I met The Amazing Bob on July 17th, 1995. It was my first day at Copy Cop, and my first job in the BIG CITY. I was a nervous wreck. NOTHING about that day remains in my memory bank, except for the moment that I was introduced to Bob.
The person giving me the ten cent tour eventually brought me to the back of the store where the jobs were QC'd and packaged (official name: "The Wrap Department")… it looked crazy and chaotic back there and folks seemed annoyed that I was in the way. I started thinking that I'd made a big mistake, taking this job/moving up to Boston etc. This place was not exactly generous with the warm fuzzies.
Bob was crouched down on the floor, taping up a large box. When he saw me, he stood up… and up and UP and UP. I was rooted to the floor, watching this beanstalk of a man unfold before my very eyes. The man was TALL.
Bob gazed down at me, giving me the warmest smile I'd seen all day, and simply said Hi…. I took in his smiling eyes, his casual stance and his beautiful flowing grey hair and thought WOW, this guy looks like a ROCK STAR.
I decided this place can't be so bad if a guy like Bob works here, so I stayed…. for **18 YEARS**
For a chunk of those 18 years (the BEST chunk), Bob and I worked as a team down in the basement press room doing Wrap/QC, a team by the way, that was assembled by his wonderful and devious lady friend, Donna Maderer. I learned years later that she had arranged the whole pairing (thank you Donna!).
Goofing around consisted of many very productive things:
Pitching practice — Most of you know that one of Bob's passions was pitching. I'd played softball as a kid, but rarely picked up the sacred BASEBALL. Bob put an end to that and started teaching me how to pitch...with an actual baseball, downstairs in the press room. He was an amazingly patient and encouraging teacher and before long I was firing off fast balls, knuckle balls and curve balls, all very necessary skills for the printing industry of course.
Rubber band target practice — Bob's good friend Bob Broughton ran the cutter which was just a little ways off from Bob and my work space. Tradition stood that every day at about 10am, the Bobs would take a break and head to Dunkin' Donuts. Bob bought coffee, and Bob bought a donut (I bet you can guess which of the Bobs was the donut lover)... Broughton always placed his coffee on the side of the cutter nearest us, with the lid removed for cooling purposes...which, if you look at it from Bob Grant's perspective, was THE PERFECT TARGET. Bob and I set up camp like a couple of kids in a snow fort, gathered our rubber bands and fired at will. Surprisingly few would actually make it into the coffee, but when they did, Broughton, a patient and tolerant man, would stop what he was doing to fish them out. He wouldn't even glance over at us as we howled with victorious laughter; he just continued cutting, business as usual, which made us laugh even harder. For the record, he never put the lid back on the cup.
Tape Gun wars — This "activity" was saved for special occasions and was often paired with "Christmas Caroling", two things that Donna, who's desk was a mere 15 feet from our area, COULD NOT TOLERATE. Here's how it worked: Bob and I would each arm ourselves with a tape gun and a box, wait for the clock's second hand to pass 12 and then go on a full metal taping spree for a minute to see who could add the most amount of tape to their box. It was LOUD, and the fact that we would cackle with joy as we were competing, drove poor Donna to the edge. She would storm into the little office and SLAM THE DOOR. The first time this happened I was horrified and felt awful, but Bob thought it was great fun. I realized Bob and Donna's relationship was a beautiful and complex one, and it was OK to sometimes make Donna mad. Bob magnified the situation when he added the singing of Christmas songs to the end of each tape gun war. I don't think I've ever met anyone who hates Christmas songs more than Donna does. You can imagine how hard she slammed that office door once we started singing Jingle Bells. Bob Oliviera, the boss of the press room dealt with the issue by giving Donna his office, so that she wouldn't have to deal with me and Bob! Talk about a win win situation.
When occasionally confronted about our behavior, Bob would point to me and say she started it, to which I would respond no, YOU started it... and we'd go back and forth, each getting more and more impassioned until either the person confronting us would roll their eyes and back off or Bob or I would kick imaginary sand onto the others foot. We continued with this practice, on and off, for years to come, long after Bob had retired. We'd play it up for Donna, who would faithfully play her part and tell us kids to cut it out or threaten that we wouldn't stop for ice cream.
Bob and Donna had a wonderful bond and an amazing relationship. They loved and supported each other, and strove to make each other happy. Goal number one in the Maderer/Grant household was making sure the other was happy, whether this meant a trip to St. Fratelli's bakery, asking how the Red Sox played the night before, helping find the perfect word for a blog post or simply being there for one another. Bob and Donna were world class pros. They complemented each other in ever evolving ways. On the rare occasion when one might not quite be on the same page as the other, they would pull out their famous Yes Dear and everyone was content. Long ago, Donna's sister Ann gave Bob a T shirt that had Yes Dear printed on the front which was just perfect. Even if Bob wasn't wearing the shirt, all he would have to do to convey the sentiment was pull on the front of whatever shirt he was wearing and we'd all get it.
When the chips were way down, when Bob or Donna was facing a serious health issue, they made the most of it by finding ways to laugh. They giggled their way through some major stuff, and those of us lucky enough to know them learned some valuable lessons. To this day, when a doctor or nurse asks me to confirm my name, my first urge will be to declare I Am Spartacus! Bob actually mustered up this line last week in the hospital, to the absolute joy of his friends and family.
Bob was a rare gem... he had life all figured out. He found the fun in everything, treated everyone with kindness, and encouraged others to do the same. It was simple for him.
He accepted all of us for who we are and didn't try to change us. He was always there with a smile or a joke, or some incredibly insightful words. His smiles started in the deepest part of his soul and radiated through his every pore. We were all warmed by his love; he made each of us feel so special.
Miles and I were talking recently, and he shared that sometimes when he felt down or frazzled, he'd call Bob for a lift. Before he knew it he'd be laughing and within about ten minutes on the phone, feel so much better. I agreed that Bob does the same thing for me. Miles wisely noted that now that Bob is gone, we have to become that person for others...talk about being a chip off the old block.
Bob would advise all of us here today, to remember to Pace ourselves – so please do so.
I will miss you Bob...more than I can say in words. Thank you for absolutely everything.