Bob Murdock at the 2015 HAVlife Martini Shake Off. Photo by Joshua Ford (Ford-Photo.com).

Bob Murdock at the 2015 HAVlife Martini Shake Off. Photo by Joshua Ford (Ford-Photo.com).

When Bob Murdock died on June 6, the outpouring of shock and grief was stunning. Many of us knew him as the stalwart bartender at Blue Cat, but these remembrances testify that he was so much more.

Memorial gifts are being collected for the benefit of Bob’s and Jodean Rousey Meleski’s son Montgomery Murdock. For more information, visit Facebook.com/RobertMurdockMemorial.

I first met Bob when I applied at the Funny Bone Comedy Club. He was the manager and had called me for an interview. It was the strangest interview I had ever had. He asked me if I owned a dog, if I like to ride horses, and how much money I had in my pocket. I answered dumbfounded and with a smile. He asked, “Can you start Wednesday?” That was the beginning of a 25-year friendship.

Bob had nicknames for everyone. When he first introduced me to the staff at the Funny Bone, he kept introducing me as “Jo.” “Jodean,” I would correct him ... for three weeks. I finally gave up and have been Jo ever since.

The nicknames that he gave people stuck and were a reminder of Bob’s humor. Grace, Steps, Sunshine, Lithuania Liz, Stormin’ Norman, Smigod, Squeaky, and Hungry Jack were just a few. In fair play, others had nicknames for him: Bobby, Dr. Bob, and Sweet Baby Bob.

When the Blue Cat opened, several of us from the Funny Bone started working there. Bob, Murph, Tina, McGill, and I were already a work family, and we brought that to the Blue Cat. Bob had always been someone that everyone looked up to, like a father or big brother. Bob managed his staff with a firm kindness. I remember him saying with a smile, “If you can lean, you can clean.” We always did as he asked because you didn’t want to disappoint him.

Once Bob told me that he was a simple man; he didn’t need much to make him happy. What you saw was who he was. Bob was genuine and sincere. He cared about everyone he met. When he smiled and said hello, he was truly happy to see you. He believed that the measure of his happiness was how happy he made other people.

He was compassionate and giving. He would leave extra money in Grandma’s car, just because. He would mow half of my yard when he was mowing his, just because. He made sure everyone around him was taken care of. He had numerous charities and would generously give a couple dollars to any person in need that he came across.

He loved animals and had a few furry children before Montgomery was born. Vlad, Koa, Malcolm, and Gracie were his first children, and I know they are all by his side now.

Although he rarely took an out-of-town vacation, he would always ask that we would bring him back a purple shell if we were going to a beach. Let me tell you: If you’ve never looked for a purple shell, they are almost impossible to find. I think that was Bob’s way of being there with us as we scavenged the beach for hours looking for that one purple shell.

He loved movies and he loved the theater. Almost every weekend when we were coordinating Montgomery’s schedule, he would ask, “Hey, can I go see a play?” The actors and actresses were an extended family to him. His favorite actor, though, was Montgomery. He went to every one of his plays at the Davenport Junior Theatre. Every single video I have of Montgomery’s plays ends with Bob’s voice next to me saying, “Yah, great job, Montgomery!” He was so proud of him.

Montgomery was his greatest joy. He loved him with every fiber of his being. He taught him to be kind, to be generous, to do his homework and get good grades, and to be proud of his accomplishments. He loved riding bikes with Montgomery, biking to and from school, taking shortcuts that made Mommy cringe. He faithfully walked in the school parades, sometimes carrying Montgomery when he got too tired. He picked him up every day from school and was the afternoon crossing guard, making sure all the kids got home safely. He loved going to Whitewater Junction and Grandma’s backyard pool. Bob loved playing video games with Montgomery and going to the latest movie as soon as it came out. He told Montgomery that he loved him every day: “Love you, love you more, love you to infinity, love you to beyond.”

