Robert L. Hemphill

Longtime Durango resident Robert L. Hemphill died Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, at his home. He was 86.

Known as “Bob,” he was born to Earl and Alvina (Heyen) Hemphill on April 5, 1926, in Gillespie, Ill. He graduated from Shipman High School at the age of 16.

In 1943, Mr. Hemphill enlisted in the Army Air Corps at 17. He had just completed training to be a B-25 pilot when World War II ended.

On Jan. 1, 1947, he married Jane L. Schaffenacker in Mt. Pulaski, Ill.

The next year, Mr. Hemphill graduated from Western Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in education.

He began his teaching career as a social studies teacher and head basketball coach in La Junta after graduation. The team won the state championship the first year he coached. From 1950 to 1954, Mr. Hemphill taught and coached in Newman, Ill. He owned and ran his own independent insurance agency in Newman from 1954 until 1969.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Hemphill taught and served as head of the social studies department at Durango High School.

Mr. and Mrs. Hemphill owned and managed the Royal Motel, the Adobe Inn and the Thunderbird Lodge in Durango until they retired in 1994. They owned and lived at Pinerock Ranch in the Animas Valley for 24 years.

In 1994, the Hemphills retired to Green Valley, Ariz., returning to Durango in 2007 to be near their daughter. During their retirement, they traveled extensively throughout the United States and the British Isles.

Mr. Hemphill had many hobbies and interests, including history, geography, bird watching, bridge, reading, gardening, hiking in the back country, golfing and downhill and cross country skiing. He joined the volunteer Ski Patrol at Purgatory in 1970, after skiing for only two years.

Mr. Hemphill refereed high school basketball and football games for many years and enjoyed watching all sports, particularly the Denver Broncos.

“When he developed an interest in a new hobby or activity, he read and researched the subject thoroughly,” his daughter, Phoebe Hemphill, said.

Mr. Hemphill is survived by his wife of almost 66 years, Jane L. Hemphill, of Durango; daughter, Phoebe Hemphill, of Durango; son, William Hemphill, of Cottage Grove, Ore.; three grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

Cremation will occur. An informal memorial service will be held next summer.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Hospice of Mercy, 1 Mercado St., Suite 270, Durango, CO 81301.

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