Father Bob was ‘there for anyone’

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel censes the casket of Rev. Robert S. Nemergut at the conclusion of the Mass of Christian Burial. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher

By Megan Erbacher

The Message editor

During his homily at the Feb. 19 Mass of Christian Burial for Rev. Robert S. Nemergut, Father William Traylor, senior priest of the diocese, said Father Bob’s “ministry was often directed to those who were on the sidelines.”

“As an associate of St. Joseph (Parish) in Jasper, he would often visit Heichelbech's Tavern and sit for hours nursing a cup of tea,” Father William said. “He was just there. There for anyone. There for all.”

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel celebrated Father Bob’s Mass of Christian Burial at Holy Rosary Parish in Evansville. Concelebrants included several priests and deacons of the Diocese of Evansville.

At the end of Mass, Bishop Siegel offered condolences to Father Bob’s family and friends, and he noted Father Bob’s ministry included those in the periphery. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher

Mourners filled the pews of Holy Rosary to pay their respects to Father Bob, 82, who died Feb. 15 in Jasper. He was ordained a priest April 22, 1977, at St. John the Baptist Parish in Newburgh, and he served the Diocese of Evansville in a variety of ways before he retired from active ministry July 4, 2014.

During his homily, Father William Traylor said Father Bob “served God well.” The Message photo by Megan Erbacher

Father William served as homilist for the Mass. He noted that, like the Magi of Matthew’s Gospel, Father Bob came from the East. While not as far as our brothers from India, Father William noted Father Bob came from Connecticut. 

“His pilgrim journey followed a circuitous route with many stops but, eventually, he arrived here,” Father William said. “Through the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands, Bob was ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ by Bishop Francis Shea. And he became Father Bob.

“Father Bob was not your conventional looking or acting priest. One day he may be wearing bib overalls and the next an oversized and raggedy sweater with his beret.”

Just as he would sit for hours at Heichelbech's Tavern in Jasper, Father William said Father Bob did the same in several other locations and certainly at the truck stop in Carlisle, Indiana.

“He served God well as one of the prison chaplains in Carlisle (at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility),” Father William said. “And Bob not only understood, but he put into practice Jesus’ example … As our Holy Father has put it, we priests, we need to be familiar with the smell of our sheep. Bob was.”

Father William continued his homily by saying, “To our brothers here this morning who did not have the privilege of knowing him, please ask us, those of us who did, to tell you Father Bob’s stories. There are many, and those who did know him remember him. Tell the stories.”

There was quiet laughter as he noted the glitter Father Bob would add to the ashes for Ash Wednesday, and his annual trip to Times Square for New Year's Eve.

“All of these memories honor him,” Father William said, “and they certainly honor the God who made him.”

Father William closed by noting all were gathered at Father Bob’s funeral Mass to remember him, but more importantly, to pray for him.

“We are not canonizing him today,” Father William said. “We are asking the crucified risen Jesus to look with mercy upon his sins and failures. Whatever judgment he must endure, may it be merciful and quick.”

Father William continued, “We also need to pray for ourselves. That we may remain faithful, faithful to Christ. For if we live, we live for the Lord. If we die, we die for the Lord. So that whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. Praise be, Jesus Christ.”

At the end of Mass, Bishop Joseph M. Siegel offered condolences to Father Bob’s family and friends. He noted Father Bob’s ministry included those in the periphery, and he said may we all follow in his path. Bishop Siegel then offered a final blessing over Father Bob. 

Interment followed the Mass at St. Joseph Cemetery in Evansville.

Bishop Siegel, far right, blesses the casket before it is escorted to St. Joseph Cemetery in Evansville for interment. The Message photo by Megan Erbacher