Robert E. Stroble

Robert E. Stroble. (Baltimore Sun / November 26, 2012)

Dr. Robert E. Stroble, a former Maryland state senator who later retired as a Baltimore County elementary school principal, died Nov. 22 from complications of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease at Arden Courts in Riderwood.

The former Timonium resident was 72.

"Bob was a stand-up guy and a conservative Republican from Baltimore County, and he was well thought of on both sides of the aisle," said state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

"He was a teacher, an assistant principal, a senator, and then we appointed him a principal," said Dr. Robert Y. Dubel, who headed Baltimore County's public schools before retiring in 1992. "He did very well and had an interesting career in both politics and education."

Born to second generation immigrant German and Polish parents, Robert E. Stroble was born and raised in Willamsport, Pa., where he graduated in 1959 from Williamsport High School.

"Growing up poor in a rural Pennsylvania town, he always had to work for anything he had," said a son, Timothy S. "Tim" Stroble of Bradenton, Fla. "He rose from a small dirt floor shack in a small town and made it to the Maryland State Senate in Annapolis."

As a youth, he worked odd jobs to make extra money and during his junior and senior years of high school and all through college, Dr. Stroble worked the night shift six days a week at a local filling station.

"He was the first person in his family to go to college, which he paid for himself," as his father did not approve of his attending college, Dr. Stroble's son said.

He graduated from Lock Haven State College (now Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania) with a bachelor's degree in 1963. He earned a master's in education from what is now Loyola University Maryland, and a second master's degree from Morgan State University in 1970. He earned his Ph.D. in 1975 from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Dr. Stroble began his teaching career in Baltimore County in 1963 as a physical education teacher. His son said he was motivated to seek elected office because he felt there was a lack of educators serving in government.

"He used to say that 'although teachers are among one of the most highly educated and qualified groups in the country, they have been woefully ignored in governmental positions,'" said his son.

Dr. Stroble thought that "being an educator with a moderate income would add a different perspective to a State House dominated by prosperous lawyers and businessmen," his son said.

In 1970, with help from friends and neighbors and waging a door-to-door campaign, Dr. Stroble won the primary against the incumbent Republican and the general election that was dominated 3-1 by Democrats, to the House of Delegates.

After serving one term in the House of Delegates, Dr. Stroble ran for a seat in the state Senate in 1974 from the 11th district, which at the time encompassed Ruxton, Riderwood, Lutherville-Timonium, Owings Mills, Reisterstown, Glyndon, Granite and north Catonsville.

In the Senate, he served as a member of the Finance Committee, the Joint Budget and Audit Committee, and the Constitution and Law Committee.

Dr. Stroble had served as assistant principal at Randallstown Elementary School and later was principal of Padonia and Pinewood elementary schools.

"He had the ability to keep politics out of school and we are strong on keeping political influence out of our schools," said Dr. Dubel. "And he never violated that trust."

Dr. Stroble was reelected in 1978 but ended his career two years later after the death from breat cancer of his wife of 15 years, the former Patricia Mullen, who had been a teacher at Fullerton Elementary School.

At the time, Dr. Stroble told The Sun that he was ending his political career to care for his three young sons.

"He also was going to be redistricted out of a job. He saw the bill on the floor of the Senate and did not complain. It was due to a populist Democratic shift," said Mr. Miller. "So, what did he do? He beat his sword into a ploughshare, and went back home and returned to teaching."

"I really admired him for that. He gave up his political career to be with his sons, and it is not easy being a single parent raising little children," said Dr. Dubel.

At the time of his retirement in 1995, Dr. Stroble was serving as a member of the Baltimore County School Board.

A longtime resident of Locust Ridge Road in Timonium, Dr. Stroble was a world traveler. Some of the countries he visited included England, Spain, India, China, Russia and Egypt.

He also enjoyed dancing, his son said.

Funeral services for Dr. Stroble will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 20 E. Ridgely Road, Timonium

In addition to his son, Dr. Stroble is survived by two other sons, Shannan C. Stroble of Baltimore and Ryan M. Stroble of Baldwin; a brother, Paul "Butch" Stroble Jr. of Williamsport, Pa.; a sister, Donna Goodspeed of Baltimore; and six grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com