Inducted: October 24, 2001
He was a true entrepreneur, trying new ideas and projects as they came to him; and adopting those that were successful, and scrapping the others. This was true of his years of education.
Mr. Chapple, the son of Charles Chapple and the former Bertha Stacey, attended a Dover Township School for his elementary education, then for brief periods, went on to Chatham Collegiate Institute and Assumption High School in Windsor. He attended Guelph Agricultural College, for a two-year program arranged in war-time for farm folk too young to enlist, but anxious to garner enough knowledge of agriculture to make it a career.
One of his first jobs after OAC was delivering milk, with a horse and wagon, for Kent Dairy. After that, he worked for Imperial Oil, hauling material to drilling rigs. At one time, he worked during the winter, at Sass Manufacturing, Chatham.
Mr. Chapple began farming with dairy cattle, an operation begun by his mother and his brother, Jack. He then went on to feeder cattle and his acquisition of the Eglin Trucking Company led to a lot of buying and selling cattle. His silos on the farm on Concession 7, Dover Township, between the Bear and Winter Lines were a distinctive feature of the landscape. A venture into hog production was brief because it did not meet his standard for success.
His entrepreneurial spirit was evident in the 1950s, in joint venture farming on Squirrel Island, in the St. Clair River, a “hilarious” experience according to one associate at that time. One difficult problem: it was necessary to fence off an area of the island to contain the wild horses there. Eventually, the operation was abandoned. It was more trouble than it was worth.
In the 1960s, he and his brother, Jack acquired sugar beet harvesters, and did custom harvesting in the final years of the Canada and Dominion Sugar Company. Bob, at one time, also went north to get Christmas trees to sell on the Detroit market.
Over the years, Mr. Chapple acquired more land for cash crop farming, including wheat, soybeans, seed and commercial corn.
Through the 1960s and 1970s, he was a director of the Kent County Cattlemen’s Association; and from 1976 to 1984, served as a Provincial Director of the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association. This led to seven years on the Executive of that Association, and the Presidency in 1983.
Nationally, he was a Director of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association from 1982 to 1984. His ability was recognized provincially when he was appointed in 1980 to a two-year term on the Agricultural Advisory Council; and in 1986 and 1987, to the Farm Debt Review Board.
It was in the early 70s that he became interested in standard bred race horses, a passion that continued with increasing enthusiasm and success until the end of his life. Early winners included Dover Furge, Dover Daddy and Dover Fancy. He was President of the Standard Bred Owners and Breeders Association.
Mr. Chapple was a member of the management team of Dresden Raceway from 1990 to 1997. The following year, he and his wife, Shirley became partners in Dover’s Venture II, its most notable product Apaches Fame, which won many awards and honours, and was inducted into the Standardbred Hall of Fame in August, 2000.
That same year, Bob was named Agriculturist of the Year by the Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce.
Bob and the former Shirley Foy, of Chatham were married in November, 1951 at Victoria Avenue United Church. They have three children, Roy, of Wingham; Rob, on the family farm; and Donna, Mitchell’s Bay. There are six grandchildren: Kelly, Melissa, Katie and Matthew in Dover; and Jeff and Greg in Wingham.
A friend of 50 years standing, remembers him as a likeable guy, with a lively sense of humour. “He got a great kick out of people.”
Added to that, “He was always striving for something better!” And, “He had a mind of his own.” Another says he was absolutely dependable. When he said he was going to do something, he would do it.