Bobby Arnold

Bobby Arnold
Billy, Elizabeth, Barbara, Bobby and Christina Arnold on Alimacani II in 1968

Back in 1930, women of refinement, like Eleanor Maltby Horne, gave birth to their babies in the little “laying-in” hospital on Riverside Avenue.  It was there that Barbara Lawrence Horne (better known as Mrs. William E. “Bobby” Arnold) was born.

One of four daughters born to Chalmers Duke Horne and his wife Eleanor, Bobby jokes that she was born in the depths of the Great Depression and her father had his heart set on a son. “It’s a wonder he didn’t throw me away in the woods,” she said. “I asked mother why they called me Bobby, a boy’s name, and she explained that my dad was so disappointed, he could have called me anything he wanted and gotten away with it.”

Bobby credits her mother for teaching her elocution, proper etiquette, how to dress tastefully, and behave like a lady. “Mother was a San Francisco debutante who met my father (born and reared in Jacksonville) when he traveled to the Presidio to have his appendix taken out.  He was a captain in the Cavalry, right out of Auburn University, and he wrote in his diary that she was the woman he would marry.”

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Roxie Merrill, Barbara Arnold, Patricia Barnes, Molly Horne

They were married in 1920 at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, and in 1921, their first daughter, Roxie, was born in McAllen, Texas, where Chalmers was stationed. After moving back to Jacksonville, their second daughter, Patricia, was born in 1925, followed by Barbara in 1930. The Hornes lived in Riverside until 1935, and then moved “out to the country” in South Jacksonville, where their fourth daughter, Molly, was born in 1939.

After attending Assumption Kindergarten and PS #7 Elementary School, Bobby went on to Bartram when she was 12 and there she discovered that “a clean dress and a clean face wouldn’t get you an A anymore.”  Proud of her connection with Bartram and the fact that it is now part of The Bolles School, Bobby graduated from there and went on to FSU in 1948 as a music major (vocalist), spending a year at Norfleet Music School in New York before returning to Jacksonville to marry that “handsome devil,” Billy Arnold, who was a good friend of Roxie’s husband Jabbo Merrill.

Bobby was 21 and Billy was 31 when they were married on Nov.30, 1951 at St. John’s Cathedral downtown. “We moved into our home on Ortega Blvd. in 1952 and have worked on it ever since – it’s still a work in progress today,” said Bobby, noting that the late architect Clyde Harris warned them that if they kept building toward the river, they’d be in it!

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Billy with Alimacani III, an Olympic Starclass sailboat

When Billy died in 2007, he left a remarkable legacy. A prolific and highly-respected building contractor, Billy Arnold built the Friendship Fountain, the Navy Hospital at NAS, the Greyhound Terminal on Bay Street, the Garden Club of Jacksonville, and much more, including numerous schools and savings banks. As a civic leader, he was president of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, the YMCA, and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, a director of the Federal Reserve, a lifelong communicant of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and more. Billy was an avid sailor all his life, including a five-year stint in the U.S. Coast Guard during WWII. He owned several Olympic Star Boats, and loved racing them.

“Billy sailed nearly every weekend and I usually stayed home gardening and raising children,” Bobby Arnold said modestly, downplaying her years as an active community volunteer in several capacities, including working with the late Flo Davis as a Lady Manager for St. Luke’s Hospital.

“Flo discovered there was nothing for the wives to do while their husbands were meeting at conventions, so we dressed in our pink uniforms, rented buses and promoted St. Luke’s Hospital while taking them on tours of St. Augustine, Amelia Island and Ft. George Island,” recalled Bobby, adding that the tours became so popular they expanded to more than just the wives, resulting in some hilarious tales including the time a dozen visiting federal judges pinched pink ladies all the way down to St. Augustine.

Bobby’s favorite tour was always Fort George Island, where she and Billy built a home in 1979. Back in the 1980s, when the island was purchased by developers who were determined to fill it with golf courses, homes and convenience stores, Billy fought the development tooth and nail for more than eight years. As a result, he won several environmental awards for preserving Fort George Island and leading the State to purchase it in 1989. Today, there is a plaque in his honor in the lobby of the historic Ribault Club and the island remains pristine and environmentally healthy.

“Of all the wonderful things Billy did, I’m most proud of his taking a stand to preserve Fort George Island,” said Bobby, adding that Billy’s preservation legacy will benefit visitors for generations to come. “Our three daughters, Christina, Barbara and Elizabeth, grew up enjoying the island,” she said. “It will be the same when our grandchildren bring their children back.”

Bobby has four grandchildren, Russell (Rett) Tanner, William Arnold Tanner, Caroline Bentley and Edwin (Ted) Arnold Pickett, and now, an 8-week-old great-grandson, John William “Jack” Tanner, son of Rett and Pam Tanner, both engineers with Exxon in Newfoundland.

“We’re a warm family,” said Bobby, remembering the days when she and Billy and the girls owned five horses and they all went out riding together. “Billy said that when it came to his daughters, he liked those four-legged boys better than the two-legged boys. They would say, ‘Daddy Boy, I need a new horse,’ and he’d get them one.”

For 30 years, Bobby was on the board of the Children’s Home Society. She is a member of the Altar Guild at St. Mark’s, a past president and currently on the board of the Garden Club of Jacksonville, a volunteer at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, and a board member of the Memorial Park Association.

“That park is a jewel,” she said, noting that the famous Life Statue is the only memorial to Jacksonville’s 1200 lost WWI heroes, and is now flanked by two beautiful eagles sculpted by Diane LaFond. “Diane LaFond is marvelous,” said Bobby. “My grandson, Ted Pickett, is an Eagle Scout and he helped Diane’s pretty granddaughter unveil the eagles at a special ceremony a few years ago. The eagles really are lovely – such a nice addition.” Now in charge of landscape and grounds for the Memorial Park Association, Bobby Arnold regularly pulls weeds and picks up trash at the park, accompanied by a dedicated volunteer force of about five others.

“I love staying active and busy,” said Bobby, adding that her sisters, Roxie and Patricia, remain active as well, and only their younger sister, Molly, has passed on. “Roxie is my best friend,” she said. “I’m healthy and able to enjoy my yard and my birds and this house where I’ve lived for 62 years. My next joyful experience will be a trip to Newfoundland to meet my great-grandson, Jack! Life is never long enough if you enjoy it.”

By Susan Brandenburg

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