Sunday, October 23, 2016

Goodbye, Bob

On Saturday, many friends and neighbors gathered at the Celo Friends Meeting to remember Bob Barrus, who died last week at the mighty age of 98. This picture of Bob and Dot came from Gracie Barrus's Facebook page (thanks, Gracie). They were also holding hands when Bob took his last breath.

At the memorial, many people spoke of Bob's gentle character and his kindness. There was also talk about how much he taught to so many people. (Pancakes with cottage cheese and applesauce were also mentioned.) Bob was a teacher: he taught in the public school system, he taught at Arthur Morgan School (which he and Dot helped start), and then he touched the lives of hundreds of young people at Camp Celo, where he was a manager, a mentor, a song and dance leader, and a handyman. (The Camp Celo staff who take care of all sorts of practical matters are still called "Bob Jobbers.") At camp, he taught people how to milk a cow, how to fix things, how to identify plants, how to drive stick-shift, how to resolve conflicts, how to be a responsible person, how to treat everyone with respect, and how to appreciate the beauty of the day.

Bob kept track of the interests and activities of generations of his family, his neighbors, and countless Camp Celo and Friends Meeting folks. He was an extraordinarily pleasant person to talk to. Whenever I ran into Bob, it was easy to pause and have a chat, as it was likely to be the best moment of the day.

I particularly remember two conversations. Once, after having listening to several friends worry about whether too many people were moving here, I asked Bob what he thought about this. He was quiet for a few seconds and then said, "I'm happy to see anyone come here as long as they want to make a contribution to the community." This struck me as such a practical and open attitude, and it's stayed with me as a constant reminder to always try to make my own contribution.

Another time we were talking, I don't remember why, about how you should present yourself to other people. "Someone once told me," he said, "that it's always better to be discovered than to be found out." Another constant reminder.

The last time I saw him, early this past summer, he could hardly hear and was using a funny device that had headphones attached to a battery-powered amplifier with a little microphone sticking out of it. He asked me to hold the device and talk into the microphone while he asked me a some very specific questions about something he knew I was involved with. Communicating was a struggle, but he was still interested and still thinking about things. Another lesson from Bob.

He also taught me how to back up a trailer without jack-knifing it.

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