” Are you going to be okay..are you going to be able to do it?”
” I have to be okay..Bob would expect it and so would his viewers…somehow..I will pay him the tribute he deserves”
This was an excerpt from my conversation with Tony Grace just before the 6 o’clock news last night…a hallowed time I would normally never disturb him. As soon as I heard the news though , I had to call him to make sure he was okay. He’s become such a good friend over the years and my concern for him crossed the normally understood boundaries.
Surprisingly, he picked up the phone…all he said was “TD…it’s very quiet here in the newsroom” ..and it was all I could do to get a handle on my emotions. Tony was very close to Bob and had gone to visit him in palliative care a number of times when he suddenly fell ill only a month ago. I knew this would be one of the hardest newscasts Tony had ever had to deliver but as I knew he would..he paid tribute to his friend and mentor with dignity and class. The celebration of Bob’s life will continue tonight at 6 on CTV Barrie. I know I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Bob’s death wasn’t a surprise to me, Tony had made me aware of the situation just over a week ago…that Bob was in his final days. He asked me to keep it under wraps and of course I complied. It wasn’t that he was trying to shut the viewers out, they were just worried that letting everyone know would bring on an onslaught of visitors and Bob didn’t have the strength for it. He was beloved…he deserved to be beloved..
No matter how prepared you are however for someone’s death, it still landed with a blow when I heard the news officially. I’ve known Bob for over 20 years but I feel like I’ve known him all my life. Growing up in Brampton, I always watched him deliver the weather on CKVR, he was like a member of our family. A real celebrity to me.
I first met Bob in person at a media event at a local restaurant. I had just been hired at CKBB/B101 and I had only been there a few months. He came over to our table and introduced himself. I was so star struck and flustered to be meeting him in face to face that I ended up walking out of the restaurant with a very expensive looking steak knife in my purse…I was too embarrassed to take it back so I kept it…and every time I look at it..I think of Bob…please don’t report me to the police…the restaurant is still thriving so I don’t think the missing steak knife has affected the bottom line too much:)
Bob could not have been nicer to me or more gracious. Sensing I was nervous…he immediately put me at ease by telling me stories about he had also started HIS radio career in Barrie with CKBB. He spun yarns and told wonderful stories that gave me my first real appreciation for the history of the radio station I had been hired at. He made me realize what an honour it was to work in those hallowed halls… where so many of the greats had started their careers. I was so impressed and so touched that he would take the time to chat with little old me.
As the years wore on, through my work, I came into contact with Bob several more times. My former co-host Jamie and I were guests in Bob’s Garden more times than I can count to chat about community events that we were involved in. No matter how many times I chatted with him though, I never quite lost the sense of awe I had over him. I think it was because he lived up to everything I thought he was before I had met him and we can say that about so few celebrities.
As I got to know Bob a little better, he talked to me about his love of flying. He talked to everybody about his love of flying. During one of our conversations about it, he asked me if I would like to go flying with him. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of flying, I thought it would be a cool opportunity so I said “sure…why not?”.
Much to my surprise, the phone rang at my home a few weeks later and it was Bob. He said it was a perfect day for flying and told me to get dressed and meet him at the airport. Unfortunately, I was on my way to a work event and I couldn’t go. I promised him I would in the near future though.
I think it was a few weeks after that that I was talking to K.C Colby from CTV Barrie and told him about Bob’s offer. A horrified look came over K.C’s face when I told him. He literally yelled at me..”DON”T YOU EVER GO FLYING WITH BOB! He’s crashed his plane four times!!”. I laughed so hard at his reaction that tears flowed down my face…but I took his advice. My mother would have never forgiven me.
Bob was a risk taker though. He had more strength and courage than anyone I knew. How many people do you know that would…after their second battle with cancer..would follow it up by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? As if he hadn’t climbed enough mountains…but he did it…and he raised money for other people suffering while he was at it.
Why was Bob so magical? Why do we all feel like we lost a member of our family yesterday? Because Bob let us in. Bob was real. Bob really cared about you…about me..and about the people he worked with. In a world filled with fake celebrities famous for not doing anything of note, Bob was the real deal. He was everything he appeared to be and more.
Although he had retired from TV..I felt comforted knowing that he was out there somewhere enjoying his retirement…a break he so richly deserved. Now…he IS out there somewhere…in his favourite garden…high in the sky.
Thank you Bob. Thank you for the being a part of my family….a friend…a mentor…and a colleague to me and so many others. Your star is at home now…