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Cumberland Businessman Bob Gornall Passes at 78

November 2nd, 2019 by WCBC Radio

Longtime Cumberland businessman Robert M. Gornall died Wednesday, October 30, 2019, at his home and in the company of his family.  Bob was retired as the owner and operator of Western Maryland Distributing, which he purchased in 1978. 

His son, Murray J. Gornall, has been operating the beer distributorship for a number of years. Bob was proud to turn the company over to his son at the time of his retirement, and grew prouder with each day as he watched and continually shared with friends (and strangers) his tremendous pride and satisfactions in the manner with which Murray has continued to operate the business.

Born in Cumberland on May 27, 1941, Bob was the son of the late John M. Gornall and Hilda Ann (Murray) Gornall, and was predeceased by an infant son.

He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Marl Gornall; son, Murray Gornall and wife Shannon of Cumberland; daughter, Amanda Koffman and husband Brad of Overland Park, Kansas; bonus daughters, Lisa Krampf of Morehead City, North Carolina, and Jonna Roy and husband Brian of Raleigh, North Carolina; grandchildren, Tate Gornall and fiancé Brittany Thomas of Cumberland, Madison Rinehart and husband Keith of Flintstone, Cameron Roy of Raleigh, North Carolina, Quinn and Cadence Koffman of Overland Park, Kansas, and Rowan and Harlow Gornall of Cumberland; and great-grandchildren, Layla, Lettie, and Luke Rinehart of Flintstone. Bob is also survived by his brother, John Gornall and wife Mary Anne of Milford, Delaware; and the mother of his children, Joyce Ann Luckiewicz Sanders of Cumberland.

Bob was a 1959 graduate of Allegany High School and a 1961 graduate of Potomac State College of West Virginia University, having studied English and journalism. In 1963, he graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and from that day began a lifetime of maddening, yet fulfilling adventures with his Mountaineers as an avid booster and supporter. Bob Gornall was and will always be a Mountaineer, and he wanted everybody to know it.

Bob was trained to be a journalist and, thus, he embarked upon a remarkable career in journalism and, from 1963 to 1965, went to work for United Press International (UPI) as a wire service reporter in Charleston, West Virginia where he worked newspaper and radio desks and served as West Virginia Statehouse reporter, covering various stories outside the office.

In 1964, while reporting for UPI, Bob spent three days and two nights at the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, posing as a condemned man charged with murder in Kanawha County. He was the first reporter permitted to spend time behind the walls of the state penitentiary and his three-part series shed light on life along death row.

To supplement his income at the time, Bob wrote stories about actual crimes for “True Detective” magazine and “True Crime” magazine.

Bob, who like to answer to the nickname “R.F.” (a slang political term for doer of dirty tricks) served as the UPI bureau chief in Baltimore in 1965-66. There, he managed the three-man bureau servicing radio station and newspaper subscribers, including coverage of Baltimore major league sports as he sat in the Memorial Stadium pressbox next to his friend and journalism hero, J. Suter Kegg, legendary sports editor of the Cumberland Evening and Sunday Times, during Colts and Orioles games.

From 1967 to 1968, it was back to Charleston where Bob became a regional executive, selling UPI news and photo services in West Virginia and Kentucky.

Upon the death of his father, Bob returned to Cumberland to help his mother and, from 1968 to 1970, was the station manager of radio station WUOK, managing on-air and off-air operations, mainly the sales force, of the 5,000-watt station.

He was the founder of the Allegany County Shopper and, from 1970 to 1972, served as the operator of the tabloid advertising publication, which was mailed to all residents of Allegany County. He convinced the president of the Queen City Brewing Company in Cumberland to publish coupons for discounted beer in the Shopper and, very reluctantly, the president agreed to do so.

Just days after the coupons appeared, the president called bob and said, “I’ve never sold that much beer in my life. Did you ever consider getting into the beer business?”

It was at that point, Bob considered getting into the beer business. He sold the Shopper in 1973.

Bob had become marketing director of Queen City Brewing, where he managed the sales staff of the regional brewer, calling on private label companies.

After Queen City closed its doors, Bob was contacted by Leonard Goldstein, who, at the time, was vice president of sales at Miller Brewing Company before becoming president of Miller Brewing in 1988. Bob was personally interviewed by Goldstein.

In 1975, Bob became the area manager of the Miller Brewing Company, Cumberland, and through 1977, called on nine beer distributors in Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia, managing programs of the company. He transferred to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the same position for Florida’s Gold Coast – Key West to Fort Pearce.

While at Miller Brewing in Cumberland, Bob called on Jim Browning, then the owner of Western Maryland Distributing Company, and without asking for Browning’s okay, ordered a boxcar (yes, from a train) of a new product being called “Miller Lite.”

Upon its delivery, Mr. Browning voiced to Mr. Gornall just how unhappy he was about this turn of events, to which Bob replied, “I will personally sell it.” And the rest is history.

In 1978, Bob purchased the Western Maryland Distributing Company and operated it until passing it along to his son Murray upon his retirement in 2014.

Bob remained very busy in retirement. He was an avid collector of Breweriana from Cumberland’s two breweries and Miller Brewing Company.

A longtime member of Wamba Caravan No. 89 Order of Alhambra, Bob was instrumental in the Creation of the famous “Alhambra Italian Sausage” sandwich fundraiser.

Bob loved Jamaica, the music of Bob Marley, all reggae music, in fact, the comedy of Gallagher and George Carlin and NASCAR, having been the owner of a stock car team himself. The stories of Bob and his lifelong best friend “Lynn H,” their fraternity days and their duck hunting adventures remain the stuff of legend.

He liked to wear ugly OP shorts and ugly sweaters, although he never found them to be ugly. He also said he never liked to be a complainer, but he was, so he did.

Bob Gornall lived a life most of us could only dream of living, yet he lived his dreams every day of his life by making the dreams of his family come true.

Arrangements are being handled by Scarpelli Funeral Home, P.A., in Cumberland. Per Bob’s request, there will be no funeral service or visitation. A private celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Because of his love for his four-legged family members, in lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Allegany County Animal Shelter, PO Box 566, Cumberland, MD 21502.

Condolences for the family may be left at


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