Part of his email address reads "carolinatubmaster," providing a hint about the current residence and profession of St. Marys native Bob Gross. Now living in High Point, N.C., the "tubmaster" is an expert at getting the bubbles going in bathtubs, whirlpools and outdoor spas and hot tubs.
The 1976 graduate of St. Marys Area High School has lived in a number of states and worked in several professions. At first, however, he thought he would always be a hometown boy.
"After graduating from SMAHS, I met who I thought was my one true love, so I stayed in the area, got a job and prepared to live life in a wonderful area filled with good, hard-working people," Gross said. "Well, as almost anyone can confess, the first true love didn’t work out." Gross then decided to volunteer at a place called Young People Who Care for the summer, where he met a new friend from Chicago, Ill. At the friend's invitation, Gross moved out to Chicago when the summer was over to see what it was like. This time, he had better luck in the romance department.
"It was there in Chicago where I did find my one true love, settled down, got married and started a family," Gross said. "I also got a job gold-plating computer parts. I was making good money and steadily rising up the ranks in the business. It was then when I broke out in a full-body rash. I discovered that I had become allergic to some of the chemicals that are used in plating. Needless to say, I had to find something different to support my family." Gross then moved his family to the Appleton, Wis. area, settling into a job and joining a church where he led worship service for over seven years. He said in 1992, he felt a "strong calling from God" to move from Appleton to Crystal Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to help a friend start a church. "This is what I thought my calling was-- helping get the word of God out to the people in a way so they can understand the simplicity of the gospel of grace and salvation," Gross said. "Well, God had other plans. Within three months, everything that I had worked so hard for just seemed to fall apart.
"It was then when I made a fateful phone call to a friend in Gulf Breeze, Fla. My friend offered me a job in Florida repairing fiberglass-- namely, bathtubs, whirlpools and outdoor spas and hot tubs. This included the shell, along with the electrical and mechanical components. "I guess God decided that I would be better at helping people clean up their bathtubs than helping them clean up their souls."
Two years later, Gross decided it was time to go out on his own, so he started his own service company for businesses like Kohler and Jacuzzi.
"From Florida, I moved to the Charleston, W.V. area and ended up servicing not only the entire state of West Virginia, but areas including Columbus, Ohio and Greensboro, N.C.," Gross said. "After working in the Greensboro area for a while, I decided that it was time to move there permanently. After several years in West Virginia, I sold the business and took up residence in High Point, N.C., where I still am today." Gross, who also attended Queen of the World School, is the son of Jay and Velma Gross. His siblings are Lynda O’Conner of Cleveland, Ohio; Valerie Gerg, Alan Gross, Mark Gross and Tom Gross, all in the St. Marys area; Mary Gross of Greensboro, N.C.; and the late Janet Benninger and the late Casey Gross.
He married Sandra Schorg Gross on June 12, 1982, and they have four children, Kimberly, Joshua, Adam and Caleb; and five grandchildren.
The hard-working Gross said he does not feel men should automatically receive an award for a job well-done when it comes to supporting a family.
"It’s how I was raised," Gross said. "My father went to work every day because he had responsibilities to the family. You respect your mother. You do what is right. You hold the door open for women. You tell the truth. You do not take what does not belong to you. You go to work every day. You think about what you do and what kind of effect it will have on other people."
While Gross said he "loves his job," he said there is another thing in his life which also rates as a significant accomplishment.
"I think one of my greatest achievements is the fact that I am still married to my original spouse," Gross said. "Marriage is hard, isn’t it, but knowing that someone knows you really well and they still love you is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
"Lots of people wonder why I do what I do. Maybe it’s because some opportunities only knock once-- like taking four weeks off to drive from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, and then to Florida, and then back to North Carolina with my wife and only having one argument the whole four weeks! I am very proud of that one!" Gross said.
Gross has found time for something besides work in the years since leaving St. Marys. His many hobbies including writing original songs and playing them on his 12-string guitar at coffeehouses. It is a hobby he has been able to share with his sons, as all three also play guitar and he described one of the boys as "an amazing drummer." He also enjoys woodworking.
"To me, it is an amazing thing to take various types of rough-cut wood and turn them into an eight-inch kitchen peninsula, or a black walnut queen-size bed or coffee tables, sewing desks, kitchen tables, storage benches and cutting boards, many of which I just give away," Gross said. "I also enjoy house remodeling and taking pictures-- lots of pictures-- several thousand pictures, in fact. Okay, call that one an obsession." Gross also likes to cook, especially if it is something that can be grilled. He said smoked salmon, baby back ribs, pulled pork, and "good" hamburgers are among his favorites. No matter what he does or where he lives, however, Gross said he never forgets where he is from.
"After living in several states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, West Virginia and presently North Carolina, I have discovered that there IS no place like St. Marys where people know you, your siblings and you parents," Gross said. "Where people say, 'Hello, how are you?,' and then they actually stop to listen. Where people are hard workers who actually want to work and be proud of what they do. Where being outdoors can be an adventure of discovering the area's beauty and people can own and use firearms for sport and putting meat on the table and no one freaks out. "When I come back to St. Marys to visit family, for me, it’s a little bit like going back to a time, to a place where I don’t have to lock my truck when I go in to pay for gas. Where if someone needs directions, or help of any kind, assistance is freely offered with no return expected. Where people talk to each other while waiting in line. "In St. Marys, I was brought up to respect and appreciate my mother, God and Jesus Christ, my elders and our brave servicemen, some of whom gave their lives for my freedom, some who worked hard to make St. Marys the great place that it is. "One of the greatest things about St. Marys, Pa. is that I always have a place to come back to that I can call home. Home is truly the place where the heart is."