Bob will be certainly be missed. While we can no longer see or touch him, he’s still with us. He will be at Montgomery’s side each and every day, silently guiding him to become the same kind and loving man as his father. We will never run out of good memories or stories about Bob. He wouldn’t want us to be sad; he would want us to smile when we think of him. In the words of Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Jodean Rousey Meleski

When I was young, Bob gave me my first beer in a bar. A few years later, Bob gave me a job at that bar. A few years after that, he taught me how to tend that bar. Throughout all of this, we became friends and neighbors. I grew into who I am now because of Bob’s guidance and friendship.

My favorite memory of Bob was a year and a half ago. It was the Blue Cat holiday party, and my then-fiancée (now wife) and I had just moved into our first house. With very little unpacked, we went to the night’s festivities. (We never missed a Blue Cat holiday party.) We drank with the Blue Cat family, sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the top of our lungs, and decided to have the after-party at our new house.

Bob didn’t drink, and he had to close the bar. It was late and we were all drunk, the dozen or so of us in a shell of a house. I got a phone call that night from Bob. “Hey, baby! How’s the party?” he laughed in his usual excited tone. “Hey, go check your front door. I left something for you and I didn’t want the raccoons to get it.” Surprised, I said thank you and we hung up. I checked the door and found a basket containing some artisan bread, a couple bottles of beer, and a sea-salt grinder. It was accompanied by this note, which I read aloud to our party guests and members of his Blue Cat family: “To my friends. May this basket find and bless your home and yours. Here is bread so your house never goes without food. Here are libations so your house never goes thirsty. Here is seasoning so your house will always have spice through all your seasons. Love, Dr. Bob.”

I choked up reading that note the first time; the party all felt his presence and warmth.

The note was the first thing we hung up in our new house. It hangs to this day, and will for many more to come. It serves as a reminder of our house becoming our home. – Broc Nelson

When I first came back to the Quad Cities in the winter of 2014, I came back as a contract engineer. I wasn’t certain that I was going to stay. I didn’t tell my friends and family because I was afraid to get anyone’s hopes up that we would be coming back for good until I knew for certain.

However, when you are away from the Quad Cities, there are certain places that you have to stop and eat. Dr. Bob saw me, came over, and gave me a huge hug.

You’re home when your bartender is thrilled to see you. I wept a manly tear or two and mostly kept that moment between friends.

The Thursday before Memorial Day, Dr. Bob shot me a message reminding me how long we had been friends on Facebook. I went in that evening and had a few drinks with him, wished him a “happy anniversary,” and told him the story of when he “busted” me in the Quad Cities. We had a corny laugh about it and a fun moment with it.

If you are ever going to have a moment with a friend that is unexpectedly the last time that you see that friend, that Thursday evening was exactly what you would wish for.

Then again, every time that I saw Dr. Bob, I felt richer in spirit for having seen him for a while. He had a magical way of making you like yourself just a little bit more. James Palagi

When we would show up at the Blue Cat, we would be greeted with a smile and handshakes, and when we left there were hugs from him for all of us.

There wasn’t a drink that man couldn’t make. He did let me in on a little secret once. Dr. Bob told me that when college kids would come in and ask for weird drinks, he would ask them, “What color is it?” and just mix up something that color. “Kids will drink anything as long as it’s the right color,” he told me.

He will be sorely missed. – Buck and Belinda Rind

Blue Cat Brew Pub’s Melissa Wilkie and Bob Murdock at the 2015 HAVlife Martini Shake Off. Photo by Joshua Ford (Ford-Photo.com).

I have some many wonderful memories of “Doctor” Bob Murdock.

Bob was my co-manager (with Lisa Young) at the Funny Bone Comedy Club from 1991 to 1994. I was one of his first interviews, and at the time I applied for a waiter and bartender position. I didn’t get either job. Instead, I was hired as promotion coordinator. During the interview, Bob was rattling off a lot of questions, what he had written down on a sheet of paper.

He asked, “Do you think, you’d have a problem getting to work on time?”

I said, “No. I live next door.”

Bob put the sheet of paper down and looked up. “Really? That would be really convenient, being that close to work, wouldn’t it?”

So I was hired ... .

