Died: November 12, 2010
Remarks at Bob’s Memorial Service – Dec. 4, 2010
I have just heard much about Bob and the wonderful things that he has accomplished at RPI over the past number of years. I’d like to give you a clearer picture of Bob as he was back in his college days.
Bob was the first person I met when I arrived in Williamstown. A shy Southern transplant from Richmond, Virginia, I immediately noticed that we had significant differences in our outlooks on religion, politics — pretty much everything. Bob challenged my way of life as I had known it up until that time.
But I also saw that we had several significant traits in common — a zest for life and a sense of humor, and we soon become fast friends and roommates for the remainder of our time at Williams.
Bob also had a love and respect of family that I admired, and when I couldn’t get home that first Thanksgiving, Bob took me home with him to meet his family. What a treat that was.
Of course, I had already had an introduction to Bob’s family earlier in the fall. Bob told me that he had a sister, Libby, who was a few years younger, and he proposed that he fix me up with her. I suggested that that might not be such a good idea — what if we didn’t get along, how would that affect our roommate status, etc. Not to be deterred, the next day I arrived back from classes to find Bob sitting in our room with a wig on, proclaiming, “This is what you’d be getting.”
Libby (sitting in the front row), I’m happy to report that you are far better looking than your brother decked out in a wig.
Bob was good in languages, and we made a deal that I would teach him “Southern” in return for his teaching me French. The only problem was that French was held at 8 AM on Saturday mornings and I was neither a fan of 8 AM classes or week-end classes, so that didn’t last long.
Bob was also great in sciences (his major was psychology), and he was my lab partner in psychology our sophomore year. Since my interest in psychology seemed to be waning (I was an English major), Bob advised that he had a neat project for our lab experiment. Knowing of my love of parties, Bob suggested that we study the effect of alcohol on the sex drive of mice.
After we had injected the mice one afternoon with either alcohol or a placebo, we were scheduled to go to the lab at midnight that night to test the results. However, that was the night that the entire East Coast was exposed to a power outage for many hours. We and the mice were left in the dark to our own devices. I assume the mice had more fun than we did.
To this day I continued to tell Bob that God was getting back at us for such a sick experiment.
Bob also was a mentor in certain sports — skiing in particular. Coming from the South, I had never been skiing before, and Bob was determined to teach me the necessities of the sport. We started on the small hills of the Taconic Golf Course, and when I became reasonably proficient at that (i.e. falling down only every other run), he told me I was ready for the big time. We went to Jiminy Peak or Brodie Mountain (I don’t remember which, probably because I am still trying to repress the memory), and Bob, after pleadings from me to start on the baby slope, proceeded to take me to the top of the mountain and send me down a black diamond slope on my first run. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and it was a while before I got on skis again.
At the beginning of our sophomore year, I told Bob that I wanted to create a party atmosphere in our room, and since I spent all my summers on the shore at Virginia Beach, we needed water and sand.
“No problem,” Bob said.
We were soon making a midnight raid on the Taconic Golf Course, borrowing sand from the sand traps and carting it back to our dorm room in those wonderful boxes that our sheets and towels were weekly delivered in from Rudnick Laundry.
The ocean was hard to create, so we did the next best thing by building a small lake with cement and filling it with water (Bob even added salt to make me feel at home), with the Taconic sand forming a beach in front.
I think that Bob and I were years ahead in creating the first man-cave, and boy, did it work. When word spread of how we continued to score with our dates, we were deluged with requests to rent the beach out on weekends.
When we moved out the next summer, the college had to chisel the cement off the tile floor. They of course sent a bill to our parents to take care of the damage. Mrs. Ingalls (in front row), I hope your bill wasn’t as high as the one that was sent to my parents.
On spring breaks and in the summer, Bob and I traveled to Florida, the Bahamas and Europe, seeing all the sights from the top of the Alps to the underground salt mines in Austria/Germany. Boy, did we have fun.
After college, we kept in touch, of course. Bob went to graduate school in psychology in Storrs, Connecticut, and I went to law school in Charlottesville, Virginia. We carefully planned that first get-together with his then-fiancée Naomi and my then-fiancée Jaye, and couldn’t wait to meet each other’s significant others.
The problem was that a leopard doesn’t change his spots, and you guessed it, Bob took Naomi, a novice skier, to the top of Sugarloaf and sent her spinning down a double black-diamond. My wife and I were coming up on the chair lift and I can still remember Naomi standing in the middle of the rather steep slope, yelling profanities at Bob when she couldn’t move, either because of the giant moguls or the sheer terror, probably both.
