Obie Leonard Etheridge was born in 1924 in Conroe Texas to Obie and Hilda Etheridge. To his family, Obie has always been known as ‘Bye’, from the time as a toddler when he would stand on the family porch and wave and yell “Bye!” to everyone who passed. Obie died in Corpus Christi on Tuesday January 24, 2017 at the age of 92.
Obie was preceded in death by his wife Gladys in 2010. Obie and Gladys were married December 30, 1943, in Paris, Texas. Gladys was the daughter of Neil and Ola Turner, and she and Obie met in their home town of Conroe. A favorite family story is that they had lived across the street from each other when they were very young children, but their families had moved to different areas. When Obie later saw Gladys walking down the aisle of the Baptist Church in Conroe, he thought to himself “That’s the girl for me!”, and of course she was!
In Conroe, he attended public schools and was valedictorian of his graduating class at the age of 14. Obie entered the University of Texas in 1940 and was in Law School when he was drafted in 1943. He was at that time also serving as a clerk in the Legislature under Speaker Price Daniel Sr. His Army career included training in the Medical Administrative Corps, a year of studies in the Chinese language at the University of Chicago, and training in the Special Intelligence branch of the Office of Strategic Services in Washington. He retained an interest in languages and espionage and was for several years a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
Gladys was able to be with Obie on his Chicago and Washington assignments during the war years. When they returned to Texas in May of 1946, Obie superintended construction of a concrete office building for his family. He resumed his education at the University, switching to the field of civil engineering. He was made a member of Tau Beta Pi, the highest engineering honor society, and was president of the civil engineering honor society, Chi Epsilon. On moving to Austin, Obie and Gladys constructed their own modest home with their own four hands.
Obie served as superintendent of the street and bridge division of the City of Austin, and was vice president of the Austin branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers. On a vacation trip with his family, they fell in love with Corpus Christi and sought an opportunity to move here. He had worked for a while in the bridge design office of the Highway Department, and when construction of the Harbor Bridge was eminent, he returned to the Highway Department. They moved to Corpus Christi, and he served as senior field engineer on the construction of the bridge, which took from June 1956 to October 1959. It is known as “Daddy’s Bridge” in the family.
On completion of the bridge he took office as City Engineer of Corpus Christi, which position he held until joining the consulting firm of Reagan and McCaughan in 1965. Following retirement of the senior partners, the firm eventually became Etheridge Engineering. During his years with the City and in consulting, Obie was responsible for the planning on many public works projects in Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend area. These included paving, water transmission lines, the Stevens Water Treatment Plant expansion, sewage treatment plants and lines, storm drainage, and some projects for the military bases. He planned water systems serving the Violet and Baffin Bay areas. His interest in the firm was sold to S.A. Garza Engineers of Austin in 1986 and he stayed on with them until retiring in December 1990.
Obie was active in the various engineering associations, serving as president of the Nueces Chapters, and as a state director, of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers. His peers named him Engineer of the Year in 1971.
He joined the Rotary Club of Corpus Christi in 1968, serving as president in 1976-77. He was chosen as Governor of District 593, an area with 45 clubs, stretching from El Campo to Rio Grande City. The District Governors must visit and meet with every club during the first half of their year. Obie declared that the missions of Rotary and Masonry are so much alike that he had to think twice to remember which he was visiting.
Obie also served as the Republican County Chairman in 1970, during which time he was privileged to meet with a number of prominent politicians, including Ann Armstrong and Kay Bailey (who later became Hutchison and a United States Senator).
