Korean War vet, founding member of antique car show fondly remembered in Winnsboro

Remembering East Texas veteran, 'Uncle Bob'

WINNSBORO, Texas (KLTV) - Today, friends and family said goodbye to 89-year-old Robert Joseph Willis, although most people around East Texas simply knew him as ‘Uncle Bob.' He served in the Korean War, was a member of several Model A Ford clubs, and was one of the founding members of the Autumn Trails Antique Car Weekend.

Uncle Bob was known for having a mean Model A Ford, a big sense of humor, and an even bigger heart.

“I don’t know if anyone ever helped Uncle Bob, he was always helping someone else. If you were walking across the street, you couldn’t help Uncle Bob across the street, he would help you across the street. He was just that kind of guy,” said longtime friend, John Crowe.

In 1963, Uncle Bob and his best friend J.C. Vaugn took a spontaneous tour around downtown Winnsboro. They honked their horns and waved at the bystanders. 57-years later, the tradition now known as the Autumn Trails Antique Car Weekend, lives on.

Robert Joseph Willis and Model A Ford
Robert Joseph Willis and Model A Ford (Source: Family)

According to daughter-in-law, Chana Willis, “when he wasn’t at work he knew how to play, he knew how to make people laugh and that went with him wherever he went.”

Being a prankster wasn’t the only quality his family treasured. According to them, during the Autumn Trails Car Weekend, Uncle Bob would be at the back of the procession to ensure no one was left behind.

Gail Bain, Uncle Bob’s only niece recalls her feelings from the service saying, “I can’t be sad because I know his faith, I know where he is. He’s riding the streets of gold in a Model A right now looking for someone to help.”

The Willis family said they plan on continuing the Autumn Trails Car Weekend tradition come October.

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