We met for lunch at the City Diner on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach along with his good friend Warren O’Brien who has been a long time supporter of the Children’s Homes.
The first thing he wants me to know is that the Children’s Homes was a very positive influence in his life.
“I loved the Children’s Homes. I couldn’t have imagined a better place to grow up,” Rehberg said in between the hearty hellos from other patrons that come into the restaurant. “My two sisters and I were well cared for and loved by everyone there. It’s also the place where I learned about Jesus.”
“I gave my life to the Lord when I was nine yearsold at a revival meeting held by Central Avenue Baptist Church where we attended,” Rehberg said. “My house parents were everything to me, Mr. and Mrs. Lowe.
We laugh as he tells stories about life at the Children’s Homes in the 1950s. “The campus was surrounded by orange groves back then. We played in the groves and ate oranges all the time. I don’t remember ever being sick,” Rehberg said.
“My house parents loved me and stood up for me. I remember in the third grade I got into trouble for fighting. My house parents consoled me and told me that everything would be alright. After that I never wanted to do anything again that would disappoint them.”
Rehberg then gazes out the window and with a look of sadness describes when he and his two sisters went back home.
“My mother was eventually able to get us back. However, it was a very dysfunctional environment. We moved around a lot, skipping out on rent. Things like that. I remember lying in bed at night wishing that I was back at the Children’s Homes. I really missed going to church.”
His family moved to the North Hollywood area when he was in the 9th grade. A year later he started looking on his own for a church to attend. He walked into First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach and stayed there for 26 years, where he taught Sunday school and performed in the annual Christmas play. He currently attends First Baptist Church at Lake Worth, which is closer to his home.
Rehberg graduated from Palm Beach High in 1965 where he was a stand out in track, placing third in the state one year in the high hurdles. After high school he went on to attend Palm Beach Community College.
“I loved track and field and planned to become a track coach. However, God had other plans for me. I realized that I would be drafted soon, so I enlisted in the Army and was eventually accepted into the Ranger program and Officer Candidate School.”
“During a break from training I was able to come back to Palm Beach for a couple of weeks. During that time I met a young girl from church who needed a ride to work because of car trouble. I ended up driving her around almost every day.”
“At the end of my two week leave we were sitting in a Sunday evening service at the First Baptist outdoor Chapel by the Lake. Out of nowhere I turned to her and said‘I think we should get married.’ She responded by saying ‘sounds good to me.’ We got married a week later. I’m not sure ifwe really ever dated.”
Rehberg has been married to his wife Diane for 42 years. He joyfully shares pictures of his family, which includes two daughters and four grandchildren.
As he starts to describe leaving the Army, his friend Warren puts up his hand and says, “I think Bob just left out a whole lot of important information about his military service.”
I then learned that Rehberg received two Purple Hearts (wounded in action) and three Bronze Stars for bravery and heroism in combat while serving in Vietnam.
Rehberg describes the Army as a calling in his life. “The infantry and leading men, that’s what I was called to do. I don’t know. It just came easy to me.”
“Although, when I came back from Vietnam I had some problems adjusting. But fortunately, my wife stuck with me and throughprayer and Christian counseling over the years we made it.”
Rehberg eventually found a quieter line of work more conducive to family life working for the Postal Service.
Today Rehberg is retired from the Postal Service after 24 years. He also retired from the Army Reserves in 1996 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He continues to be active in his church and also occupies himself as an occasional actor, doing parts in commercials.
“I got an agent and have done a couple ofcommercials and even helped out with a student movie. I just think that it’s a lot offun, and you get paid!” After lunch we drivedown to the Chapel by the Lake where he shows me where he proposed to his wife 42 years ago.
He looks out over the water and says, “You know, my two sisters and I all married young and we all stayed married to our first spouses. And we have always been very close. I think it’s because of what we went through together.”
“Despite the pain and hardships of our family situation, the Children’s Homes made a difference in our lives. It was there that we learned about family, friendships, and caring for one another. We also learned about the eternal hope that only God can give.”
“I am so thankful that my sisters and I went to the Children’s Homes. I wish I could thank my house parents and everyone who has ever helped the Children’s Homes. ”