Saturday, January 12, 2019

Remembering a Legend

Our friend Bob passed away on Thursday night after a courageous battle with ALS.

The first memory I have of Bob was him coming over before the holidays to make Christmas cookies with my parents at some point in the mid to late 1970s.  Soon afterward, "Bob is coming over" changed to "Bob and Paula are coming over" and I have hazy memories of being put to bed before the adults enjoyed a few beers and the latest episodes of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.  There are pictures of my parents along with Bob and Paula in each of our family photo albums throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Like my parents and my sister, my grandparents and Harry Kalas, Bob was ubiquitous while I was growing up.  We'd go over to Bob and Paula's house for dinners, for birthday celebrations, for Miss America pageant viewings and later when they had kids of their own, we all traveled to Walt Disney World together several times.  Much to the delight (and embarrassment) of Bob's kids, Beth, Amy and Andrew, he seemed to have an uncanny knack of getting selected for anything at Disney World involving costumed audience participation.

Bob and my Dad worked together in a junior high school guidance office for decades.  I visited the guidance office before, during and after my time in junior high and Bob was always smiling and welcoming.  He was inquisitive about what I had been up to and encouraged me to keep up the good work.  He usually had a book or a movie or a TV show recommendation, and those recommendations never failed me.  He was always dressed well and whenever I was dressed up for something he'd point at me and say, "Looking sharp, Jimmy."

I can't remember the exact conversation I had with Bob after my Dad got sick and passed away, but I remember his words were calming and hopeful.  He knew what to say and how to say it, with the perfect mix of sincerity and humor, and that will always stick with me.

He was an accomplished artist and two of his oil paintings hang in our house.  When I had kids of my own, he continued the same practice he had established with me of asking them how they were doing and encouraging them to keep working hard.  He invited them both over for painting lessons and he'd send Doug coded letters in the mail.  At each of their birthday parties, as guests would arrive, the boys would anxiously ask, "When are Bob and Paula getting here?"

Bob was a diehard Phillies fan, and even the dreadful play from the past few seasons couldn't dim his spirits or his belief they were just a few games away from turning everything around.

I laughed a lot when I was around Bob.  We all did.  Paula, his kids, his grandkids and his extended family know how special he was and those memories and those smiles won't fade.  We'll all continue to tell stories about Bob, just like we do with my Dad, and when we tell those stories we'll smile and laugh and remember our friend.


Fuji said...

Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. This post was a nice tribute to him.

Unknown said...

Wow, Jim, great tribute. I was one of your Dad's students, inspired by him and your Mom...both impacting my career/life choices in a big way. You were blessed to have them, and Big Bob and Paula. Big Bob did the same with me my whole life: How are YOU, What are you doing? How is your son? What are you doing? And, quite rare, he wanted to know the answers! He listened. What I said mattered to him, even when I was a confused teenager. And, that made all the difference for me, and countless others. What a legacy. He will rest in peace, and God help his heaven mates: "No, really, tell me what you have been doing...." Twink, aka Linda Russell

Unknown said...

I worked with Jim and Bob for 5 years at MHS. Both were, and will always remain, two of my favorite people.

Steve F. said...

That's a beautiful tribute to someone who was clearly a great human being. RIP.

Jim said...

Linda and Nilsa - Thank you so much for posting your comments here! I sincerely appreciate the kind words.