About a year later, Bob had moved into the same apartment complex about three doors down from me, right next to the Funny Bone Comedy Club.

One of funniest moments at the Funny Bone didn’t happen at the comedy club but at Bob’s apartment. It was during the flood of 1993 and Bob lived on a second-floor apartment. To see all those sandbags stacked outside of his door was hilarious.

Bob was a great boss and a generous guy. He’d run and buy me a shake because it was hot outside during the summers. And in winter, when it was slow, we’d kick back and play a game of foosball, and Dr. Bob kicked butt at foosball.

I think the thing that made Bob Murdock so special is this: You’d meet him for about two minutes, and you felt like you’ve known him all of his life – and he did that with everyone. He was a great guy and will be missed by many.

Cheers, Dr. Bob. – Michael McCarty

It’s hard to find anything to say today. I also know that I’m just one of many people reeling from the unexpected and devastating loss of our good friend, Dr. Bob Murdock. So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share two stories.

Halloween: Bob always made an effort to come to the Halloween party. He usually couldn’t show up until the wee hours of the morn given his line of work. He was the guest of honor, the only person who could show up with no costume because it was 3 a.m. and it was totally cool. Although last year he did show up in a lab coat, dressed as his nickname – classic.

Well, one year the party died earlier than normal, and Bob rolled in literally seconds after the last guest left. I was in the bathroom taking my costume off. All the Halloween lights were still on, so Bob figured things were still happening. There was Bob, standing in my living room with his arms full of pizzas to bake for everyone, and no one was there. He stood there for a few minutes and left. I found out about this a few days later and felt terrible about it. Ever since then, we always made sure there were still going to be people there when Bob showed up, regardless of how late it was. We knew he’d make it. He always did.

One year, I was sitting at the bar at the Cat telling him about when the party was going to be, and he said, “Jake, you have no idea how much it means to me that you guys want me at your party.” I had had a few, so I kinda turned into a blubbering mess.

Winter: Bob was one of the very few people I know that shared my love of snow. In fact, there is no place I’d rather be when it’s snowing than at Blue Cat – watching it snow out of the big window, sharing stories with friends, and getting drinks from Bob.

Well, if you were a snow lover, this last winter was terrible. Bob and I spent the first two months of winter bemoaning how little we had gotten. One night, there was snow in the forecast and I made it a point to be at the Cat. Sure enough, it came. There I was, sitting with great people and sipping a glass of Count Magnus when I felt a huge hand on my shoulder. I turned around and there was Bob grinning ear to ear. He looked down at me and said, “We did it, baby.” Like somehow we made it snow.

Thanks for everything, my friend. I’ll be expecting more snow this winter. – Jake Walker

I was drawn to going to the Blue Cat on June 6, a pilgrimage I can’t quite explain. After observing and listening to so many people laughing and telling stories about Bob, both that night and at a memorial gathering on June 12, I came to the realization that his spirit touched and reached all walks of life no matter the race, religion, gender, or creed. Bob’s spirit reached across all those labels.

I look back to the first time I met Bob. It was my job interview for the Funny Bone in 1992. My interview consisted of two questions. Do you have a pet? And how much money do you have in your pocket right now? Both of which are questions I use on job interviews I conduct at my current place of employment. As a nontraditional student trying to make my way through college, I didn’t have much, to say the least. And I was trying to feed a 110-pound Rottweiler named Koa, who would become great friends with Bob in time.

I was hired on the spot by Bob and promptly dropped a tray full of drinks on my first shift. I saw Bob running up to me, thinking he was going to fire me, but he stopped, helped me clean up the mess, and re-made the order that I had just destroyed. Bob obviously saw the fear on my face and reached over the bar, placed his hand on my shoulder, and said, “It’s your first and won’t be your last. Hang in there, baby.” That was the start of an almost-25-year friendship that would change me forever.

I often wondered why Bob asked those two questions and didn’t fire me that first day, and realized the meanings in those questions and actions were the characteristics that he exemplified: compassion, patience, and an awareness of not only self but others, and in particular ones considered to be family. This resonated with me over time, as whom Bob considered family and how he treated them had a powerful impact on me, and I’m guessing many others.

