Pastor Robert Probasco

August 11, 1947 – March 12, 2014


Robert Nelson Probasco Sr. was born August 11, 1947 in Portland, Oregon. He was the youngest child of Kelly Miller Probasco Sr. (Milford, Texas) and Grace Ruth (Searcie) Probasco (Portland, Oregon). From birth to the time he became a young adult, he lived in the family home in Southeast Portland where he attended Abernethy Elementary School, Benson and Cleveland high schools. After high school graduation, Robert took classes at Portland and Mt. Hood community colleges as well as Portland State University.

Robert responded well to his father’s challenges to develop a strong work ethic and became a responsible citizen during his teen years. His love for sports, especially baseball, was realized when he coached his sons’ Little League teams and later on when his children and grandchildren played basketball, ran track and participated in other sports and activities. When members of his family gained recognition at the local, state and national levels, Robert celebrated their achievements. His immediate family enjoyed having a father who hiked trails and participated in family vacations. Though he was a dedicated and hard worker, he also took the time to acknowledge and attend events, for not only his family members, but also the children who attended House of Prayer for All Nations and First AME Zion Church. He was truly a cheerleader.

Robert also played on local baseball teams, bowled with co-workers, rode his motorcycle, took flying lessons and played golf. He was competitive and won numerous prizes for exceeding sales quotas during his professional career. Robert also had an entrepreneurial spirit. While still in his early 20’s, he applied what he learned while working at his father’s gas station on Northeast 7th and Knott when he became the owner and operator of two gas stations in Northeast Portland.

Robert held a number of different jobs during his lifetime (e.g., Alpenrose milkman, Franz bread sales and route developer, pager sales and distribution, etc.) He was a job rehabilitation specialist and was passionate about facilitating and negotiating injured workers’ return to work. With every job Robert held and every business he opened, he brought his total commitment to excellence, efficiency, fairness and offering quality products and services. His love for automobiles could not be quenched so he worked in auto sales and management for Don Lee Motors for 13 years.

In 1996, Robert and his wife Leslie (under the business name of Probasco-Ross) started selling pre-owned cars as well as brokering deals for new cars for his clients. Concurrently with operating Probasco-Ross, he taught accredited courses for the Oregon Independent Auto Dealers Association to individuals seeking to obtain an Oregon car “dealer’s license”.

Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, the late Bishop Robert Searcie Sr. (founder of the House of Prayer for All Nations), Robert became a minister and he was the pastor of the church from 1982 to 1986 when he resigned his position as pastor. He took time to pray and reflect on what he felt God, through the Holy Spirit, was calling him to do next.

Robert, his wife Leslie, and their children joined First AME Zion Church (Portland, Oregon) and in 1987 he was ordained as an Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church by Bishop Anderson. Elder Probasco remained active in Zion, teaching Bible Study classes until he answered the call of the Holy Spirit to start a new AME Zion Church–People’s Church. Services were held at the Woodlawn United Methodist Church located in Northeast Portland on 15th and Dekum Street. Pastor Probasco and First Lady Leslie Probasco created a warm, caring environment where people were made to feel welcome and children were cherished as “God’s gifts”. At the AME Zion Cascade District’s Annual Conference in 1995, Elder Robert Probasco Sr. was assigned to be the pastor of both People’s Church and First AME Zion Church. The churches were merged and their combined services continued at First Church located at North Vancouver Avenue and Skidmore Street.

Elder Robert Probasco Sr., through his surrender to the Holy Spirit, gave dynamic Bible-based sermons. His messages made it clear that it is only through God’s GRACE and MERCY that we can obtain eternal life–no one is worthy, we are all “works in progress.” The works of Robert Frost, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and other literary giants were often integrated into his sermons. He had an amazing memory and ability to recite volumes of poems, lyrics, and statistical information at will. Music, especially great lyrics, were often used when he illustrated and explained the wonders and challenges of this life. There were times when Pastor Probasco’s sermon provoked uncontrollable bursts of laughter and other times when the tears flowed down our cheeks and there was not a dry eye in the sanctuary. All glory and honor was given to God. Through the trials of his illness, he not only us taught how to live and love one another he taught how to die – die to our self and focus on the Creator.

Until he drew his last breath, Pastor Probasco made the pain and suffering of his illness a living testimony. In the midst of his tribulation, he stressed that he had no complaints and that God is faithful. He praised and thanked God for his goodness and mercy and let people know that “in order to live again, one must shed this physical body. This world is not our home!” Elder Robert Nelson Probasco, Sr. made his transition the morning of March 12, 2014.

Pastor Probasco was preceded in death by his oldest son (Dana Lyn Probasco). He leaves to mourn—First Lady Leslie B. Probasco; his children, Darla Nelson Probasco-Canda (John), Janel Alexandra Probasco, Robert Nelson Probasco Jr., Celeste Bernier Artharee (Hasan); grandchildren, Damien J. Lucas, Brandi Nycole Probasco-Canda, Breanna Lynne Probasco-Canda, Brook Alexandria Probasco-Canda, Bryce Jonathan Nelson Canda, Tehya-Marie Brielle Canda; great grandchildren: Jaya Danae Mitchell, and Zaire Alexander Williams; great grandchildren: T’Keyah Marie Lynne Lucas, T’Karah Lonnie Anne Lucas, K’Torrah jRose Lee; siblings: Gwendolyn Richardson (Randy), Carolyn Marie Leonard, Kelley Michael Probasco, Bishop Richard Allen Probasco (Patrishia Eliece); numerous cousins, nieces and nephews; his life-long friend “brother” Larry Bass; his maternal aunt, Rev. Dr. Janny Ellen Theresa Lane; as well as the members of First AME Zion Church and others who were touched through his religious, professional and community affiliations.

Worth noting: In the early evening, just before 8:00 pm, as Pastor Probasco’s remains were being rolled out of Hopewell Hospice by the mortuary attendant … as the door was opened, a flock of Song Birds literally began to SING (not chirp). They continued to sing until the door of the hearse was closed. Then without warning, the Song Birds immediately ascended in unison up into the dark sky. What a wonderful acknowledgement of a life well-lived and a job well done!

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Robert Nelson Probasco Sr. Scholarship Fund established at First A.M.E. Zion Church, 109 N. Skidmore St., Portland, OR 97217.



Born: August 11, 1947
Place of Birth: Portland, Oregon
Death: March 12, 2014
Place of Death: Portland, Oregon


Leslie Probasco, Spouse
Darla Nelson Probasco-Canda, Daughter
Janel Alexandra Probasco, Daughter
Celeste Bernier Probasco Artharee, Daughter
Robert Nelson Probasco, Jr., Son
Gwendolyn Richardson, Sister
Carolyn Marie Leonard, Sister
Kelley Michael Probasco, Brother
Richard Allen Probasco, Brother
10 Grandchildren, 4 Great Grandchildren


Funeral Service

Saturday March 22, 2014, 11:00 AM at New Song Community Church
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