Robert Wampler dreamed of taking over the McKeesport "Posy Shop."
He grew up spending countless hours at his father's flower shop, doing everything from delivering flowers to helping manage the store, according to his son, Randy Wampler.
As it turns out, he didn't take over the family business. But he stayed true to his other great love, his hometown -- and that was enough.
"He was always happier in McKeesport," said another son, Robert Wampler III. "He thought it was the best place in the world to live."
Mr. Wampler, a fixture of the McKeesport community -- who left only for family vacations, a brief work assignment in Indiana and when he got sick toward the end of his life -- died March 27 of renal failure. He was 84.
He spent nearly 80 years in McKeesport, working as an accountant at U.S. Steel for most of his career.
He was involved in Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church, and he served as a Boy Scout troop leader and president of the McKeesport Heritage Center.
He was so enthralled by the family business that he devoted his undergraduate studies to horticulture and business, preparing to one day fill his father's shoes.
He studied to become a naval officer during the Korean War. But by the time he returned home, his father had died -- and with him, the flower shop.
A graduate of McKeesport High School, Mr. Wampler's talent for floristry came in handy in attracting Gail, the woman who would become his wife of 60 years. She died in 2010.
"Bob's dates at all of the dances and proms had the best flowers," said Arnold Plum, a longtime friend. "He was competing against someone else for her hand and I said, 'Smother her with flowers, Bob,' and boy, he did."
The Wampler name is well known in the area. Mr. Wampler's father was the McKeesport treasurer. Wampler Street in Versailles commemorates the Wampler saw mill that sat on the Youghiogheny River.
"McKeesport used to be a great city," Mr. Plum said. "Whenever we went to college, it seemed like we were ahead of children from other places. We were proud of it."
Throughout McKeesport's history, the Wamplers seemed to always play a role.
"He often said that a great-grandfather sawed the boards to erect the first schoolhouse in McKeesport," according to Marcia Prokopovitch, an employee of Mr. Wampler's when he took over as superintendent of the McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery.
"He got to work outdoors, sometimes he got to drive a tractor," Robert Wampler said of his father's decision to work at the cemetery toward the end of his career. "It was a change of pace from going into an office for 35 years."
Mr. Wampler was an Eagle Scout who enjoyed gardening and landscaping throughout his life. His golfing buddies said they sometimes had to drag him off the course -- even when it was raining.
Mr. Wampler is survived by two sons, Robert of West Chester, Pa., and Randy of Marietta, Ga.; four grandchildren and one great- grandchild.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church, 2200 Buena Vista Road.
Contributions may be made to the McKeesport Heritage Center or the Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church.
Alex Zimmerman: email@example.com, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter: @AGZimmerman.