Bob had a knack of bringing out and instilling these characteristics in those who worked with and for him. Bob instilled a sense of family everywhere he worked, and these characteristics were the foundation of establishing that “family” feel. In the transient nature of bars and restaurants, turnover is normally high. Yet everywhere Bob worked seemed to defy this common trend, and I daresay Bob had a great deal to do with that. Creating a family within the people he worked with was the common thread.

During the Funny Bone days, I can still remember bar Olympics on Sunday nights with the comics after the last show.

At Blue Cat, the Fourth of July parties were examples of the outpouring of family. Well, at least early in the day; we don’t talk about what happened later. Statute of limitations may not be up yet on some of the events.

Part of the “family” dynamic was Bob as an incredible adviser, encourager, and listener. Bob mastered the ability to give amazing advice, but, almost as important, he always knew how to deliver that advice perfectly. Most of the time with few words. His advice was usually formative and stuck with you.

I think back to when I learned that my beautiful, not-so-little-anymore girl Natalie was going to come into this world. I spoke to Bob about how nervous and somewhat scared I was of becoming a father. In typical Bob fashion, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Baby, you’ve been ready for this your whole life!” Followed by a big Bob hug. These nine words altered my perspective and outlook immediately. This is what he did for countless people over the years.

While working side-by-side with Bob over many years, I learned volumes about the bar and restaurant business, but more importantly I learned the importance of being a decent human being and how that can affect and impact so many people. All the while having the time of our lives working together at the Funny Bone and Blue Cat. The memories and life lessons learned while working with Bob will stay with me and be cherished as long as I am around, and hopefully resonate with my children.

I know these traits have manifested themselves in Montgomery; they can be seen already. Montgomery, your dad burst with pride at the mere mention of you. He loved you with every fiber of his being, and cherished every moment with you. He loved being your dad, and his spirit will be with and in you all your days.

Bobby, your presence physically and emotionally will be sorely missed by all who knew you. Your smile, greeting, and trademark Bob hug will be a void many will struggle to fill. Your impact on so many is immeasurable. I love you, my friend, and miss you. Until we meet again and I get my Bob hug, look over us and smile upon us. We will need that ... . – Michael Murphy

April 15, 2010. Jeremy proposed to me, and we went to the Blue Cat to celebrate. Dr. Bob sent us congratulatory drinks with a note, which has been framed in our apartment ever since. The note read: “You deserve more than this tonight of all nights. Yet it is all I have to offer. Love, Dr. Bob.” Bob was so kind and warm and such a wonderful person. He will be missed by everyone. – Erin Mahr

So I moved to the Quads at 29 and have been going to Blue Cat pretty much every Friday or Saturday since. (I’m 44 now, so you do the math.) To say that Dr. Bob was a constant in my life is an understatement. I’m away for the summer and won’t be back until August. What absolutely sucks is that I know when I come home I’m going to stop in the Cat and I will momentarily forget he isn’t there – and that’s probably when I’m going to lose it.

Anyway, here are a few things. Most of them make me sound like a wino, but – as I’m finding out – some people have an analyst or a therapist, and the rest of us have a bartender. And for me, that bartender was Bob.

Bob always remembered my birthday. When I would come in, he’d grab a bottle of Jack and start pouring in a rocks glass. “Say when, babe.” (He called everyone “babe” or “baby.” It was awesome. That’s kind of how you knew Bob liked you.) Anyway, I remember I was talking to someone. The point is: I wasn’t paying attention – and he just ... kept ... pouring. He didn’t stop. And I turned around, and there he is, still pouring until the rocks glass was almost full. I was like, “When. When!!!” And he laughed and said, “That’s on me. Happy birthday, babe.”

And, every birthday after that, Bob bought me a freaking tankard of whiskey. I think I finished it once.

Before you asked me to write this, I had to fish around in my car for something – which required a dig in the truck. I found Bob’s Christmas card from last year. That sucked. God, Bob gave me a Christmas Card every year. I know he did this for just about all his regulars. Think about that. That’s how much the man liked people. And that’s how much the man cared.