Of course Naomi forgave him, and we all reveled at each other’s weddings. The ski event became an annual affair, as we met each year at Harry Tether’s ski house in New Hampshire to renew old times and create new ones.
Bob taught me much about life. Two weeks before his death, Harry, Bryan Hickman and I traveled to his home in Troy, New York to see our old friend. There he was, practically on his death bed, yet the perfect host, upbeat and enthusiastic, still learning new tricks on his computer, and hosting us at his dinner table with pizza from his favorite pizza parlor in Troy. There was no indication in his demeanor that this would be our last supper.
Good-bye, good friend. Wherever you are, you will, I am sure, continue to meet and entertain new friends with that same great sense of humor that you first showed me in Williamstown almost fifty years ago.
Remarks at Bob’s Memorial Service – Dec. 4, 2010
In 1966, Fort Lauderdale was THE place to go for spring vacation. It was our junior year at Williams College and we were determined to experience this phenomenon. In those days not many students had a car, so I persuaded my mother to lend us hers and the four of us – Bob, Terry Sands, Harry Tether, and I – set forth in her Chevy Corvair – a clear signal to all the girls on the beach that we were Unsafe at Any Speed. As luck would have it, we did meet some girls on the beach the first day and managed to bum 2 or 3 days lodging at the home of one of them. Somewhere along the way we learned, perhaps from the girl’s mother who wanted us out of her house, that you could take a puddle jumper to Nassau in the Bahamas very cheaply, and the money we had saved on lodging was sufficient for the trip.
We stashed enough cash in the glove compartment of the car to get us back home and flew off to the aptly named Paradise Island. Where to stay? We had planned to sleep on the beach, but the police were not allowing it, so we hiked up into the slum area and knocked on doors until an elderly couple – almost as old as we are now – agreed to rent us a room – with only one bed – so we slept in our sleeping bags, two on the mattress and two on the springs for the grand sum of $10 for the week.
We had a fabulous time, renting 2 motor bikes one day and a ski boat another until on our last day our money was exhausted. As the taxi pulled into the airport, we gave the driver the last of our pooled cash and went inside.
The airport was just one big room, with a counter on one side attended by a single gate agent. We happily presented our tickets, at which point the gate agent, in his finest Island British accent, informed us that there was a $3 per person departure tax. We were flabbergasted. No one had alerted us to this and we quite literally did not have a single cent among the four of us. Nor were credit cards known to students in those days. I did have a blank check from the Central Trust Bank of Rochester, NY, but was told in no uncertain terms that it was of no value whatsoever in the Bahamas.
Now I was an economics major and a strong believer in man as a rational animal. I set forth to explain in clear and logical terms that not only did we have no money with us, but that surely my bank account had more than $12 in it and the Central Trust Bank was a stable and reliable institution – it even had the word TRUST in its name. But my logical arguments were of no avail.
Bob, on the other hand, was a psychology major. While I was turning redder and redder trying to get the stubborn agent to accept my check, Bob had quietly unrolled his sleeping bag, opened his suitcase and was getting Terry and Harry to help him move all the furniture in the airport to one side of the room and roll out their sleeping bags, too. Then off came his shoes, then his socks, next his shirt and as he held up his pajamas and was starting to loosen his belt, the agent, who was watching this over my shoulder with growing concern, was convulsed with apoplexy and shot out from behind the counter. “What are you doing?” he screamed.
Bob, in his ever calm way, replied, “Since we have no money to go back to town and you won’t let us on the plane, I guess we live here now!”
My check was immediately pronounced acceptable and we were ushered out to the plane post haste.
This adventure set the tone for a life-long friendship. We went our separate ways to graduate school and then I went into the army and lost touch with Bob for a few years. It wasn’t long before we started gathering for winter ski weekends, and over a period of many years our friendships deepened and matured. My memories of these long years of friendship are not so much of events, but rather of just enjoying Bob and Naomi’s company. My tendency to make loud, bold assertions about the state of the world was quietly answered by Bob’s asking a question, mildly challenging what I had said, or adding information or a point of view — often bringing me up short and making me think more deeply about what was being discussed – always in a pleasant way that extended the conversation rather than cutting it off. So my fondest memories are of riding up ski lifts or sitting in front of the fire in the evening, enjoying his observations, thoughts and humor.
My wife Beth has a vivid memory of riding up the chair lift with Bob early in her acquaintance with him and being fascinated to learn of his knowledge of mosses and lichens. As a botany major, she was familiar with their life cycles, but she had also learned that few people could identify them with certainty. Bob could. It was her first inkling of the wide scope of his interests – and also meant that she vied to get more time on the lift with him.
