Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Getting Old

No, not me.
Although I really am feeling my age a little more every day, I am referring to this business of acknowledging the death of someone I knew. Damn, I'm not THAT old!
Last Tuesday the father of one of my dearest friends passed away. He was another hometown hero, but of a different sort. I wrote about Don Cardwell in my last post, who was a major league pitcher for about 13 years.
Bob Estes was not known on the national stage like Don, but he was beloved in this town. Bob anchored the local AM news station WSJS for many years. He started at the station in 1941, and stayed there until his retirement in 1979. During that tenure, he also spent 11 years as a TV personality, anchoring the WSJS Evening News at 6 and 11. When WSJS sold the TV branch, Bob stayed with the radio company, and residents of this area never tired of his eloquent voice.
I met his son Chris through my wife in the mid-70's. Like most teenagers, I didn't listen to the old AM news station much on my own, but I worked with a man who listened to nothing but WSJS. I actually came to enjoy the local personalities on the station, especially since their arrival on-air meant that damn Limbaugh guy's show was finally over. I knew Chris for some time before I finally made the connection between him and the Estes that I heard on the radio almost every day. Later I was fortunate enough to get to know Chris' dad a little better and occasionally did some work around their home.
Bob was the quintessential gentleman. He loved poetry, and to hear him recite was a privelage.
He was able to recite Gerard Manley Hopkins' "The Wreck of The Deutschland" in it's entirety even at 93.
This past fall Bob lost his wife of 68 years, Carol. I can only imagine how tough it must be for my friend Chris to lose his father so soon after saying goodbye to his mother. I attended Carol's funeral. During the service, mention was made of her gift of writing poetry. They played a recording of Bob reciting one of Carol's poems. It was incredibly moving. By the sound of Bob's voice, I assumed the recording had been made years before. After all he was 93 now. His voice was so strong, so vibrant, so powerful, reading the writing of his nearly life-long partner. While talking to Chris and the family after the service I found out the recording had been made the day before. What a gift, to have a voice like that! He had apparently considered doing the recital live at the service, but he was a perfectionist, and he was afraid he would get too emotional to do it properly.
His voice was his art.
Bob Estes was a gentleman's gentleman, he will be missed.

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