Feb. 10, 1946 – July 29, 2023
Robert E. Esler, Taylor, Mich., was seated to the OOIDA Board of Directors in 1980 and was appointed by the Board of Directors to the position of Association Secretary in 1983. He served 40 years as secretary until his passing on Saturday, July 29, 2023.
Born in 1946 in Jacksonville, Fla., Bob’s parents settled down in Independence, Mo., in 1954. They moved to Raytown, Mo., in 1963, where Bob joined the U.S. Navy Reserve in September 1963 and graduated high school in 1964. Three months later, he was on active duty and bound for Sicily with U.S. Navy’s Avionics crew. In 1966 he was back stateside and in 1968, he began his lifelong career in trucking. He bought his first truck in November of 1978. He needed insurance and found OOIDA had the best program for him.
An activist at heart, he soon became involved in the Association’s efforts and in 1980 he landed on the group’s Board of Directors, a position that would result in his longest trucking stint ever – that of the Association’s secretary.
From 1978 to 2003, Bob hauled a variety of freight before finding his niche in the machinery and heavy haul industry. In 2003, he took a position with the company he was leased to that involved sales, safety, and training. In 2006, Bob returned to driving full time as a company driver. Bob retired from the road Dec. 31, 2014. He stayed off the road for a year, then went back to work part time as a trainer for a bulk carrier in January 2016. Through his trucking years, he remained in his official capacity as OOIDA’s secretary. At the spring board meeting, he was recognized with the OOIDA Lifetime Achievement award – a first for the organization. Despite battling pancreatic cancer, Bob was there to accept, along with performing his job as secretary and board member.
In addition to those regular duties of board secretary, Bob fulfilled many functions behind the scenes for OOIDA on a volunteer basis. His phone number was among those on the top of the late President Jim Johnston’s private advisory call list. Johnston was more than just a “boss” to Bob, he was among his best friends.
When Bob started driving, truckers were truly “Knights of the Road” – ready to lend a hand at a moment’s notice. Bob recently described himself as “just a solid ol’ brick” among many in the Association’s founding members, but he was more than that. His loyalty knew no limits and in his 45 years as an OOIDA member, his commitment never wavered. If the Association needed to be represented somewhere – anywhere – he was the guy. If former trucker and then-OOIDA President Jim Johnston needed a break from his desk at the OOIDA headquarters in Grain Valley, Bob Esler’s loaded rig would arrive in the parking lot “looking for a co-driver.”
Bob lived many years in Taylor, Mich. He is survived by his wife Ruth Tyler of the home. Between them, they have nine children, many grandchildren, with a couple of great-grandchildren in the mix. Bob was an active member of the Free Will Baptist Church, where he served as a lay minister.
Visitation will be held Wednesday, Aug. 2, and the funeral Thursday, Aug. 3, at the Molnar Nixon Chapel in Wyandotte, Mich. LL