Campus Faces

"The guys call me Buck, and the girls called me Bucky. My mother calls me Roy Lee, and when she's mad she calls me Roy Lee Tarboro Jr.," says Buck Tarboro, Moravian's grounds foreman. And John McDermott, the College's vice president for planning and research, calls him "the man who wears the lawnmower."

Indeed, when Tarboro cuts the grass in front of Comenius Hall, he and the riding mower become one.

Tarboro has worked for 22 years at Moravian, and three of his five children are or have been Moravians, too. His daughter Teri L. Koehler, 27, graduated in 1997 with a degree in psychology and works with juveniles on probation for an agency in Reading. Brian, 19, attended Moravian briefly and now works for his brother, Roy III, 22, the manager of a CVS in Bethlehem. And LaToya—"50 going on 19," says her father—just finished her freshman year and works in the Facilities Services office. With his partner, Lois Krasley, a custodian at Moravian, he has a son, Brandon, 8, who is finishing second grade.

Big and amiable, with a round face and a ready smile, Tarboro seems unflappable. During our interview, when the walkie-talkie summoned him, he calmly dispatched his crew and a golf cart to the library to unload an unexpected shipment of books. "I'll go over there when we're done and if it turns out they need more, I'll get a couple more," he said.

He takes care of his crew, three of whom are out (as of this writing) on disability. "If they have a problem, they talk to me," he says. "I bring food to the group. They love my hot wings! When one of our kids is selling something"—Girl Scout cookies, school candy—"we all buy from the other ones."

Born at St. Luke's Hospital, Tarboro moved with his mother to Delaware when his parents separated, then came back to Bethlehem as a junior-high student to live with his father, who was "in the Steel." After graduating from Freedom High School, he went into the Navy as a machinist's mate. Following his discharge, he was a cook and manager of the Maryland Fried Chicken on Stefko Boulevard until he hired on as a boiler attendant at Moravian.

"I was going to apply at the Steel," he says, "but I had a choice whether to go down there or see my mom, and I chose to see my mom. It was a blessing. Every one of my friends has got laid off."

When a position on the Moravian grounds crew became available, he took it. Now, 22 years later, he's supervisor of a crew of seven, licensed to apply pesticides, qualified to operate all equipment.

He's part of a clan of Tarboros with Moravian connections. His sister Royal "Kimmy" Smith is a management student enrolled with the Division of Continuing and Graduate Studies; his cousin Tommy works in food service. "Once we had a big family Thanksgiving over in the Doghouse, and there was more than a hundred people there," Tarboro says.

"I like working here," he says of his job. "I like being outside. I don't have to sit in an office and spend eight hours a day. And I don't take the company home."

May 18 was his 21st Moravian graduation. "I've set up 22," he says, "but I got to sit for one when I went to see my daughter graduate."