In his early 20s, Obie became active in various Masonic Lodge activities which became a cornerstone of his life. Among his many accomplishments in the Masons, Obie was honored to have served in the following ways: 50 year member of Hill City Lodge No. 456 in Austin; was affiliated for a time with Independence Lodge 1337 and later with Corpus Christi Lodge 189 (since 1980); joining the York Rite in 1961, and attending the Grand Chapter and Council meetings in Waco, while serving on several committees; serving as Worshipful Master in 1986-87; serving as District Deputy Grand Master of the 12 Lodges of District 37 in 1989 under Grand Master Leonard Harvey; serving seven years on the Grand Lodge Committee on Purposes and Policies; serving as Commander of Corpus Christi 57 in 1968, also serving as Secretary-Recorder for many years and being inducted into the Order of High Priesthood and Order of Silver Trowel, where he began to confer the role of King David and was elected state Master of the Order in 1971; being presented the Knight Templar Cross of Honor in Fort Worth in 1989; serving as Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter in 1996 (this is a position corresponding to the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge); being knighted in Priory 23, Knights of the York Rite Cross of Honor (He was a charter member of Texian Priory 78, based in San Antonio, and was its Prior in 1995-96); being elected Knight Grand Cross by the Convent General; being inducted in St. Anthony Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine in San Antonio in 1976, and being the Charter Viceroy (1980) and later Sovereign (1981) of South Texas Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine; receiving the Royal Order of Scotland in Dallas in 1979; being made a Knight of York in Texas College 14 in Waco in 1977, and later transferring to the new Texian College 60 in San Antonio when it was formed in 1984, also serving as its Governor in 1989-90; the Sovereign College conferring the Order of the Purple Cross on him in Baltimore in 1990 (He was the Charter Secretary of South Texas College 169 when it was instituted in 1994.); was a member of the Texas Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite Research Society, and a Life Member of the Philalethes Society, and a member, admittedly not very active, of Al Amin Shrine; being invited into, and joining, three other appendant organizations (which he later left because of the travel required). These were the SRICF (or Masonic Rosicrucians), the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, and the College of Knight Masons.
Obie also joined the Scottish Rite in 1973, spending the week in San Antonio to witness all of the degrees. He was active in the Scottish Rite Club, serving as President. He was honored with the rank and decorations of Knight Commander of the Court of Honour or “red hat”, it being conferred in Houston in 1977. Obie’s Dad, also Obie, had been run over on the street in Waco after a late Grand Chapter meeting, and Obie had to make a quick round trip to Corpus Christi, Houston, and back to Waco. His father died a few days later. Obie worked in the 30th Degree and assisted in the direction of the Reunions held here. He was awarded the “white hat”, and received the very solemn 33rd Degree in 1987. He served on the Coastal Bend Club’s Board many years.
Obie was also made an Honorary Member of the National Sojourners in 1991 and the Heroes of 76 in 1992. He was designated “Honorary” because at that time a member must have been an officer in the military, and he had not attained that rank. He considers it a memorable coincidence that during his service in the OSS, he was actually stationed in the Collingwood Mansion, which is now the national headquarters of the National Sojourners. It lies near Mount Vernon, on land one part of George Washington’s farms. Obie is descended from George’s cousin, Warner Washington.
Gladys also served unselfishly as caterer of the luncheons of various Masonic Lodge meeting of the Red Cross and the College. Red Cross Sovereign Tom Cooper even presented her with her own purple sash.
Obie always pursued his hobbies of foreign languages, and books, books, books. Obie and Gladys were both committed to helping their children, and all children, discover the joy of reading and discovering the wisdom of the ages gone by and the stories that connect you with your heart and all mankind. When the Scottish Rite Masons decided in 1996 to open a school for dyslexic children, Al Story and Obie were the principal incorporators. Obie’s wife Gladys, who had been a devoted elementary school teacher for 25 years, retiring in 1993, was enlisted as a director and was made administrator of the school. The school was operated continuously form 1996 until they retired. Obie served as Secretary-Treasurer.
Many thanks to the doctors and nurses at Doctors Regional for your care in his last days.
Gladys and Obie had four children: Bob (who preceded them in death), Barbara, Becky, and Dennis and seven grandchildren. We will all miss him very much.
Visitation will be held on Friday, January 27, 2017 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in Seaside Funeral Home.
A Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. at Seaside Funeral Home Chapel. Interment will follow at Seaside Memorial Park.