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Robert Reid Christian, 90, passed away on Thursday, December 28, 2023.
Robert was born in the small rural community of Sandy Ridge, North Carolina. His parents Frank and Lelia raised Robert and his younger siblings, Anne and Glenn, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His extended family lived in the small neighboring town of Westfield. Robert’s father and uncles raised tobacco in the iron-rich red clay soil predominate to this area. During these youthful years Robert acquired the skills, tenacity, and southern ingenuity required to survive such a demanding life. He also developed a deep love and respect for his hard-working family.
These early life lessons would serve him well when his parents moved the family to Akron, Ohio in search of a more lucrative life. Although Robert missed his life and family in North Carolina, his homesickness was diminished while attending Central Hower’s trade school. Robert had a natural mechanical aptitude which guided his passion toward the machining trade. His ambitious nature, reasoning skills, and charming personality allowed him to become foreman at Gil-Mac Machine at just 18 years old. During this time he also joined the Akron Sharp Shooters and honed his marksmanship skills with a rifle. He placed second at the NRA’s national championships.
Robert married at 19 years of age and had two sons; Michael, born 12/18/1954 and Joel, born 6/21/1957. As with many marriages, Robert’s relationship ended in divorce in 1962. Shortly thereafter, Robert decided to use his highly developed manufacturing skills to start his own business. With limited resources, he borrowed $800 from his parents for the purchase of a used milling machine. He partnered with Frank Mutts who owned an old engine lathe. They decided to name the business F.M. Machine Co. (the initials of his partner).
As with nearly all “start up” businesses, Robert struggled to establish himself within a very competitive trade while also caring for his two sons. Although Mike and Joel were too young to recognize these early hardships, Robert was well-aware of his circumstances and was in need of some divine intervention. God delivered this blessing when Robert met Joanne Marie DeMass who was an employee of Bumpas Drug & Emporium. Her natural beauty, wit, and intellect allowed her to control and tame Robert’s initial advancements. Ultimately however, her defenses crumbled and they fell deeply in love. Robert and Joanne married in 1963. Joanne immediately insisted on adopting Mike and Joel as her own children. Joanne loved her boys so passionately that both Mike and Joel, without words spoken, considered her their biological mother and savior.
Robert and Joanne built their home in Tallmadge in 1969 where they became pillars of the community. They were inseparable and became a formidable duo both in life and business. With Joanne’s unwavering positivity & organizational skills and Robert’s drive & determination, F.M. Machine Co. prospered. Robert ultimately bought out his partner’s shares in the business in 1978. Thereafter, F.M. Machine Co. developed the reputation as the “go to” facility for the highest precision components and assemblies in the United States; as well as internationally. Robert and Joanne retired in 1999 and enjoyed time with their family and at the condo they purchased on Catawba Island.
Robert was instrumental in the success of the Barber Road training center for journeyman machinists, which maintained youthful interest in the machining trade. Robert was also a 50-year member and past president of the Akron Chapter of the NTMA (National Tooling & Machining Association). During his presidency, he captivated his audience with his humor and southern charm. Some of the older employees, still working at F.M. Machine Co. today, often reflect upon stories of how both Robert and Joanne cared for and loved them.
Robert is survived by his brother & sister, their families, his two sons, seven grandchildren, and twenty-one great-grandchildren. Robert’s legacy will forever be admired, while those closest to him ponder how an underprivileged boy from Sandy Ridge, NC could have possibly accomplished so much.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to Teammates Center LLC, 323 S. Main St., Munroe Falls, OH, 44262, which is an agency serving the developmentally disabled.
Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 am Saturday January 6, 2024 at Our Lady of Victory Church 73 North Ave. Tallmadge, OH. Burial will follow at Tallmadge Cemetery. Friends will be received from 4 to 7 pm Friday January 5, 2024 at Hennessy Funeral Home (corner of York and Main) 552 N. Main St. Akron, OH. The Mass will be livestreamed on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ourladyofvictorychurchtallmadge/.