The Times photo by Betsy Reason
Noblesville’s Bob Arbuckle sports an overcoat and gray top hat during opening night of a theater production at Ivy Tech Community College in Noblesville. Arbuckle died on Monday. He was 96.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason Noblesville’s Bob Arbuckle sports an overcoat and gray top hat during opening night of a theater production at Ivy Tech Community College in Noblesville. Arbuckle died on Monday. He was 96.

It’s only been a month since I wrote about the amazing and unforgettable Bob Arbuckle, who danced to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop this Feeling” from the top of a train caboose, pedaled a surrey cycle in Noblesville holiday parades and pleased crowds with his ballroom dance steps wherever he would go.

Today, it is with sadness that I share news of his great loss to our community.

Robert “Bob” Arbuckle died at about 8:30 a.m. Monday morning at Riverwalk Village in Noblesville. He was 96. 

And he was still surprising folks and loving the attention even to the end.

“He had a good life, didn’t he?” daughter Sara Carter said Tuesday afternoon after confirming the news. “He loved life.”

She owned and operated, with her father, Arbuckle’s Railroad Place, which has been in business in Noblesville for 70 years, since 1948, repairing and selling sewing machines. 

Carter said it was fitting that her father passed at the beginning of a work week. 

“It was just like he was headed to work for the morning,” she said. “Everything starts on Monday morning. He would always say that he was moving on to the next duty station.”

Arbuckle had moved from his home to Riverwalk Village, under St. Vincent Hospice care, after learning that his heart was slowly giving out.

Carter is grateful for the past few weeks, during which her dad received visitors many of his waking hours. 

“They gave him his own room in which he could repair sewing machines,” she said. 

“He was trying to be a retailer to the very end, buying things and selling things,” said Carter, a 1974 Noblesville High School grad, who operates the store. She has a younger sister, Linda, who lives in California.

Everyday, even from Riverwalk Village, Carter said, “He checked on me and made sure we were open and ready to receive business.”

Since sharing her father’s news with friends and member of her church, Refuge Christian in Noblesville, she has gotten a lot of inquiries of what she plans to do with Arbuckle’s Railroad Place.

“I’ve been asked, ‘What am I gonna do?”

She replied to her own question: “I’m waiting for the good Lord to tell me.”

The store will remain open, for now, anyway. It’s what her dad would have wanted.

“He gave me a work ethic. Repairing items, he always was ready to meet the challenge to make things work again. And sometimes, he would “be in over my head,” but he would work through it with his engineering background, and he passed that on to me,” Carter said.

Even though most people saw Arbuckle as outgoing, he wasn’t always so socially confident. “I think, truly, he was probably a shy, quiet person, but he overcame it all,” his daughter said. “He had a hearing problem. He overcame that in both military service and retail service through the years.”

Arbuckle was born and raised in Lebanon, though his parents for a time lived in Brownsburg. He graduated in 1941 from Fairmount High School and served in the military during World War II, enlisting in the U.S. Navy in Chicago in 1942, serving in Cuba, operating against the submarines, in the submarine detection corps.

Carter described her father “as larger than life,” and although he was “not a large man (5 feet, 6 inches and 120 pounds), not athletically gifted, and not even rhythmically gifted,” she said. “He worked at it, the dancing. He had many lessons and much perseverance.”

And he liked the ladies. “That’s why he would dance, so he could squeeze the ladies and still be a gentleman. I think everybody admits that he was a gentleman.”

He was also old school and enjoyed the lost art of letter writing. After I published my column about Arbuckle, I received a handwritten postcard from him saying “Thanks for front-page article,” with a reminder of his room number and a teaser about another story idea he had for me about the Truman-Dewey stop in 1949 in Noblesville. 

He was always full of stories about Noblesville, about life, and especially about all the amazing things he’s done in his wonderful life.

The last time that I talked to Arbuckle, his “big ambition” was to get back and ride his bicycle, “a new, fast (battery-powered 18-mph) 23-inch” model that he was riding when he rode it off the loading dock at his shop and broke his arm last year.

He was still laughing about it. 

Having a “wonderful life” was one of the last subjects he talked about during our conversation.

“That’s a wonderful life when you can have that long a life and be so enthusiastic about it,” he said.

There won’t be a funeral or calling this week or even next month, Carter said.

But most folks won’t be surprised.

Her father, who “grew with Noblesville,” and loved to throw big shindigs at Arbuckle’s, with lots of invited guests, didn’t forget about his final farewell.
“He planned an elaborate type of service, and it included outdoor activities,” Carter said. 

So friends will have to wait until a Celebration of Life in the spring, with a date yet to be announced. 

Arrangements are being handled by their friend, Kay Hartley of Hartley Funeral Homes, with chapels in Arcadia and Cicero. Read the obituary in an upcoming edition of The Times and at www.thetimes24-7.com.

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com