This one is a little self-indulgent: I remember a dumb girl broke my dumb heart, and all I wanted to do was go to Blue Cat and get absolutely trashed; I wanted to kill major brain cells. I sat at the bar (unusual for me – Bob noted that) and slumped on my stool.

“What are we drinkin’, baby?” (Sidebar: Bob had this way of asking you what you wanted to drink, but he would ask while looking past you – like he was looking over your shoulder to make sure no one followed you. Your drink was a personal thing to him. God damn it, he was cool sans effort. Anyway ... .)

“Bob, please pour me three shots of Jack because I really don’t think I want to remember this day.” I handed him my credit card and gave him instructions that he shouldn’t give it back to me until he needed to call me a cab. I really wanted to just sit and drink.

“Tell you what,” he said. “Why don’t we start with a double and go from there?”

Over the next few hours, I slowly drank, and he quietly listened to me ranting about my stupid, broken heart. He offered no advice; he just listened. And that night he probably saved a piece of me that was very broken indeed. At the end of the night, he handed me my credit card and I walked home – much more sober than I thought I was going to be. He let me talk it out. Because a good bartender listens. A good bartender knows what to pour before the customer does. And that was Bob, in a nutshell.

Actually, no, sorry – I take that back. Because he was never just a bartender. He was my bartender. And he was a good man. And he was a good Dad. (I once saw him – weirdly – out of bartender mode at the circus with his son. Yeah, he was a good Dad.) And on those Friday and Saturday nights – whether my day was great, or awful, or when a show went well and we needed a round, or when a show tanked and we needed liquid hubris – there was Bob with a Rail and a shot of Jack.

When my glass was empty, he filled it.

You know, I guess that’s what I want to say about him: When my glass was empty, he filled it.

The glass is a metaphor.

I will miss my friend. – Adam Lewis

Illustration of Bob Murdock by Jason Platt

I never felt like I was going to a “bar and grill” type of atmosphere when heading to the Blue Cat. It was more like going to a friend’s house who always had an open door. One of the reasons for that feeling was Dr. Bob. If you are a regular, one of the first things you do when you walk into the Blue Cat is look over toward the bar and see if Dr. Bob is there. And he would always smile, raise a hand, and wave at you. You always felt like you belonged.

There are times when someone’s friendship and generosity are exaggerated after they pass away, but Dr. Bob’s was incomparable. He was a man who didn’t see you as a customer, but greeted you as a friend in his home.

The Blue Cat is a semi-regular setting in my comic Mister & Me, where the single-parent dad will meet his friends. Last year I realized that I had never included Dr. Bob in any of the comics and put him in the background of one of the episodes. I’m so glad I did.

His presence, friendship, and warmth will be sorely missed. – Jason Platt

An Elegy Toast for Dr. Bob
Raise your glass to dear Dr. Bob Murdock,
Whose irreplaceable kindness & infectious
Enthusiasm we mourn today & from now on
Will be forever young, remembered as friend
To strangers & friends alike, who carried
Himself like a giant bear made of blue sky
& respect. I know of no person who knew
More names, shook more hands. A friend
Of the arts, the main sail patron of every
Sunday matinee, quiet & full ahead the same
When at a performance or stopping by
A dress rehearsal for Shakespeare in the Park.
A friend to everyone fortunate enough
To call him so. As we sit together inside
The absence of the man-bear & his radiance,
We raise our glasses to the high bar he set
Of being a decent human being, how we can
Treat each other as well as he treated us,
How we can strive to be as golden as Dr. Bob. – Ryan Collins

Bob was always your biggest fan. He supported you, encouraged you, and cheered you on in any of your endeavors. When my wife was pregnant and we lived in the District, I was often tasked with getting take-out food from Blue Cat to bring home to her. When we opened the bag at home, there would always be an encouraging message written to her on top of the Styrofoam box. Even when she wasn’t physically there to talk to him, he still went the extra step to let her know he remembered and cared.

