Robert Hardy Diggs, fondly known as “Bobby” departed from this life on April 3, 2013 at Arcola Rehabilitation Center in Silver Spring, Md.
Bobby Diggs was born in Baltimore on June 25, 1927 to Dorothy Howard Diggs and Herbert Diggs Sr. He was raised with his three siblings. As a young boy he ran errands and often accompanied his grandmother who worked as a domestic.
Mischievous and smart, Bobby was fascinated with moving things such as skates, scooters, cars, trains and buses. Sitting still had no appeal for him as he navigated the streets and alleys of his neighborhood with ease. Bobby advanced through the segregated Baltimore City public schools and graduated from Douglass High School in 1947. While at Douglass he enjoyed basketball, architecture, English and Spanish. Once he was crowned Principal for a Day.
Despite his popularity and good grades, Bobby’s dream of attending college was deflated by the demands of WWII and its aftermath. At 15 his father commissioned him to drive school buses for Diggs Motor Coach. Operating from the Fremont Avenue garage, Diggs Motor Coach provided transportation for hundreds of Baltimore school children and ran charter trips in the Mid Atlantic region. Bobby continued to operate the business until the late 1950’s.
In 1948 Bobby married his high school sweetheart Rowena Carter. Their two daughters Ardyth (1951) and Nona (1956) stimulated his lifelong love of fatherhood. Although his marriage ended his girls continued to be his pride and joy. In 1957 he married Phyllis Allen. They moved to Ashburton in 1963 with their young daughter Lynn (1960).
With three girls to raise and seeking a more flexible lifestyle Bobby drove a limousine part time and became a driving school instructor. He began with Easy Method driving school but wanted to return to business ownership. Diggs Driving School opened in 1964. Over the next two decades more than 1,000 people were taught what he dubbed the “art of driving.” Bobby developed a unique teaching style that blended patience with humor and put his students at ease while instilling excellent driving skills.
Bobby’s extensive transportation experience and near photographic memory of the Baltimore street map made him a natural choice to direct the Model Cities transportation program in the early 1970’s. He worked closely with Mayor William Donald Schaefer, the City Council and state legislature on this and other projects.He received several citizenship awards for his service.
Diggs Driving School closed in the late seventies after a series of challenges. Bobby, now divorced, embraced his mid-life transition and reinvented himself with a brief stint as a car salesman before retiring from transportation in 1981. As a secret passion and long-standing hobby landscaping now filled his days. With a critical eye for hedge trimming and keen ability to transform lawns into carpets Bobby spent the next 25 years taming yards throughout the state. Although he put away his shears at the age of 83, he continued to offer friendly yard tips after his stroke in 2011.
Near the turn of the century Bobby reunited with a school mate Frances “Frankie” Murphy. They enjoyed parties, playing cards and traveling. Their solid bond of friendship and love was an inspiration to both their families and friends. He learned to say “I Love You.” Her death was a devastating blow to Bobby and may have set the stage for his failing health.
Throughout his life, Bobby was an avid supporter of his community. As a lifetime member of St. Katherine’s of Alexandria Episcopal Church he worked tirelessly to organize events in outreach and ministry. He cherished the Douglass High School Alumni Association and spoke fondly of their many class reunions. He enjoyed planning events with friends William Jessup, James Baker and Rose Jones to name a few. He mentored and taught students and refused to allow the generation gap stop him from sharing his hallway wisdom. The young people loved his fatherly presence.
Those who knew Bobby Diggs remember his punctuality and impeccable style. He never bought a pair of jeans and was rarely seen without a hat (tipped to the ladies). A proud, humble gentleman who did not smoke or drink (but did cuss), who loved to socialize, who loved music and dancing. Most of all Bobby valued family ties, honest hard work, loyalty and community service with a smile.
Even in his twilight years Bobby continued to delight others with zany formal greetings. Sharing his experience and wisdom he danced and laughed as long as he could. Ever grateful for the care and love he received at Arcola, he died as he lived with courage and dignity. May he rest in peace.
Bobby Diggs was preceded in death by brothers, Herbert Diggs Jr. and Herman Diggs; daughter Ardyth Diggs Coleman and grandson Paul E. Coleman Jr.
He is survived by daughters Nona Diggs (Cayenne Pepper Diggs), Lynne Diggs, son-in-law Gary Bell; sister Emily Jackson; nieces, Winifred Jackson Russell, Lythia Diggs Gore, and Donna Diggs; nephews Herbert Diggs III, Michael Diggs and Tony Diggs; cousins, friends and colleagues. We will miss you, father, brother, uncle and friend.
Home Going Celebration
Robert Hardy Diggs
June 25th, 1927 to April 3rd, 2013
St. Katherine’s of Alexandria Episcopal Church
2001 Division St. Baltimore, MD 21217
Funeral Day, Tuesday April 16th, 2013
• 9:30 – 10:00 AM Viewing
• 10:00 – 11:00 AM Family Hour
• 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Funeral Mass
Followed by repast in the church hall
All monetary expressions of kindness are asked to be give in Robert’s name
Building Fund of St. Katherine’s of Alexandria Episcopal Church