Gabriel William (Bill) Dobo passed peacefully to his eternal rest, June 27, 2013, surrounded by his loving family. He was preceded in death by his parents Commander Gabriel and Margaret Dobo; his wife of 60 years, Barbara Beckwith Dobo; and one brother, Robert Ridgely Dobo, Sr.
Bill is survived by his son, Robert William (Shelly) Dobo; daughters Barbara Claire Dobo of Wilmington, and Janet D. (Tim) Farmer of Largo, Florida; three grandchildren; Dennis Bradley (Kelly) Fincannon, Alexander William Dobo and Nicholas Gabriel Dobo of Wilmington; and one sister Claire D. Ruch of Summerland Key, Florida.
Bill was born August 16, 1927 in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was a career sailor in the U.S. Coast Guard, and as a result was stationed in different parts of the U.S. As a child, Bill lived in Two Harbors Minnesota; Staten Island, New York; and Wilmington, North Carolina. It was while his dad was serving here in the early 1930's on the coast guard cutter Modoc, Bill fell in love with the area, particularly Wrightsville Sound. Like his father and brother he also joined the US Coast Guard; and after serving his country honorably during WWII, he returned to the area and settled near the Intracoastal Waterway.
In the early 1950's he owned and operated "The Anchorage"; a boat and yacht repair shop on Airlie Road. In 1954 hurricane Hazel struck and demolished the entire business. The following year he purchased an old dilapidated pick up truck and started drilling water wells under the name "Dobo Well Drilling". Bill operated his business with integrity and one simple guarantee: If he could not drill a well that produced drinkable fresh water, the customer did not pay. Because of this guarantee the business flourished, and in 1975 he was approached by a local developer about constructing a community water system. While he had never done this before, he drilled the large water well and installed the water mains, formed Quality Water Supplies, and supplied water to the area known as Windemere Subdivision. Soon other subdivisions followed, and when his brother joined him Cape Fear Utilities was born. In 1999 the City of Wilmington purchased all of these water systems, and Bill was out of the water business. However, Bill was not ready to retire. Several years prior he and his brother Bob had started another business, Fac-ette Manufacturing. This company provided precision machined parts for businesses in the area, such as Corning, GE, and Victaulic to name a few, but the main product was a gemstone faceting machine, the Gemmaster. After several years of development and invention the Gemmaster II was unveiled. Today, the Gemmaster II is considered by most gem cutting experts world-wide to be the most accurate and finest machine on the market. Many of the features and functions of this machine were conceived and invented by Bill. He had the natural ability to look at something mechanical, and in a few short minutes figure out how it operated and how to repair it. It was this love of mechanics and science that led him to the field of fuel cells. He would talk constantly about the possibilities of fuel cells as an energy source for the future, and was active in the science program "Students Fueling the Future". He even had a small working model of a fuel cell ready to demonstrate to anyone who was interested.
Bill was an accomplished private pilot, holding an instrument rating and many thousand hours of flight time. Since 1978 he and his brother were joint owners of four Mooney aircraft based here in Wilmington, and one of his greatest pleasures was flying on a clear day to his vacation home in the Florida Keys.
Throughout their lives Bill and his wife Barbara never forgot the community in which they lived. In the early 1960's both were active in Thalian Hall, both acting and constructing stage sets for plays. Bill also designed and built several sets for the Azalea Festival Queen's Coronation pageant at Brogden Hall, including the famous re-creation of the Battleship USS North Carolina. Their legacy and generosity to the community will be remembered in many ways; the science building at UNCW that bears their name, Dobo Hall; the music recital building bearing his wife's maiden name, Beckwith Hall; and the many scholarships they endowed. He, his brother, and their wives also gave generously to the aquarium at Fort Fisher, enabling the construction of the large shark tank that houses many salt water species seen and enjoyed by aquarium visitors today.
Bill was a charter member of the East Wilmington Rotary Club in the early 1960's; and for many years belonged to the Loyal Order of Moose. He was a Masonic member of Wilmington Lodge #319, and a Sudan Shriner.
We would like to send a special thanks to the 10th floor staff of Hospice at NHRMC for their extreme care and support during this difficult time.
It was Bill's wish any expression of sympathy be directed to the Dobo Endowment for Music Education, c/o UNCW Advancement Office, 601 S. College Rd., Wilmington, NC 28403.
As per Bill's final wishes he will be cremated, and his ashes scattered in the Atlantic Ocean. There will be a celebration of his life at a later date to be announced.
The staff of Coble Ward-Smith Funeral Services is honored to serve the family of Gabriel William (Bill) Dobo.