When we opened ComedySportz at The Establishment, Bob asked questions, listened to the answers, and helped spread the word. Bob loved the businesses in the District and was one of the best advocates for them. When people came to dinner on Friday and Saturday nights at the Blue Cat, Bob would ask them about their plans. If they didn’t have any, he’d enthusiastically suggest any of the entertainment options in the area. He was an advocate for everyone to do well and succeed. In a decade, I never heard Bob speak negatively or complain about the District, the city, any business, or anyone. In a world where we so often focus on the negative, Bob was extraordinary in highlighting the positive. – Patrick Adamson

Bob Murdock (bottom center) holding his son Montgomery with his Blue Cat family on a 2005 cover of the River Cities’ Reader

I’m about to write about Bob Murdock in the past tense, and I can’t believe it. It’s been over 10 years since I’ve last seen him, although we spoke or exchanged messages once in a while over that time, including an exchange I guess the day before he passed. And I only spent three years with him in Rock Island. But there are few people who had a bigger impact on my life. That’s how he was, as others have noted.

I suspect the Blue Cat Brew Pub remains as it was when I left – a family both literally and figuratively. A Rock Island institution. A necessity for the community. I suspect it hasn’t changed much in fundamental ways because that’s how most families are. Things happen, sometimes surprising things, people change, etc. But the core of the family continues on. I was lucky to have been part of that family for three years as a bartender. I guess I’m still part of the family, like a second cousin roving around from place to place (who doesn’t check in very often. Shame on me.).

When I first showed up to the Blue Cat in I guess it was 1999, I was young (25) and an emotional mess. I had gotten married a year or two earlier, and the marriage had exploded spectacularly and quickly, as typically happens when kids get married. It’s easy to trivialize it now, but at the time I was still raw. Also, I had little idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be. I had come to town to stay with a friend, maybe just to pass through; I was crashing at his family’s house. And Bob was the first person I spoke to, a big bear of a man. He looked over my application as we sat in a booth. He had the biggest hands I’d ever seen. He had these kind of sad eyes, but then he laughed and they twinkled. His eyes would do that – they would twinkle – every time he laughed over the next few years, which was often.

We’ll start there, with Bob’s laugh. He would double over, he would slap his leg. If it was a really good laugh, he would stand there doubled over with both hands on both legs, facing the floor. “No way you just said that!” he would say. “No way that just happened!”

After he recovered, he would call someone over. “Dave, check out what Jack just said. Jack, say it again.” He wanted to hear it again. And he would double over again, this time with a hand on his stomach. Hours later he would repeat it, whatever it was, and he would laugh again. He was like that with laughs. He would savor them. He would bring it up again, whatever it was that made him laugh, weeks later. Months later. Sometimes years later on the few occasions I checked in with him by phone. “Remember that one time ... ,” he would say.

He was like that. He would savor things, not just laughs. Music. “I love that song,” he would say. And he would describe what he loved about it. “That saxophone! Nobody plays like that!”

Stories. No one savored a story like Bob. He would re-tell them and re-tell them. Sometimes he would tell you a story he’d told you already three times. Sometimes I would ask him to, even though I’d already heard it three times. “Bob, tell the story about the hamburger,” I would say. And his eyes would light up. Twinkle. “I can’t tell that story,” he would say. “Come on, tell the story! (So and so) wants to hear it!” ... “All right, there was this guy. He walks into the bar. It’s late. He’s wearing these funny glasses ... .” Bob was a great storyteller, one of the best I’ve ever heard, and I’ve known some truly great storytellers. The thing is: He loved the stories. He loved the memories. His life, in some ways, was made of great stories, one after another, stitched together. I think maybe that’s how he thought of his life.

Movies. Bob was passionate about movies – he always talked about his favorite ones. He quoted them. He would act out scenes.

Food. Bob loved good food. He would describe one of Martha’s beer dinners to a guest at the bar: “Oh, you haven’t had a rack of lamb like this one. That crust, that sauce ... that is goooood.”

