My friend Bob died Wednesday. I first met Bob forty-seven years ago when he was hired to teach in the school where I was employed. The staircase from the first floor in the old building landed on the second floor in front of Bob's classroom. An abrupt ell to the left, and one was on the long hallway. My classroom was first on the right. Given this geography, you will understand how it was that Bob and I patrolled the passing periods together at the head of the stairway and the junction of the halls.
Bob stayed with us for a mere two years, then he returned to his hometown school where he had previously taught, and where he ultimately finished his career in public education. But our friendship continued. I have spent time in his home, and we exchanged written correspondance over the years-- pen and paper, you understand, for Bob did not possess a computer, and in fact he got his first cell phone when a neighbor purchased it for him a year ago.
While Robert and I shared many principles and beliefs, we often found opportunities to enlighten one another. What I am saying is that we conducted true conversation in which we were able to share our innermost thoughts and ideas. This is extremely difficult for me to write, for it keeps going through my mind that I've precious few such friends, and this one will no longer converse with me.
Bob and his wife Phyllis lived on the farm, the homeplace where Bob was born and grew up about eight miles from town. Whenever this couple came into town to conduct any business, or just to pick up some library books, the two of them were always dressed to the nines, looked like they had just stepped out of the bandbox, so to speak. Even during the twenty-five year struggle with Bob's various cancers, they never let their sartorial guard down!
During the course of his final few months I visited him in the hospital or nursing home, or his residence in assisted living facility. His medical team played roulette with Bob and these facilities, and fortunately for visitors, they were all located within a few hundred yards of each other. When I last called a few days ago, he was clearly on the final mile of his journey, but he did open one eye, muttered, "Hi, Dave. Thanks for coming." Then he tuned out again.
Sagamore of the Wabash, Honorary Lieutenant Governor, Distinguished Hoosier, humanitarian, friend, Bob will be laid to rest Sunday afternoon about a mile from his home.
Robert was a true friend and will be sorely missed by this old man.
Robert Cooper Orr, 91, of Tipton died at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, June 20, 2012