POTEAU – Robert Lim, 82, of Poteau, died peacefully at home with family on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, bringing to an end his long journey that began a world away.
He was born Weng Kooi Lim on Aug. 18, 1938, in Ipoh, Malaysia, the son of Chinese parents. His earliest memories were of World War II, of standing tiptoe in a watery trench as his family sought shelter from Japanese bombers, and of the subsequent deprivation that left them with little to eat except sweet potatoes, which he hated for the rest of his life. He would later meet and marry a young Peace Corps volunteer and join her in her native Oklahoma to begin a new life.
He changed his name to Robert, eager to assimilate to his new country. But the immigrant experience is rarely easy. He felt the sting of discrimination, and a good-paying job was not to be found, so he worked several jobs and then came home to mow the neighbors’ yards. In 1970, in the presence of his young family, he became a proud U.S. citizen, a distinction he never took for granted. He became an avid fisherman and hunter and a devoted fan of OU football. Assimilation complete.
The lean times from his childhood and young adulthood instilled a thriftiness that occasionally compelled him to take possession of a roll of toilet paper from a public restroom, to the great embarrassment of his kids who didn’t know the value of a dollar. His big break came with being hired by the Kansas City Southern railroad, where he would work until his retirement, and where he made many wonderful friends. Always hard-working and industrious, it was not uncommon for him to clean house early on Saturday mornings and bump into the bedroom doors of sleeping children with the vacuum cleaner.
He made rustic furniture from driftwood that reflected his love for the American West, along with folk art creations that often featured a graphic element. But his greatest creation was his beautiful home among the trees that is unmistakably his. It was his sanctuary, his castle.
A quiet and enigmatic man — at least as his family knew him — he would occasionally show up unannounced to the doorsteps of his children in Tulsa, Dallas, and even Colorado, upending whatever plans they may have had, and then just as suddenly try to depart only a few hours later before being made to stay longer. These baffling yet happy surprises will be sorely missed.
Robert is survived by his children and their families: Gregory Lim of Dallas; Timothy Lim, Kimberly Gibbs and their son Parker of Boulder, Colorado; and Emily Lim, Michael Plunkett and their daughters Emma and Lucy of Tulsa. In Malaysia and beyond are a great many surviving siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, all of whom he loved.
Equal among his survivors are the many incredible friends he leaves behind who welcomed him into their hearts and who were there for him always, most notably Frank Pingleton, Gary Samuels, Dennis Dolan, and Perry and Carolyn Renfro.
Following cremation, his wish to return to his beloved Rocky Mountains will be honored. In lieu of flowers, a donation in his memory can be made at: https://rmconservancy.org/donate.
An informal outdoor memorial gathering will be held Thursday at 1 p.m. at 28409 Monks Drive in Poteau. Please bring a mask and a lawn chair. Cremation arrangements are under the direction of Dowden-Roberts Funeral Home of Heavener, Oklahoma.
To sign Mr. Lim’s online guestbook please visit www.dowdenrobertsfuneralhome.com.
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