Par-A-Dice Team Member Helps Tell Story of Fallen Hometown Heroes

Robert Lear, a Maintenance Engineer at Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria, Illinois, recently paid tribute to local American heroes, including his younger brother James Lear, by hanging banners in their honor in his hometown of Washburn, Illinois.

On April 28, 1989, U.S. Navy Fireman Apprentice James D. Lear was on lookout in the conning tower of the USS Barbel (SS-580) when the submarine’s hydraulics failed and went into an accidental dive off the southern part of Japan. Though Lear managed to secure the Barbel’s hatch and save the lives of the sixty-nine fellow seamen and six officers, he made the ultimate sacrifice. He was listed as “Lost at Sea” as a result of his heroic act.

The banners are among 60 others hanging throughout Peoria and Pekin, an effort on behalf of the charity group America's Gold Star Families, which works with the families of fallen soldiers. When Lear learned about the group’s efforts, he reached out to the founder Patti Smith to see if they could hang a banner for his brother and other Washburn heroes.

“She said they could do that, then asked me if I would like to put them up in Washburn,” said Lear. “I knew that we had seven heroes to honor and I know half of the families anyway, so I said, ‘Let me research and see if I can get sponsors,’ and I did.”

With help from American Legion Post No. 661, Washburn Auxiliary, the Sons of the American Legion Squadron No. 661 and American Legion Riders, Lear was able to ensure all seven heroes from his small hometown of about 1,000 people were recognized.

“They have paid the ultimate sacrifice for us and our way of life,” said Lear. “We should never forget their unselfish service, dedication and courage in protecting us and this great nation. If it were not for their perseverance, the United States of America wouldn’t be the great country it is today.”

Lear describes his little brother, James, as “a very well-liked young man” who enjoyed hunting and fishing, and grew up working the town’s paper route.

“I felt proud and honored for being able to tell these seven stories of our local hometown heroes,” said Lear.

Lear’s efforts to help organize the event did not go unnoticed. His hometown paper the “Peoria Journal Star” recognized him on July 8 in an article about the event. Read the full article here:

Lear volunteers in his community in a variety of ways, including the Boy Scouts of America for 42 years, the Sons of the American Legion Squadron No. 661 for 10 years and as a local zoning officer for five years. He served in the local fire department for 25 years and was the district's first volunteer to be State of Illinois-certified in firefighting.

Lear, who holds a certificate in Facilities Maintenance Technology, joined the Boyd Gaming team four months ago following 28 years as a car manufacturer.

He is thankful that he could work with America’s Gold Star Families to honor the fallen soldiers in his community.

“These groups help you with the grieving process,” said Lear. “Other members are also going through the same thing you are. It helps to tell my brother’s story and brings purpose to his memory.”