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Author Topic: Robert Plaster Dies at 78  (Read 2641 times)

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Offline David Day

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Robert Plaster Dies at 78
« on: October 12, 2008, 01:11:41 AM »


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 Robert Plaster, local entrepreneur, dies at 78  By Mike Penprase and Kathleen O’Dell • News-Leader Staff • October 11, 2008  Business leader, philanthropist and central figure in a controversy over Missouri’s “village law,” Robert W. Plaster died Saturday.

Plaster, 78, died of natural causes at his home south of Lebanon, Laclede County Coroner Steve Murrell said.

Family members were with Plaster when he died, Murrell said.

Funeral arrangements are pending, according to Holman-Howe Funeral Home in Lebanon.

Word of Plaster’s death spread quickly during homecoming events Saturday at Missouri State University.

The Lebanon businessman was memorialized Saturday afternoon with a moment of silence during the MSU-Youngstown State game in Plaster Stadium.

Plaster’s name also is on the MSU student union, which was refurbished with funds Plaster provided.

But his philanthropy went beyond MSU. He was the namesake and benefactor of the stadium at Southwest Baptist University and the business education building at College of the Ozarks, as well as the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

Plaster attended the school when it was known as Joplin Junior College.

The headquarters of the Students in Free Enterprise in north Springfield also is named for Plaster in recognition of his early support for the organization that promotes entrepreneurship among college students.

MSU President Michael Nietzel said he became acquainted with Plaster soon after being named MSU president.

“He was a wonderful friend of Missouri State University and obviously was a great supporter of the university,” Nietzel said. “He was generous to us and very gracious to me.”

Springfield attorney John Holstein is involved in a 2004 legal dispute with Plaster’s trustees over access to the Orla Holman Cemetery near his Laclede County land.

“I know his family and they have done much good in this community and around the state, and for that everyone should be grateful,” Holstein said.

Starting with $25,000, Plaster made his fortune by turning Empire Gas into one of the nation’s largest propane distributors.

That effort created controversy.

In the 1970s, the U.S. Justice Department accused Empire of antitrust violations by using a variety of tactics to acquire a monopoly of the propane market. The company was acquitted.

During the same decade, the Justice Department prosecuted Plaster, Empire and another man, accusing them of working with two men to use a dynamite bomb to destroy a competitor’s tank truck.

Plaster was defended by well-known lawyer F. Lee Bailey and was found not guilty after a three-week trial.

In recent years, Plaster was involved in the controversy over the state “village law.”

After creating the Village of Evergreen in the 1980s in Laclede County, Plaster tried to do the same for his compound on Table Rock Lake.

The Stone County Commission stymied the effort, and Plaster worked for the passage of a state law allowing landowners to create villages without the permission of counties.

The effort became a statewide issue when legislators contended House Speaker Ron Jetton hid the effort in legislation.

Plaster made no public comments during the dispute.

That’s not surprising, Nietzel said.

“Bob helped with scholarships and was very quiet about that,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people know about him supporting scholarships for students.”

Plaster was straightforward in dealing with differences with other people, Nietzel said.

“Bob was a person of strong convictions and if you didn’t agree with those, he didn’t argue and didn’t feel a need to debate those differences,” he said.

Long before the village law issue, Plaster had a series of clashes with Laclede Countians and those who trespassed on his rural Village of Twin Bridges, later renamed Evergreen, in southern Laclede County.

He is known to have a home on the property along with other relatives, associates and employees.

He had a propensity for ironclad control. Over the decades he tried to limit public access to a county road, the family cemetery and public waterways.

His gun-toting village lawmen were known to bar boaters from stepping across his shoreline boundary to float the Osage River.

Plaster's representatives said in court documents that his security people patrol Evergreen boundaries to prevent noisy gatherings, litter, poaching and illegal drug trade there.

Plaster family trustees still have an appeal pending with the Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District over the Orla Holman Cemetery access adjacent to one of Plaster’s roads.

Plaster’s corporate headquarters were in Lebanon, where he wielded more influence.

The Lebanon City Council in 2004 changed the name “Industrial Drive” where the corporation wants to develop land to “Evergreen Parkway,” apparently because of the Plaster company name, Evergreen Investments. They did it on a promise that Plaster would build a mall there and create jobs.

The name change went through, but the Evergreen Factory Stores outlet mall never materialized.
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Offline okie the thread killer

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Re: Robert Plaster Dies at 78
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2008, 01:17:41 AM »
I actually am not sure of my opinion of him. Great things from Empire, but I kind of think he was a little out of control the last several years. Either way, my condolences to the family and friends.
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Offline corky

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Re: Robert Plaster Dies at 78
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2008, 01:49:39 AM »
my family and i have known the family of bob plaster for a long time, very nice and down to earth people to all of us. sympathy for the family from us