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Robert Docter retires from Corps Sergeant-Major post

New Frontier Editor-in-Chief steps down as Corps Sergeant-Major of Pasadena Tabernacle Corps.

by Jeff Curnow – 



Three generations of the Docter clan perform during the retirement celebration. Left to right: Grandson Robert, son John and honoree Bob Docter.


It is rare today that people remain in one place for 39 years. That someone would faithfully hold a local officer post at one corps for that amount of time is almost unheard of. On Saturday, October 21, Bob Docter, Corps Sergeant-Major of the Pasadena Tabernacle Corps (Tab) for 39 years, was honored with a retirement dinner and celebration.

Captain Edward Hill, current corps officer, opened the evening by paraphrasing William Shakespeare, with the words “Friends, Romans and Countrymen we come not to bury Bob Docter, but to honor him.”

Two videos and one slide presentation were part of the evening. The videos included tributes and thanks from soldiers of the corps. The music used as a soundtrack for these presentations was “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

A highlight of the evening was a performance of Ray Steadman-Allen’s The Veterans. Bob, with son John and grandson Robert—three generations of Docters—joined forces, pleasing the crowd with this classic cornet trio.

Tribute was paid to Docter by General John Gowans (Ret.), former Tab Corps Officer Colonel George Church, YPSM Jim Sparks, Bandmaster Bill Flinn, Songster Leader Martin Hunt and Hill. His official retirement certificate was presented by Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Paul Bollwahn.

Docter’s tenure as CSM spanned two different corps buildings, three name changes and the arrival and departure of at least 13 sets of corps officers. His perseverance and consistency through these many changes was the common theme among those who were asked to pay tribute.

Listing many of the characteristics that could describe Docter in his role as CSM, Flinn provided perhaps the best summary of all that Bob has meant to the corps over the years. “Bob has been tenacious, compassionate, humorous, wise, faithful, creative, insightful, passionate and a man of integrity.

“He is a wonderful example of a family man,” and over the years many other titles would have fit, “including Salvationist, student, bandsman, Sunday school teacher, professor, doctor (with two ‘o’s’), writer, editor, cornet soloist, confidante, school board president, politician and preacher, but most of all a Christian gentleman.”

Beginning his time of response, Docter exclaimed, “I’m glad I’m not dead! As they were saying all of this nice stuff, I started to wonder who they were talking about. It’s very nice to hear all this, but I hope my funeral is shorter!

“I’m delighted to see all the former corps officers here who didn’t want me to retire.” He continued, “We have been blessed with great corps officers, but the local officers are the glue that has bound this corps together as one unit, marching in the cause of Christ and in the spirit of Salvationism.

“We must move from strength to strength, finding what makes people strong and emphasizing those things to help others grow.”

At the close of each Sunday morning service Bob led the Tab congregation in singing The Lord Bless You and Keep You, a choral benediction. At the close of Bob’s retirement celebration, he led this benediction one last time, arm in arm with the new CSM to be installed the following day, his daughter, Sharon.

Bob has always sent the congregation forth after Sunday holiness meetings with the words, “the Lord be with you.” The corps members join—echoing all who paid tribute—saying, “The Lord be with you, Bob Docter, and thank you.”


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