Beaver resident Robert Allen Rice, an economic development expert, historic preservationist, political aficionado, news junkie and all-around renaissance gentleman, was taken away far too soon with his untimely passing on Jan. 15, 2023.
Bob originally was from Schenectady, NY and his life’s journey led him to Beaver, where he met his future wife, resided and was employed for 36 years.
His career began in Buckhannon, WV, and in 1986 he came to Beaver to interview for a position with the Beaver County Corporation for Economic Development. He competed for the job with 100 other applicants and was the finalist with one other highly qualified candidate, a woman.
He succeeded in landing the job and then marrying the runner-up, Laurel “Laurie” Martin. One might call the happy experience a “two for one.” He remained with CED until retirement in 2020, and with Laurie for good.
Working under Clair Searfoss and later Jim Palmer, Bob played a vital role in CED’s all-important work of rebuilding the county after the decline of steel. His expertise helped strengthen the county’s mindset and infrastructure for attracting and keeping industrial and commercial businesses which in turn lead to jobs.
In the community, he gave his time with the local Planning Commission, Historical and Architectural Review Board and Heritage Foundation.
As a member of the Planning Commission, he bore a responsibility for short and long- term planning within the borough to review subdivision and land development plans and make recommendations on such issues as the Zoning Ordinance.
His work with HARB ensured that Beaver’s historic district status would not be compromised by unregulated demolition of old properties. He was instrumental in creating HARB’s systematic review and recommendation process to determine if a proposed demolition permit should be issued by Beaver Council.
During his many years of service to the Heritage Foundation, Bob served on the board of directors and was intimately involved with the Beaver Station Cultural and Event Center including recently as operating committee vice chair. He also was co-chair of Beaver Station’s steering committee which oversaw fundraising and then construction. Bob was instrumental in securing state grants representing about one third of the project’s budget.
The year the Station opened, in 2015, he and David O’Leary jointly received the Heritage Foundation’s Civic Leadership Award for extraordinary service in preserving local heritage. When the Station received a statewide community revitalization award in 2016 from the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, Bob personally accepted the honor from the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
He also was a force behind the Station’s selection for the 2017 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation’s “Historic Landmark” status.
If all of that weren’t enough, Bob was a wine maker, Civil War buff, artist, music lover, especially of the blues, and a most caring and accommodating grandfather to his beloved grandchildren.