The news came to me, of all days, on Saint Patrick's Day. Bob was fiercely proud of his Irish heritage, in the most convivial way. A big bear of a man, he had a way of commanding a room if he needed to, or could stand in the background and wait. This came in handy as he wandered the world of public education. He wasn't a classroom teacher, but a network specialist: the guy who went from school to school making sure that all our kids had access to Al Gore's Internet. As the computer teacher, it was my pleasure to work with Bob for eighteen years.
Bob retired from the Oakland Unified School District at the end of last year. Bob retired from this material plane last week.
This is a shame on so many levels, but mostly for that ironic piece in which Bob was leaving his job as infrastructure specialist after all those years to follow his first love: sailing. Very few of the interactions I had with Bob did not include at least a brief discussion of his passion for the sea. Bob knew more about making computers talk to each other than anyone I know, but he wasn't really a network guy. He was a sailor.
He was known around the district for his frequent pleasure cruises, out on the bay, shepherding landlubbers he met out onto the water to feel the spray and smell the breeze. There were plenty of district employees whose first experience on the waves came on Bob's boat. It was a different part of his public service. Not that he didn't have a devotion to the work he did with cables and wires and modems, but his bottom line was the kids.
I was often the recipient of awed praise from Bob on my ability to deal with students. He told me how much he admired the way I balanced attention to children with keeping the machines in my room running. It was very flattering, but I knew that he had a mission of his own: keeping all those machines across the district connected to one another so the rest of us could do our jobs. Bob was a devoted employee of the district, and a union man, he served as shop steward and kept a busy leprechaun's agenda of keeping his managers on their toes.
And the sea under their feet.
Aloha, Bob. You sailed the seas and stomped on the Terra, and you made my life more amusing. You will be missed.