All my memories of Bob are happy, including the last one, despite the tragic circumstances. Exactly one week before he died, he and Naomi welcomed Suzanne and Harry Tether, Terry Sands and me into their home for what turned into a 3-hour chance to reminisce and enjoy each other’s company over a meal. Bob remained as upbeat, interesting, humorous, and unflappable as always – so I left him not with the image of an invalid, but of the same vibrant life-long friend whose memory I will treasure always.
Remarks at Bob’s Memorial Service – Dec. 4, 2010
These remarks honoring Bob briefly describe the 45-year friendship between Bob and my husband Harry Tether, and include both Naomi and myself. Regretfully, a long-planned business trip outside the United States prevents Harry from being here today. He is definitely with us in spirit.
The last few difficult years for Naomi and Bob have been marked by her devotion, dedication and strength, and the equanimity and grace with which Bob lived with his disease. There was never a hint of self-pity, just a desire to continue to live his life as normally as possible. All the while he tried new procedures or therapies that offered a chance for remission or cure.
Naomi said she loves to hear stories from Bob’s friends. You may be surprised by the sophomoric pranks that pre-dated Bob, the mature, dedicated, calm professional. The constants are his qualities of curiosity, adventure, enthusiasm, and determination.
Bob and Harry met at Williams College in those ancient days of fraternities, single-sex education, and road trips to “girls” colleges when the New York State drinking age was 18.
Harry says he owes Bob big-time because on one of those fall road trips, Bob’s blind date was ME. On that warm, sunny fall day, Bob and Harry loaded a classmate’s aging canoe on the roof of Terry Sands’ purple and yellow Nash Rambler (note the Williams color scheme). They drove to Skidmore in search of dates interested in a booze-canooze on Saratoga Lake. I ended up in the bow with Bob. Somehow we survived the potent whiskey sours served from a wine skin, and the increasingly leaky, over-loaded canoe. There were six of us in the canoe and only one sponge for bailing. Oh, and no life preservers.
On the midnight return trip to Williamstown over treacherous back roads, the Rambler stopped in a churchyard just short of a huge maple tree, with the canoe hanging off the car’s passenger side. Surviving those early adventures was a great bonding experience with Bob.
Terry, Bob and Harry travelled for a couple of months in Europe after college graduation. Even in those days of Europe on $5 or $10 a day, the trio had tight budgets. One memorable night in England, they found a construction site and curled up in individual sections of new sewer pipe laid out for future installation.
More luxurious accommodations were provided by their Eurail Pass. To save a few lira, francs or marks, they travelled on overnight trains between major cities. The glass–enclosed first class compartments held six seats, three on each side. The seats could slide down to form a flat sleeping surface. Bob purchased a shepherd’s pipe, which he played incessantly while waiting for the train to leave the station. This little mischief discouraged any additional travelers from sharing their compartment, giving the three musketeers a chance to stretch out for a good night’s rest.
The sometimes zany and always fun adventures continued after college, graduate school and marriage. In San Miguel de Allende’s last affordable hotel room we acrobatically swatted pesky mosquitoes all night long in a shared room with two shabby, narrow twin beds. Other good memories include breaking cross country trails near Williamstown after a thaw and freeze and thinking it was like skiing on large potato chips; downhill skiing at Aspen, Alta or in New England; arriving home soaking wet after whitewater canoeing on Vermont’s White River — where Naomi had envisioned placidly reading the New York Times while the men paddled — and exploring in the Adirondacks. Bob’s even disposition and “Let’s do it” attitude made him such a good sport and a good friend.
More recently we met in the Ingalls’ beloved Adirondacks. Consulting the guidebooks the men chose Pitchoff Mountain for the day’s hike. How did they miss the descriptions of many false peaks and the degree of difficulty? It was that summer when Bob was experiencing breathing difficulties. Occasionally as we trudged along the trail, Bob became breathless and sat or lay down. Far from any emergency facilities or supplies, we feared the worst. But after a brief rest, Bob just popped back up and said, “Let’s go.” And it was on to the next peak. That steadfast demeanor sums up the way Bob lived.
At our final get together, one week before his death, Bob presided as host at the dining table and said goodbye to us from his bed. That night, he gave us the gift of a final view of his own strong and even temper. In spite of the circumstances, Bob was himself. We will remember him in that way.
We love you, Bob. We love you, Naomi.