You’ve heard about the young at heart.
Well, say hello to Bob Matlack.
“As 80 approached, he treated himself to something he has always wanted,” Anne Matlack says about her husband. “A Porsche 911 convertible.”
He’s like a teenager driving the sports car around town, except his hair doesn’t blow in the breeze these days. Otherwise, if Steve’s Tower-in-the-Sky still was a part of Fayetteville, you can almost be assured Bob Matlack would be cruising the old drive-in restaurant hangout of the 1960s and 1970s on a Sunday afternoon with his wife by his side.
“I bought it used with 48,000 miles on it,” he says. “It’s a blast.”
You’ve heard, too, about those who have never met a stranger.
Say hello again to Bob Matlack. You’ll swear you’ve known him all of your life.
“I enjoy people,” he says. “I like people. I’m a people person.”
Bob and Anne Matlack arrived in this city 48 years ago, when the industrial chemical company he worked for in Hershey, Pennsylvania, transferred him to oversee three Southeastern companies.
“With our live Christmas tree on the moving van and three children in tow,” Anne Matlack says, “we arrived in Fayetteville five days before Christmas in 1974.”
They are Pennsylvania natives, Bob Matlack growing up in Altoona and Anne Matlack about 30 miles away in the borough of Huntingdon. Both came from close-knit families, and their families were friends.
“Our parents were college friends, who living 30 miles apart, frequently spent time together over the years, always bringing us along,” Anne Matlack says. “We knew each other growing up and remember playing together.”
While they knew one another as kids, college life interrupted their lives for a while. Bob Matlack headed off to Penn State, where Anne Matlack likes to say he majored in “partying” and minored in marketing. They reacquainted years later, when Anne Corbin, a Penn State graduate, was doing her practice teaching and living with his family.
“Bob and I renewed our friendship as young adults in 1966, when I was assigned to do my Penn State student teaching in Altoona,” she says. “It was only natural that I stay with Bob’s parents, my ‘Aunt Ginny and Uncle Babe,’ I always called them. Bob's room was across the hall and we had to share a bathroom.”
Suffice it to say, Anne Corbin was no longer that childhood playmate.
“Her dad said one night, ‘Bobby, why don’t you take Anne out and buy her a beer,’” he says.
Bob Matlack was nobody’s fool.
“Certainly,” he told her father.
She was striking to look upon, and a courtship evolved that would include movies and dining, Friday dancing into the night at the old Italian club and cruising in his 1966 British TRA sports car. She had hazel eyes, he recalls, was athletic, smart and creative. He, she says, was fun to be around with outgoing ways.
“We were married in 1968,” Anne Matlack says.
“Best thing that ever happened to me,” Bob Matlack says.
He accepted a marketing position with the industrial chemical company in Hershey and the couple began raising a family of two sons and a daughter. Six years later, Bob and Anne Matlack and their children found themselves in Fayetteville.
‘This is home now’
They made friends.
They joined Highland Presbyterian Church, where Bob Matlack sings every Sunday in the chancel choir and Anne Matlack once served as clerk of the session. And they raised their children – Dr. Robert Matlack Jr., 53, a child psychiatrist practicing in Fayetteville; John Matlack, 52, a homebuilder; and Catharine “Catie” Matlack Drewry, who became a schoolteacher and died at age 46 on Feb.9, 2020.
Weary of business travel, Bob Matlack left the chemical company after 25 years, and the couple formed Matlack Sales and Marketing Inc., a distributor of industrial chemicals and highway supplies. And in 1982 the couple began buying and renovating old Fayetteville homes for rent or sale.
Bob Matlack will tell you that old friends in Altoona and Huntingdon remain close to their native Pennsylvania hearts, but Fayetteville is home.
“Fayetteville has been a good opportunity for us,” he says. “People are extremely friendly. The weather is wonderful. We’ve seen Fayetteville grow from a small town to a large city, and they’ve done it in a good way.
“ I’ve always felt there are a lot of opportunities here. It has been great for us. This is my home now, and I love it. They’ve done a good job downtown, and I think they have succeeded. The people make this city, and we’ve made some very good friends.”
You found close to 100 of those friends Saturday night at the Matlack home in Haymount, and in celebration of what today is Bob Matlack’s 80 birthday, replete with a classical music trio and a magician in the back yard by the swimming pool.
“It was Jennifer and Anne’s idea,” Bob Matlack says about his daughter-in-law and wife. “We were kicking it around one day at Sunday dinner, and I said, ‘You know, what would be fun is if we got a magician.’ I also thought it would be cool to have a little quartet or trio play music, and I like classical music.”
Planning an 80th birthday for the Matlack patriarch likely had its challenges for Anne Matlack and her family, but they will tell you there’s no one quite like him as a father, grandfather and husband.
“To determine what we love about Bob, I sent the children and grandchildren texts to see what they would say,” she says. “All the answers revolved around his devotion to family. His positive and encouraging attitude, his generosity, his willingness to help in any situation and be sure you always have what you want or need, his sharing of the value of hard work and his interesting stories of his friends and life experiences.
“Our youngest granddaughter, Ginny, who is 10, said what she liked best was that he would always play ‘dress up’ with her.’’
And then there is the love of a wife.
“What I love about Bob can be found in the lyrics to what we consider ‘our song,’ Kenny Rogers' ‘Through the Years,’” Anne Matlack says, and she can recite the lyrics. “’I swear we've been through everything there is. Can't imagine anything we've missed. Can't imagine anything the two of us can't do. Through the years, you’ve never let me down. You turned my life around. The sweetest days I've found, I've found with you.’”
And Bob Matlack will tell you he could not share life with anyone more compatible and more loving.
“She is great,” he says. “She is fantastic. Anne and I have been married a long time. She is a good mother and wife … and the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Today is Bob Matlack’s 80th birthday.
He is grateful for his life.
There have been good days and bad days. Joyful days and days of sorrow, particularly the loss of the couple’s daughter just more than two years ago, when glioblastoma, a fast-growing and fatal brain cancer, took her life.
“It was devastating,” he says. “Catie was our only daughter. She was sweet, kind and just a wonderful daughter. She was a good kid and very thoughtful. It was heartbreaking. It was your worst nightmare. You never expect that to happen to your child, but God has a plan.”
He rues her passing.
He celebrates his faith in the Lord’s promise that he will see his little girl again.
“I’m going to get up and thank God that I am still here,” Bob Matlack says of this day. “And thank God for the many blessings I have. My kids and grandchildren. That’s what life is all about … the family and taking care of them. I enjoy life. I enjoy the challenges of every day. That I can go out and breathe the fresh air. Life is great. It’s wonderful.”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at email@example.com or 910- 624-1961.