Back in 1994, L. Robert Kimball, who passed away Friday at the age of 89, had an idea to turn a gravel parking lot into a park in the center of his hometown of Ebensburg.
"That, to me, was the start of the entire renaissance of our downtown," said friend Eric Rummel, 60, an Ebensburg native and resident who, as a Vice President of First National Bank worked with Kimball on a myriad of civic and business projects over the years. "He did more for this community than most people realize," Rummel added, noting that Kimball did what was best for the town and not what was best for himself.
When Rummel managed what was then Laurel Bank in Ebensburg, Kimball sat on the bank's board and was always someone he could turn to for advice and guidance.
"He was the best coach and mentor you could ever want," Rummel said. "He always made time. He was always available."
It was 60 years ago this year that L. Robert Kimball opened his surveying and engineering firm, L. Kimball & Associates, in his hometown of Ebensburg. Despite growing his business to include hundreds of employees and more than a dozen offices in five states, he kept the company's headquarters in Ebensburg and worked all his life to make his hometown a better place, according to friends and community leaders.
"We rented the second floor to him when he opened his business," said Ebensburg native, attorney Freemont McKenrick, 89. McKenrick remembered Kimball as quite an athlete in his youth and the two earned their Eagle Scout honors in the same Boy Scout Troop. McKenrick pointed out how his friend was a highly decorated fighter pilot in World War II, serving with the Army Air Force.
McKenrick recalled one innovation Kimball brought to his work, the use of airplanes to take photographs to create tax maps that became part of the Cambria County tax registry.
Above all, Kimball was a friendly, charitable man who loved his community and gave his time, money and resources to help whenever and wherever he could, whether it be the Historical Society or the Ebensburg airport.
"He'll be sadly missed," McKenrick said. "He was a very good friend and I appreciated everything from him and his work in the community."
Ebensburg Mayor Randy Datsko said Kimball was "a very humble, very approachable" man who made a tremendously positive impact on Ebensburg.
"Mr. Kimball had a vision for the downtown," Datsko said, noting Kimball was instrumental in not only contructing what is now called Kimball Park at Center and High streets but also the landscape of the downtown, from the street lights to the renovation of buildings.
Borough Manager Dan Penatzer recalled Kimball as someone who was always involved and actively worked to improve Ebensburg. Penatzer said that kimball could have moved his business out of the town as it grew larger but he always stayed true to his hometown.
He said Kimball was always pleasant, always had sound advice and was always looking for a project to take on.
"He just commanded so much respect from everyone," Penatzer said.