Robert Lee Nobles – everyone called him Bob – was first and foremost, “a people person.”

That’s according to Dan Roseland, owner of Sonoma Chevrolet, formerly known as Nobles Chevrolet, the business Roseland bought in 2006, a couple of years after Bob Nobles ostensibly retired.

Dan Roseland knew Bob Nobles very well because for most of the past seven years, until very close to the end of his life, Nobles continued to show up for work, almost every day.

“He did everything,” Roseland says, “He would help us clean, help sweep up, shuttle customers, he was even in here selling cars for me. He had a gift for people pleasing, he knew what it took to accommodate folks.”

Bob Nobles also had a gift for giving. An athlete, golfer and ardent sports fan, Nobles supported youth sports, was a Little League coach and hosted endless car washes for school groups and sports teams.

And every year he donated a car to a graduating senior at Sonoma Valley High School’s Grad Night.

Roseland, who has continued the tradition, adds that Bob Nobles’ generosity went deeper still.

“He was my business mentor,” said Roseland, “but more than that, he’s the only reason I’m here. He did some things to help carry me through the economic days of hell. He got me through the tough times. And he was here, every day, rain or shine.”

Roseland, who is no slouch himself when it comes to the car business, says of Nobles, “He was a sharp fellow. Sharp with numbers, and he had a Johnny Carson wit, quick with a line. People buy cars from people they like, and Bob’s thing was, they liked him.”

Roseland says Nobles opened the door for him to the Sonoma community. “He introduced me to everyone in town, one at a time. He loved to tell stories, he loved to talk to people, and he made sure people were accommodated in every way.

Roseland draws a clear distinction between small-town car dealers and big-city dealers. Small-town dealers, he explains, are relational. Their sales are based on relationships. Big-city dealers are transactional, their sales are strictly based on the details of the transaction.

“Bob was all about relationships,” Roseland said. “He was all about people.”

Born and raised in Alabama, Bob Nobles was a Navy veteran who moved to California after military service and bought what would become Nobles Chevrolet in 1975. In 2002, the dealership was named Business of the Year by the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Bob Nobles died peacefully on Jan. 25, in Sonoma, and celebration of his life will be held at Sonoma Chevrolet this Saturday, Feb. 1, from 11 a.m. to

3 p.m.