News, world events. Bob loved to talk about issues. And he had strong beliefs. Education: This is what should happen. Crime: This is the problem. Bob was one of the first people I spoke to when the Twin Towers went down. We sorted it out together. His mind was always working, trying to find the answer.

Injustice. Bob was outraged by anyone treated unfairly. He was passionate about it. If someone did something morally questionable in the Blue Cat, that person was no longer welcome. If he heard about someone being wronged, he wanted to defend them or help them, or confront the wrongdoer if somehow possible. He was like a big brother that way; his friends were his brothers and sisters. He felt the big brother’s obligation to protect them. His desire to protect and defend was so fierce you understood he would take a bullet for you; there was simply no question. In this way he put himself second. He would sacrifice himself without hesitation for anyone he loved, and he loved a lot of people.

That’s another thing: Bob had room for a lot of people in his life. The more the merrier.

He wanted to help people. You got the feeling he would do anything for you.

Here’s a story that a few people will remember. We were out one night. In my memory it was a summer night – one of the rare nights both Bob and I had off together. (Part of my job when I was hired at the Blue Cat was to spell Bob; I would work his nights off, and he was always working on my nights off.) So I guess this must have been the Fourth of July. There was a big group of us, the remainder of the Fourth of the July party, the people still partying into the night long after the barbecue in Bob’s backyard. I want to say we were headed to Steve’s. We were walking in a group. I can’t remember exactly who was there.

Jon Horvath was with us – another Rock Island institution. One of the kindest people you’d ever meet, a kindred spirit. I can’t remember why or how this happened. All I know is that some demon, some evil, troubled soul threw a brick or a large rock into our little crowd of people walking down the street, and it struck Jon on the back of the head. I remember cradling Jon’s head with a bar rag in my hands, frightened, panicked. There was a lot of blood. I guess I was frozen; I had no idea what to do.

And I remember Bob kneeling down beside me and gently taking charge. He seemed to know exactly what to do. He was so calm. I remember his huge hands. I remember, more than anything, this sudden feeling that there was some order to the chaos. With Bob there, we were going to figure this out.

And that sums up how I felt about Bob overall, and the effect he had on my life. When I arrived to the Blue Cat, I was a going through a tough time. I had no direction and I was in pain. The Blue Cat family took me in; they adopted me. And I can’t really say if Bob was my dad or my big brother. At different times, he was both. He used to put that big paw on my shoulder. He would scold me when I did something wrong in that deep voice. He always seemed to know everything; in this way he was like my dad. The regulars always wanted to do shots with me, something against bar policy. On the nights I worked the bar by myself, sometimes I would go to a spot out of range of the security cameras and do a shot with the customers. “No more going off camera to do shots with the customers,” he once said to me. How did he know that? I was so careful! Bob was like that. He had an eye on everything; he had a father’s sixth sense.

That was Bob. He was paternalistic. A father figure to a lot of people who came in. Sometimes he was grumpy like a dad, too. But grumpy in that dad way. Like I said, the Blue Cat was a family.

But more than anything, I remember him laughing. “No way he just said that!” Bob loved to laugh, he loved to be with his friends, he loved all sorts of things. Not liked, but loved.

He would comment on things you wouldn’t expect. The beauty of some flowers someone brought into the bar, the beauty of a sunset he saw out of those great big windows upstairs: “I never saw anything like it,” he’d say. He admired people and what they could do. He was always commenting on their qualities: “Did you know (so and so) is an actor? Man she can act. You should see her perform. She is something else.”

“Did you know (so and so) plays the harmonica? Ask him to play for you sometime. You’ll be shocked. He’s amazing!”

“Martha makes the best _________. [Fill in the blank with any one of a thousand items.] No one in the world makes it better, you have to try it!”

“See that quiet girl over there? You think she’s shy. She seems shy. But go talk to her. She’s so funny!”

He noticed things about people. He noticed people. You, whoever is reading this. He noticed you. He found something he liked about you. He told other people about this quality he found in you.

We love you, Bob. You meant a lot of things to a lot of people. Jack Campbell

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