him. I finally got to have my lost time with my beloved son.

Bobby kept in good contact with Beverly, even after they divorced. He went to see her the last year before he left this earth and she said she couldn’t believe it was him. “He was so unkempt,” she said, “which Bobby never was.”

That was true. Bobby was the best salesman in the whole world. He worked for Clayton Homes and Oakwood Homes in Arkansas. On that second job, he won all the awards in 2000-2001 for selling the most homes. He never ever quit wearing a suit and tie, as he loved being dressed to perfection.

Bobby loved working for the radio station. He was a real ham from the time he was very small, always jumping up on something with something in his hand pretending to be an announcer. I wasn’t at all surprised when he became one.

Almost every picture I have of the family or the kids, Bobby always has his arms around his beloved sister, Chris. She was always his favorite. Chris and I remained very close to Bobby during his last years. He always knew he could lean on us.

Bobby and I talked daily for the last year or so. We were making plans for him to move out here, to live with me and get a job here. I miss my Bobby and shall never forget him and that soft-spoken voice of his. I have a couple of his last messages on my cell phone which I will always keep so as to never lose my son’s voice.

Bobby honey, I love you and shall never forget you. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you and see something that was yours or that you sent to me. All my love, honey, always. Mom and Chris.

(If you have more stories about Bobby, please send them to Judy McAbee in care of this website.)

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on March 12th, 2014.
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