ROBERT L. COOMES | SEPT. 2, 1918 - NOV. 10, 2012

World War II hero owned local dime stores

2012-11-15T00:00:00Z World War II hero owned local dime storesCharles F. Haber Times Correspondent
November 15, 2012 12:00 am  • 

From winning three bronze stars in World War II to owning several businesses in the Calumet Region, Robert Coomes was a gleaming example of The Greatest Generation.

He was a U.S. Army communications sergeant in the 75th Infantry, said his nephew, William Coomes.

Presenting himself as a moving target, "Uncle Bob" had to run from foxhole to foxhole to string communications wire to everyone.

"He was actually one of five survivors in his regiment in the Battle of the Bulge," his nephew noted.

Robert L. Coomes, 94, of the Hessville section of Hammond, died Nov. 10.

He was awarded bronze stars for valor during battles in France, Germany and Belgium.

"He wasn't just a serviceman, he was a war hero," William Coomes said.

"He cried" when we surprised him with a paver brick bearing his name at the war memorial in Munster, his nephew said.

After the war, Coomes became a manager for Newberry's and Woolworth's in Kansas City and other places.

He then moved to Hessville and opened the Hessville 5 & 10 in 1953. He ran it with his wife, Martha (deceased), until it closed in 1989, William Coomes said.

Coomes opened another dime store in Whiting in 1961 and also the Dyer 5 & 10 in 1955, which he co-owned with William's father.

With a chuckle, William Coomes recalled a motto his uncle loved to impart on his employees: "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean."

Coomes believed a person must earn their way through life, his nephew said. But he was always there for family and friends if he saw they were working hard but needed help.

"He was a stand-up old school guy," William Coomes said. "And patriotic to a fault."

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