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Bob Falkenburg, Tennis Hall of Famer Turned Entrepreneur, Dies at 95

He founded South America’s first fast food and ice cream outlets in 1952 in the Copacabana neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, calling them Bob’s. His mini-chain consisted of about a dozen outlets when the Falkenburgs, having moved back to Southern California in 1970, sold Bob’s to Nestlé’s Libby operation in 1974. Bob’s has had several ownerships since then and has expanded to more than 1,000 outlets in Brazil and beyond South America as well.

Robert Falkenburg was born on Jan. 29, 1926, in Manhattan and grew up in Los Angeles. His father, Eugene, an engineer, and his mother, Marguerite (Crooks) Falkenburg, played in amateur tennis events, and Bob began wielding a racket at private clubs when he was 10 years old.

He won a junior tennis tournament to the Bel-Air Country Club in 1937 and, while at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, won the U.S. Interscholastic singles title in 1942; he also teamed with his brother to win the doubles title that year. He was later a fine amateur golfer and won the Brazilian amateur championship three times.

After serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II, Falkenburg won the 1946 intercollegiate singles and double championships while at the University of Southern California.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by his son, Robert, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, according to The A.P. Both Tex and Jinx (her birth name was Eugenia; her mother provided her nickname) died in 2003.

Describing Falkenburg’s stunning final-set comeback at Wimbledon in 1948, The New York Times reported that “Wimbledon championship fans have seen far better tennis than today’s match, but they’ve rarely witnessed a more exciting one.”

As for Falkenburg’s serve that ended the match, 7-5, The Times related how “there was one clear loud pop.”

“Bromwich stood flatfooted as the service ace whizzed by him,” The Times wrote. “When a few minutes later, the Duchess of Kent up in the Royal Box presented the coveted trophy to Falkenburg, he looked as surprised as he was pleased.”

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