By Kevin Wilson
CNJ staff writer
Though it doesn’t come close to telling the story of his 82 years, Bobby Fambro ended his life doing the one thing everybody knew about him.
Go talk to the average employee on Fambro’s stops across Clovis, and you might get a quizzical look when you tell them you want to talk about Bobby Fambro. But add “the scooter guy” and the memories are instant.
Pretty much every day, until he was killed on the morning of Sept. 12 in a motor vehicle accident, Fambro was making his way through Clovis on his newest scooter.
“It would be 20 degrees outside, and he’d be out in his coveralls,” said Wendy Swaim, general manager of Zia Power Sports. “He had a car, but he wouldn’t drive it unless he absolutely had to.”
Born Aug. 14, 1931, in Frankell, Texas, Fambro worked in law enforcement, including time in Fort Sumner as a city police officer, and Tucumcari and Albuquerque with the New Mexico State Police.
“It was old-school and it was country, and it was real,” middle son Bill Fambro said of growing up in the household. “Everybody did their part, and at the end of the day you could see what was accomplished. Between the farm life, the ranch life and the city life, it was just real. He would take the time to try to teach.”
Bobby also worked in civil service for the Department of Defense. Bill wouldn’t give more specific details, but said the job required a high clearance level and resulted in a high stress level as well.
When he finally did retire, he decided to stay in New Mexico.
“I had been on him for quite some time, trying to get him to move down (with my family in Biloxi, Miss.,” Bill said. “He wanted no part of it. That’s where he was, and who he was, and he was good.”
Also on retirement, he bought himself his first of several scooters to make the rounds in Clovis.
“He was very frugal,” Bill said, “and when gas started getting to such-and-such prices he found ways to cut his expenses.”
He put thousands of miles on those scooters, going throughout the city. He’d normally start his day out at the Foxy Drive-In, sometimes even helping the morning crew set up equipment for the breakfast rush before he sat in his normal spot in the corner.
When the family was in town for his funeral earlier this month, Foxy owner Chris Bryant said, one of the sons came into the restaurant and grabbed a table without anybody knowing who he was. A short time later, he introduced himself and asked Bryant where his dad always sat. Bryant couldn’t help but grin and tell him he was already sitting there.
“There were times,” staffer Noel Garcia said, “he would beat me and Jessica (Pino) here in the morning. ‘You’re making us look bad,’ we would tell him.”
The mornings consisted of coffee, half a plate of biscuits and gravy and maybe some stories about his time with the state police. And all with a humorous and curmudgeonly manner that strangers would assume was rudeness.
“He was always in a good mood,” said Kayssie Bates of the Foxy, as she filled up a happy-hour cup with ice and soda. “We had our ups and downs, but that man made my day.”
That was the story at other places in town, as well.
“He was kind of our local weather guy and current events guy,” said Nick Brewster, who first met Fambro when he worked as a mechanic at High Desert Honda and continued the conversations when he took the same job at Zia Power Sports. “Sometimes we’d work on his scooter, but he’d usually show up just to talk.”
The store sold him the final scooter he owned, and in the back storage area was his previous scooter, with 54,211 miles and nearly as many layers of duct tape on the seat. Swaim recalled a previous accident Fambro had that resulted in a broken wrist, and a doctor recommended he stay off the scooter and give his wrist a chance to heal properly. She didn’t have to say what Fambro chose.
He’d make the rounds, check on construction, and make some other visits before ending up back at the Foxy for lunch. The afternoon meal varied, but it was usually a hot dog with onions.
“We never did put enough onions on for him,” Chris Bryant said. “He always got on us about it,”
He was at the Thornton Street restaurant seven days a week, usually once on Sunday and twice on the others, and was such a regular that General Manager Freddie Bryant said people assumed “the scooter guy” was his grandfather. On the day of the vehicle accident that claimed his life, the restaurant got numerous calls asking if he was the victim because that’s where people saw him the most.
Fambro was concerned for people as well, and would always be willing to make life a little better for someone down on their luck.
“We would talk once or twice every week,” Bill Fambro said. “He would see somebody who was down (while making his rounds). He was always doing something to help somebody out, maybe somebody he saw having a tough time on his rounds. He never wanted the recognition or thanks. It’s what he was taught and what he did.”