By Tim Hayes
This past week, two gentlemen passed away. Bob and Bill. One in South Carolina, one in Pennsylvania. Two gentlemen who helped to shape a boy, and later a young man, into the person he is – I am – today.
Bob was born to schmooze, sell, and raise a little hell. When I was a kid growing up, any trip to Bob’s house guaranteed a good time. With his joyous, booming voice running a non-stop monologue, punctuated by his show-stoppingly contagious laugh, his company never slowed down, let up, or let go of you.
An afternoon with Bob always felt like a day at Kennywood, riding the Thunderbolt roller coaster over and over without ever getting out. Thrilling, exciting, loud, senses on overload, more fun than you could handle – but every now and then it felt great afterward to get home, take a couple of aspirins and a nap.
Bob taught me that grown-ups could enjoy life, too. A free spirit, open to damn near anything, did not have to be limited to kids and teenagers. Bob proved that time and time again, and I loved him for it.
Bob was my uncle. One of my Dad’s brothers. And one of my all-time favorite people. He suffered a stroke some years ago that took away his speech, save for one word, “Yup!” When we learned of his passing this week, you want to know the first thing that sprang to my mind? Uncle Bob talking St. Peter’s ear off at the Pearly Gates, so happy to be able to spin his tales and bust out laughing once again.
I met Bill later in life, while still in the process of earning my bachelor’s degree in journalism. Early in my senior year, Bill agreed to meet with me at the local town newspaper, to take a look at my article clippings from the student newspaper and from the major metropolitan daily where I had interned the summer prior.
Whether he liked my writing, my brimming-yet-unearned confidence, or some of both, Bill agreed to take me on as “stringer,” or part-time contributing reporter for the paper. Over that senior year, I accumulated a stack of news and feature stories under my professional by-line – required ammunition to find a full-time job after college.
One day in early May – about two weeks before graduation, when I had absolutely zero job leads in hand, and a July wedding rapidly approaching – the wall-mounted telephone rang in my off-campus apartment. It was Bill, calling from the newsroom.
“You have a job lined up yet, Hayes?” he asked. When I told him no, I didn’t, he said, “Do you remember Nick from the newsroom?” Nick had been a longtime fixture around the editor’s horseshoe desk. A decent older fellow, I guess. I never had much recourse to interact with him, but yes, I remembered Nick. “Well, Nick had a heart attack and died today. You want a job?”
And with that stroke of luck – pretty bad for poor Nick, pretty good for me – Bill launched me on a career in writing that has taken some twists and turns along the path, but that has proven to be such a wonderful way to make a living.
As managing editor, Bill ran his newsroom by talking straight, guiding, pushing, coaching his writers. Insisting on accuracy and fairness in our reporting. He wrote a column every Friday featuring tidbits on interesting personalities and occurrences in that small town that readers absolutely devoured. He understood his community, his newspaper’s role, and his own sense of purpose. A newsman’s newsman. I couldn’t have asked for a better first boss.
So, from instilling lessons about enjoying life to lessons about living with integrity, two very important gentlemen left us this week. Of Bob and Bill, rest in peace, fellows. And thanks. For everything.
Copyright 2015 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting