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Victoria symphony lover shared passion anonymously

By Sonny Long
Jan. 16, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 16, 2013 at 7:17 p.m.

A pile of thank-you notes from the children for whom Robert Neiderhouse bought Victoria Symphony concert tickets.

NEXT AT THE SYMPHONY

WHAT: Arrival from Sweden: The Music of Abba, Abba tribute show

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Victoria Fine Arts Center, 1002 Sam Houston Drive

TICKETS: $50 at victoriasymphony.com

INFORMATION: 361-576-4500 or visit VictoriaAdvocate.com and click here.

Robert Neiderhouse couldn't see the musicians, but he could hear the music.

And it was the music that he shared with hundreds of children who never knew his name.

Neiderhouse, 71, of Goliad, died Dec. 8 and took with him a three-year tradition of buying tickets to be given away to area children to attend performances at the Victoria Symphony.

Debbie Durham, education coordinator for the Victoria Symphony, attended Neiderhouse's funeral.

She told those gathered there that she read thank you notes to Neiderhouse from children who attended the symphony thanks to his generosity.

"I wanted him to get the full picture of how he was touching young lives," she said. "We cried together at the passion and laughed at the humor that came through those children and their parents as they expressed their delight and pleasure of their first symphony concert."

Durham said Neiderhouse didn't want anyone to know who was paying for the tickets but was certainly deeply touched by the remarks in the letters.

"He was sensitive to the comments by the children and donated season tickets to one family who was particularly grateful for the concert experience they had," she said.

Neiderhouse was born in Scotch Ridge, Ohio, and began losing his eyesight as an older teenager because of retinitis pigmentosa, said longtime friend Dan Schwartz, who traveled from Ohio to Goliad with wife Susan Schwartz for Neiderhouse's funeral.

Schwartz shared some details of Neiderhouse's life with those assembled to honor his friend.

Neiderhouse graduated from Bowling Green University and taught high school history in Ohio and later in Harlingen. He worked as a school counselor before retiring, Schwartz said.

He was a Civil War expert, avid Elvis Presley and Boston Celtics fan and enjoyed discussing sports and politics, his friend said. Schwartz said Neiderhouse was also a naturalist and gardener who enjoyed vacationing in Texas and chose to move here permanently in the early 1990s.

Schwartz said Neiderhouse lived in a tent in a KOA campground near Houston for two years.

"That kind of shocked me when we came to visit," Schwartz said. "He wanted to be independent. He really wasn't an easy man to give help to, but I never heard him complain."

Before losing his sight completely, Schwartz said, Neiderhouse rode a bicycle from Houston to the Valley, going through Goliad on the way.

"He fell in love with Goliad because of its history," Schwartz said, noting that Neiderhouse eventually built a house there.

When a third friend, Ron Draeger, died and left Neiderhouse a portion of his estate, Neiderhouse used those funds for his Victoria Symphony ticket giveaway.

"That's what he decided to do with the money that Ron left him. It was typical Bob," said Schwartz.

Durham estimated Neiderhouse bought more than 1,300 tickets to the symphony during the three-year period.

"In one word, Robert Neiderhouse was generous," Durham said. "And there are hundreds of families in the Victoria area who, though they never knew his name, know the effects of his thoughtfulness and charitable heart.

"He is sorely missed."

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