It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Robert E. (Bob) Thims, one of the founders of England-Thims & Miller, Inc.
We will always remember Bob’s heart, and the legacy he leaves behind. He firmly believed in doing the right thing and treating everyone like family. His honesty, integrity, quality, and work ethic are just a few of the foundational values he brought to ETM. These values have sustained ETM for more than 45 years and we know they will remain for years to come.
While we cannot easily describe his true impact on our company and community, below is a glimpse into his incredible life.
About Bob Thims
After graduating high school, Bob Thims enrolled in night classes at an engineering school while working full-time for a civil engineering firm in Boston. In 1964, he felt compelled to serve his country and voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Bob was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt stationed in Mayport, Florida. From August 1966 to January 1967, The Roosevelt, with Bob on board, made her only deployment to war torn Vietnam, spending a total of 95 days “on the line.”
One afternoon while in downtown Jacksonville, Bob met a girl named Jane who was leaving a Youth Council and Civic Affairs meeting at the old Roosevelt Hotel. He and Jane were married three months later and celebrated more than 50 years of marriage.
After his time in the Navy, Bob was hired as a draftsman by RS&H where he met Jim England. The two left RS&H together to become the first employees of BHR, where they were focused on covering the walls of the garage they worked out of with paneling and getting their hands on a few drafting tables.
In 1977, Jim England and Bob Thims made the decision to start their own company. At that time, the two men never visualized the company that ETM is today. The only thing they were certain of, was that their small company would be firmly based on the Christian principles they so strongly believed in.
Before venturing out on their own, Bob called on a lending officer that he knew and borrowed $3,000. Because they didn’t draw a paycheck from the company for the first year, Bob used that loan to pay himself a salary every week. “The week I ran out of money, was the first week we were able to collect a paycheck from the company. We were always blessed,” said Bob. “Every time we grew, I always remarked, this is as big as we are going to get.”
As an owner of his own company, it was important to Bob to connect to the people “doing the work.” Nicknamed the ‘hall monitor’ he made a point every day he was in the office, to walk the halls, stick his head in everyone’s door, ask how they were doing, and let them know he cared. “There was a man named Jerry who sat in a back office that you had to purposefully visit…you just couldn’t walk by. One day Jerry said to me, ‘you know, you are the only person who ever comes back here’.” That made me feel good to know I was making a difference,” said Bob.
Doug Miller, who joined the firm in 1979, recalled that the owners used to spend one day every year driving around in Bob Thims’ van to visit all the projects they had completed that year. “That was important,” said Doug, “because you forget to appreciate the fruits of your labor when you get so busy.”
Bob never thought about doing anything else. He had been passionate about his career since his early days as a draftsman. That passion made him consider postponing his retirement, but ultimately, he stuck with his decision to retire in 1998 and redirected his passion to Jane, his three children, and four grandchildren.
In 2017, while celebrating ETM’s 40th Anniversary, Bob was asked what the best thing was to happen since starting ETM, and without hesitation, he said, “It is knowing how much of a difference we have made for people’s lives and for their families…how many people we were able to put to work for more than 40 years.”
Today, Bob’s passion is still ingrained in ETM‘s culture of genuine appreciation and gratitude. We will forever be grateful for the foundation Bob Thims set for our future.