Robert Stephen Tolbert, “Steve”, made his debut on January 24, 1950 to Wilson and Beatrice Tolbert of Elizabethtown, Illinois. He was the fifth of seven children.
Steve was preceded in death by his parents, Wilson and Beatrice (Showalter) Tolbert; sisters, Mary Ann Keeney and Rose Reed; and brother, Deneen “Stack” Tolbert. While Steve lost his father at an early age, he was raised by a strong, hardworking, and loving mother whom he adored (and she adored him).
Steve was a member of the Rosiclare First Baptist Church. He was also a member of Paul C. Rowan American Legion Post #571 of Rosiclare, VFW Post 9227 in Golconda, and a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans.
Survivors include his loving wife, Rosalie (Ashford) of Rosiclare; sons, Matthew (Anastasia) Tolbert of Bardstown, KY, Douglas (Stephanie) Tolbert of Madison, AL, and Martin Madsen, chosen bonus son of Copenhagen, Denmark; grandsons, Jackson, Henry and Charles Tolbert, and Nikolai and Thomas Madsen; sister, Della Jarvis of Elizabethtown, IL; and two brothers, Doodle (Ethel) Tolbert of Lake Zurich, IL and Roy (Kay) Tolbert of Rosiclare, IL. Steve also leaves behind a multitude of nieces, nephews, cousins and other relatives and friends.
From a young age, Steve worked for John Hall and Denny McClusky on their respective farms. He would pick up any odd jobs he could get to help his mother, often walking long distances, uphill, both ways.
With infinite wisdom and a strong sense of duty, Steve enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1969 when he had just turned nineteen. He served in Vietnam and received the rank of Corporal while there. He was awarded a Meritorious Mast in 1970 for outstanding performance of duty. He remained forever proud of his time in the military and would engage any other servicemen in conversation at the drop of a hat.
Steve met Rosalie Ashford in 1971 and a pattern of questionable judgement on Rosalie’s part was started. Somehow, Steve managed to convince her to marry him and they took the plunge in 1973. From then on, they were practically inseparable, doing everything together. They were married for 49 years and, as he would say, a few of them were good years.
In 1975 he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and went to work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Marion, Illinois. Steve decided to make the bold decision to leave the prison system and open his own business. He owned and operated Tolbert Lumber Company for thirty three years. There, he made many life-long friends.
Steve and Rosalie were blessed with two sons, Matthew and Douglas (although Matt may disagree with the inclusion of Doug in that assessment). Steve was the kind of father who never missed a ball game, awards ceremony, or school program. He encouraged his sons to be independent and pursue their interests. Steve also never missed an opportunity to embarrass his boys. Each of the boys worked for him at the lumberyard starting when they were 12 years old in an effort to instill in them the same sense of work ethic that Steve always had. They certainly learned a lot while there. He was an excellent role model for his sons.
In 1990 the Tolbert family hosted an exchange student from Copenhagen, Denmark. Martin soon became like a son and brother to the family. This strong bond has continued through the years.
When Douglas and Stephanie were married, Steve soon realized he had now gained a lovely, red headed daughter to love. Stephanie wrapped Steve around her finger. She joked with him and wouldn’t put up with his antics. Steve loved that she felt comfortable enough around him to just be herself.
Five years later, Matthew and Anastasia got married and Steve quickly recognized that he had yet another daughter to love. Stacy has an infectious and outspoken personality that draws you to her. It became quickly obvious that she fits into the family perfectly.
Steve was overjoyed to welcome grandchildren. He was the very proud Papa to Jackson, Henry and Charles who are more than a little spoiled by him (and who were more than a little attached to him). He was fortunate to have two additional grandchildren through his relationship with Martin.
Steve was definitely a family man. He loved his brothers and sisters immensely. Steve had a very special relationship with his brothers. Until his brother’s death, Steve spent nearly every weekend visiting his oldest brother, Deneen “Stack”. Stack even worked with Steve at the lumberyard in the earlier years.
Steve, also known as George, thought his older brother, Doodle, hung the moon. He went to live with Doodle and Ethel after his high school graduation. Doodle became Steve’s role model. Steve would often confer with Doodle before making any life changing decisions.
When Steve moved back to Hardin County, it allowed him to spend a lot of time with his younger brother, Roy “Jughead”. They both loved to fish together, discuss gardening, and exchange jokes and stories. Anyone that knew Steve and Jug would quickly learn they could certainly tell some tall tales (especially Jug).
Rosalie’s mom, Alma Ashford (the old battle axe as Steve fondly called her) got along with Steve like two houses on fire. They both loved to garden so a bond was quickly made. Steve took her under his wing and treated her like his own mother.
Steve had a special relationship with his sister-in-law, Sherry Paskon. He often said she was like a sister to him. It was obvious that this feeling was reciprocated.
Steve was an exceptionally loving, generous husband, father and grandfather (just ask his grandsons). Even though he was very busy with his business, he always made time for his family and friends. Always.
To everyone’s surprise, later in life, Steve could be found singing in church and at the Golden Circle with a church group.
He enjoyed hunting and fishing, most recently with his good buddy, Mark Wallace. One of his other hobbies was working with stained glass. Steve was also a participant in the fine art of napping and could be found practicing almost every afternoon. But perhaps his greatest hobby (to the delight of many in the community) was gardening. Steve would plant enough to feed a small army and was more than happy to give fruit and vegetables away to anyone and everyone.
The past week has been one of the most difficult times of his family’s lives, but it has also been filled with happy, poignant and funny memories. To his family and friends, Steve was one in a million. He will be greatly missed. He was a very lucky man. He was loved by a lot of people and has gone home to his well deserved reward.
While writing this, it became obvious that it would be impossible to convey how extraordinary this man was. When you get a chance, hug your loved ones and tell them how much you love them.
Steve passed away at the age of 73 on Friday, June 2, 2023.
Visitation was held on Friday, June 9, 2023, from 5-8 p.m. at Hardin County Funeral Service in Rosiclare, Illinois. Services were held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, June 10, 2023, with interment in Central Cemetery.
Military rites were given at the cemetery by the Paul C. Rowan American Legion Post #571. Memorial donations may be made to either the Legion Post #571 or Central Cemetery Fund, c/o Banterra Bank.
A webcast of the service is available at www.gilbertfunerals.com.
To purchase flowers and gifts locally, visit www.RosiclareFlowerBasket.net .