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Remembering Bob & Raul

Remembering Bob & Raul

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Three of Columbia’s biggest builders died during the past year, Bob LeMone, Raul Walters and John Peters, and in the coming weeks local residents will pay tribute to two of them. The Cancer Research Center’s annual fundraiser will honor LeMone, a charismatic community leader who owned Little Dixie Construction Co. The theme will be Muddy Boots, in homage to his down-to-earth work ethic. Next weekend at Walters-Boone County Museum, there will be a tribute to Walters, who  developed local shopping centers after striking up a  friendship with Sam Walton.

Cancer research fundraiser to honor Little Dixie owner

By David Reed

Bob LeMone

Sara LeMone loves to hear stories about her father, and that’s really why she’s excited that the Cancer Research Center’s annual gala will honor Bob LeMone, who lost his own battle with cancer one year ago this month.

“It’s a great feeling to be around the people who cared about my dad,” Sara LeMone said during an interview in her office at Little Dixie Construction, the company her father owned on a boulevard named after him. “Listening to the stories, it brings a little piece of him back; when you’re in a room you feel that again.”

Bob Lemone

Sara LeMone, 24, joined the company last year as a project manager. Her mother, Sara, is a partner along with John States and Robert Grove. LeMone’s son Mac recently became operations manager.

LeMone was raised in Columbia, went to Hickman High School and started working at Little Dixie, which he ended up buying in 1979 and turning into the area’s largest construction company.

Sara LeMone said a formal gala isn’t really her father’s kind of event, although he attended most of them in past years because he believed that raising money to fight the disease was a worthy cause. Where LeMone really felt comfortable was a metal building on Route K that he called the Bocce Club and she called “just a play shed,” where friends, sometimes numbering close to 300, gathered to watch sporting events, eat and play games.

But she said the theme – Muddy Boots – is fitting, and the gala on April 11 at the Boone County Fairgrounds will be more casual than usual.

LeMone always wore khaki pants and cowboy boots caked with mud and concrete. The boots were usually made from exotic leather such as ostrich, she said, “but no matter how nice they were, he’d be down there pouring concrete. He loved being on the job site. Not many general contractors got down and dirty with the guys. He treated everyone the same.”

Now that she’s going to job sites and introducing herself as LeMone’s daughter, “the first thing I notice is a big smile on their face,” she said.

And then she’ll hear another story about her dad. Guests at the fundraising event will hear some of them next month.

“We want to help find a cure for this so other families don’t have to deal with what we’ve gone through,” she said. “He would want us to … continue the fight for him.”

Museum hosts memorial for Raul Walters

Although Raul Walters moved to Beverly Hills in 1998, he left a durable mark on Columbia, where he started his namesake property development company in 1970.

Walters, a Boone County native, died two months ago at his California home, and a memorial service open to the public will be held at 11 a.m. on March 28 at the Walters Boone County Historical Society Museum.

Walters founded his namesake property development company in Columbia in 1970. It began primarily with handshake deals with Sam Walton. Walters organized financing and built most of the early Walmart stores, according to his company Web site, although the business relationship later deteriorated.

Raul Walters

His real estate holdings grew to include shopping centers and apartment complexes in several Midwest states. His major developments in Columbia were the Crossroads West Shopping Center, Stadium Plaza Shopping Center, Columbia Plaza Shopping Center and apartment complexes.

Walters became a gold medal winner in a downhill ski racing team, a five-time winner as a United States pistol shooter in World Competitions, was awarded a Master of Foxhounds, and was a competition-winning member of the California Steeple Chase. He also was a big game hunter in Africa and Alaska

But Walters wrote before he died that his fondest memories were of growing up in Columbia. “My thoughts always go back to the great times in the ‘50’s and think of how fortunate it was for all of us to grow up during that time. …We all drove around in our cars at the Playboy Drive Inn, parked at the quarry, and had a great time.”

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