Saturday, March 26, 2011

Let me Tell you About Bob

This week, we lost my main man Bob. I have talked about him on this blog more than once, but I know I never made it clear how much Bob mattered to me. I always though I had time. I did not. It has taken me all week to try to write this and when I was almost done, it deleted and I know I cannot do it as well trying to recreate it

MT. VERNON — Robert Virgil Walsh, 92, of Mt. Vernon, passed away at 11:50 a.m. on Saturday, March 19, 2011, at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon.

Robert was born April 9, 1918, in Grayville, a son to the late Thomas Virgil and Daisy (Bisch) Walsh. He graduated college at the University of Illinois finished law school there in 1949. He settled in Mt. Vernon and chose an active career in the business of oil and gas leasing and production.

Mr. Walsh was first elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1962 and served two terms. Due to his popularity, he won re-election in 1964 on the infamous statewide “orange” ballot, also known as the “bed sheet” ballot. He was a principal sponsor of legislation to establish a bi-state airport at Lawrenceville. During the 1970s Robert was chairman of the Jefferson County Democrat Party. Representative Walsh returned to the legislature in 1977 to fill the remainder of William O’Daniel’s term.

Mr. Walsh also served as an aide to Secretary of State Paul Powell and travelled throughout the country with Powell. Many believe Powell would have easily been elected governor but for his untimely death. Robert had many interesting stories from that colorful period in Illinois politics. He later owned a race pony which, with whimsical irony, he named “Shoebox Kid.”

Mr. Walsh was a delegate to the 1976 Democrat Convention in New York City and participated in the nomination of President Jimmy Carter.

At the age of 90 years, Mr. Walsh went to Denver for the 2008 Democrat Convention where he participated in the nomination of the president and was seated in a place of honor with the Illinois Delegation.

Robert met and supported many candidates for public office. He remembered meeting President Harry Truman, Ambassador Averill Harriman, President Lyndon Johnson, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Governor Otto Kerner, Governor James Thompson, President Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, President Bill and Hilary Clinton, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, Governor Patrick Quinn and others too numerous to mention. Mr. Walsh enjoyed a warm friendship with Senator Paul and Representative Jeanne Simon.

Mr. Walsh was a World War II Veteran of the United States Army and was a member of numerous civic and fraternal organizations, including the Masonic Lodge, the American Legion, The AMVETS, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Moose Lodge and the Elks Lodge. He belonged and contributed to several organizations dedicated to the preservation of wildlife and the environment.

Robert Walsh is survived by his special friend, Mary Tonn, four grandchildren, Robin Walsh-Roberts and husband Jon and Bradley Wayne Walsh and wife Rashell, all of Cerulean, Ky., Tamara Anderson and husband Troy of Phoenix, Ariz. and Ryan Patric Walsh and wife Jerusha of St. John, Ariz.; great grandchildren, Christian Thomas, Jessy Pearl Walsh and Bradley Robert Walsh of Cerulean, Ky., Shane, Ethan and Braden Anderson of Phoenix, Ariz. and Reese and Reagen Walsh of St. John, Ariz. Other extended family includes stepson Richard Fagan and family of Ohio.

A son, Robin Walsh is previously deceased.

Prior to his passing, Robert was constantly attended to by his good friend Dr. Richard Garretson.

Robert will be sorely missed by many friends but especially by Larry Hicks, Charles and Karen Given and entire family, Leslie and Jerry Hannig, Tom and Dorothy Puckett, Gary Duncan, Sandy Edmison and Alec Duncan, in whose lives he played a special and loving part.

I met Bob when I was three when my family moved in across the street. I thought he was nice, but when I grew up and realized that he was campaigning when he brought popcorn, I felt kind of silly. Until I told him that 25 years later, and he laughed his ass off. He would come play with us in the front yard, in the leaf houses we made.

I took up with him again when I moved back home after law school. Bob had a law degree but he never practiced. He was an oil man. He ran around with a bunch of lawyers though and would turn up where I was a lot. We fell into an easy relationship like none I have ever had. I would see him at the Elks, which in our town is very much a social place. A girl can go in there on any given day and find a friend, and lots of times, for me, it was Bob.

We would talk about Illinois basketball, something we were both rabid about, and we would meet to watch the games. We would cuss and discuss every move they made, and eventually, pretty much everything else. I would tell him things I did not tell anyone else--like how I was scared about something at work, or how I felt ill equipped to do certain things, or when I did something I was super proud of that I knew most people would not get, etc. He would somehow make it better but not in a pandering sort of way. He was not a pandering sort of dude--he somehow would just cut through the crap and get right in where I needed him to, in order to make me see straight. Making him proud was a big deal to me

Some of my best memories ever were having dinner with him at the Elks, just the two of us, and talking until we were hoarse. He would drink Scotch he was not supposed to have for health reasons, and I would listen to his stories--and man, could he tell a story. They would have been great stories, even if you did not know the people he called by first name were very famous people, politicians, etc. Bob never seemed to distinguish between me and someone who was his equal, even though we were 55 years apart and I could never be the amazing person he was. Maybe that is why I loved him so much--he was one of the few people in my hometown who made me feel like a grown up instead of a little kid. When you come home to your hometown, you do not always get treated like a professional, but instead, so and so's kid, or sister, etc. Bob made me feel like a force to be reckoned with all on my own, and I do not know if anyone else in my life ever did that--and somehow he did it even while treating me like someone he had cared about since I was little. It is just hard to explain how he could do both, but he did. Just thinking of his stories makes me blush a little even thinking about it, because it was so shocking to me to learn that this larger than life character was just a regular person who told dirty jokes, and belched, and yelled at the TV. Just like the rest of us.

So Bob is gone. It breaks my heart. I hope he somehow knew that Illinois won their first round NCAA game the night before he died, and he never had to know about the whole ILL-Kansas fiasco that happened the next day. I know he knows I loved him, admired him and will miss him so much


Anonymous said...

No other comment needed.

Yours is a tribute to your great friend.

Sharing is nice

duffylou said...

Such a heartfelt tribute. He knows how much you care for him.

Shelley said...

My deepest sympathy for the loss of your friend.

mommymae said...

aw, my papa's in there. they do love him and vice versa. bob will be missed.

Amanda said...

What a nice tribute. My favorite thing about him was that he wasn't a sell-out. He lived on our street and you'd never know all the amazing things he did unless you found out from somewhere else. You just thought he was Bob.

That was beautifully written. So sweet of you.

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