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Partial to Home: Remembering Bob

 

Birney Imes

 

 

The characteristic that probably best defined Bob McIntyre was his willingness to help others. Plenty of other adjectives apply: He was smart, kind, curious and very funny. People loved him. The goodness in him was plain to see. 

 

While news of his death last week at 55 was not a complete surprise, it came as a jolt. At his funeral Saturday, a family member said about Bob, "He may have had his demons, but he kept them to himself." Bob's most evident demon, and likely the one that killed him, was alcohol.  

 

Bob was of that indefinable class of people who find nurture in Southern small towns: gifted underachievers, who manage to quietly live their lives their own way.  

 

He seemed destined to become a plumber. He came from a family of plumbers. Bob Raymond recalled how Bob was voted "Best Plumber" in The Dispatch. "That's because he never sent anybody a bill," Raymond said. 

 

In his heart of hearts, though, Bob wanted to be a fireman, an EMT, a close friend told me. 

 

He saved a little girl's life once, a victim of a car crash near Motley where he was living at the time. The child was small and Bob was at a loss as to how to resuscitate her. He called a friend for guidance. Use your thumbs, the friend counseled. Bob did, and it worked. 

 

Roger Larsen, then publisher of The Packet, reported the story. The hero asked Roger not to use his name. That was Bob, quiet, unobtrusive, ready to help. 

 

Talking about Bob, a loved one told me, "He would have done anything for me." Then, after a moment: "He would have done that for anybody." 

 

About Bob, Leigh Allison Phillips wrote on Facebook: "When my dad (Ed Phillips) died, Bob was there to help my brother morning until night for four days to build his coffin. He stayed until my brother called it a night. He was the sweetest thing in the world and would do anything for anybody. ..." 

 

"Bob helped me a lot when my father died," said Rosemary Robinson, a friend since high school. "He came out in the heat of the summer and cleaned out my dad's RV. He brought over food." 

 

Bob knew stuff. He knew about nature. He knew how to fix things. He knew about medicine. He was a perfect-pitch storyteller. His knowledge of Columbus' families and their connections was exhaustive. 

 

"He could talk to you on so many levels other than sports," said Bobby Garner, a longtime friend. "That crowd we hung out with (at the Princess) their only interest is sports or occasionally, because of their age, their ailment of the day. With Bob, you didn't have to go through all that. Bob could talk to you on an intelligent level about any subject. We gonna miss old Bob." 

 

He didn't read. Not much anyway. The Dispatch and The Packet cover to cover and Bon Appetit, the subscription a Christmas gift from a family member. 

 

"He never read a book, but he could have a scholarly conversation on almost any topic," said Robinson 

 

He loved animals. Most recently, he was living in a building in which a bird used the window unit air conditioner as a place for her nest and eggs. During a cold snap, Bob fashioned a heater to keep the nest warm. 

 

His curiosity about honeybees seemed to be insatiable. On days we extracted honey, Bob always showed up to help. "He loved those bees," a friend told me. As I learned while writing this column, Bob gave friends tours of our beehives. 

 

"He had what I call the 'it factor,'" said Rosemary Robinson, who has taught school in the Dallas area for 20 years. "(It's) something you rarely see in individuals. I've taught thousands and thousands of children. About every five years I tell a parent their child has the 'it factor.'" 

 

Bob never lost that special quality, Robinson said. 

 

"With him it stayed, that passion and curiosity, that zeal for life."

 

Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.

 

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