SAN ANTONIO – Kiolbassa Smoked Meats former chief executive officer, Robert Kiolbassa, passed away on July 20. He was 84. 

Robert took over the family business when he was 21 after his father Rufus fell ill with brain cancer. His son Michael Kiolbassa has worked as president of the company since 1999.

Kiolbassa released a statement on social media following Robert’s death and shared their memories of the hard work he put into the company throughout his life. 

“He started early, 5 a.m. most days, and worked until everything was done,” the statement said of Robert. “Sometimes, he wouldn’t get home until after his children had gone to bed. During the busy weeks of the year (Easter and Mother’s Day, especially), he would go down to the Kiolbassa plant in the middle of the night to take sausage out of the smokehouse.”

The family-owned business has been located on San Antonio’s west side since it was founded in 1949. 

During his tenure, Robert grew Kiolbassa Smoked Meats into a well-known brand around San Antonio and the rest of the country.

“Robert was an engineer without an engineering degree. He could literally take apart anything and put it back together,” the company continued. “Before he expanded our business into cattle and hog processing, he was the maintenance man in the company. He could fix anything and often spent the weekends working on the machines so that they would be ready for production on Monday.”

Throughout his later years, Robert helped define the company’s future vision in late 2012 and developed the purpose statement, “We exist to enrich lives.”

Kiolbassa Smoked Meats showed its support during the pandemic with its community program Links of Love. The initiative pledged to donate 10,000 lbs of its new Links of Love sausage each month during the pandemic. 

Robert is survived by his wife Linda, children Kathy, Michael, Julie and Amy, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.