Monday, November 10, 2014
My dear friend Bob Stewart has passed on--sad, sad day.
One of my dearest friends, writer Bob Stewart, passed away last Thursday. I’ve spent the past two days struggling with how I could best pay my respects to him and keep finding myself without the right words. So, instead of writing some kind of effort at great prose, I thought I’d just talk about what he meant to me.
There are people we meet along the way that make an immense impression on us. People that are truly bigger than life. Such a person was Bob. A hugely gifted writer, he befriended me several years ago and we became instant friends on the spot. A fellow Texan, it was immediately evident when you first spoke to Bob that he was a man who had a heart as big as his home state. And, although possessed of a huge talent, he was totally without an ego. I can’t even begin to list his accomplishments—he wrote bestselling true crime books, wonderful novels, even wrote award-winning scripts for the television show that was a staple of my childhood—Gunsmoke. He wrote for national magazines such as People, Time, Life and Latina. There wasn’t a single thing he couldn’t do and do well in the writing world. He even invented a new genre—“feline noir.” At is passing, he had just finished cowriting a new novel with our mutual friend, Carl Brush, titled The Yellow Rose of Texas.
This past spring, I was asked to be a presenter at two Texas events, the DFW Writer’s Conference and the nine-day retreat at the Purple Sage Dude Ranch outside of San Antonio, presented by Writers Retreat Workshop, with whom I’ve worked before, led by Jason Sitze and Gail Provost (widow of Gary Provost who began the retreats). I asked if Bob could join me in presenting and both directors gladly agreed. We spent the days in between at Bob’s home in San Antonio. Later, I found out that he had planned to sell the house months previously, but decided not to until after I left Texas so we could stay there and hang out together. I only found that out by accident when a neighbor of Bob’s told me what he’d done. Typical of Bob, when he did something for someone he never sought out any credit.
We had an absolutely wonderful time. I went through a really bad bout with my health. Texas was at the height of their allergy season and that, plus the intense heat, sapped all of my energy. When I got back home, my doctor told me if he’d seen me there he would have immediately put me into the hospital. I lost over 20 pounds in a week and could barely walk. Bob got me through it. Although suffering himself from diabetes and heart problems, he wouldn’t let me lift even my luggage, would drop me off at the entrances of places we went to and found parking places and walked back rather than allow me to. I didn’t really know how bad of shape he was in himself, as he never complained with a single word, but just went out of his way to assist me.
At the DFW Conference, Bob was a huge hit with his own presentations with a completely-filled up meeting room. After the conference, we went to his home and just hung out, telling each other war stories. Mostly, Bob talked about his late wife Martha, his son Bob III, his daughter-in-law Kim and his grandkids, and his current girlfriend Dixie. He wasn’t a guy to ever talk about himself, but I learned so much about Bob just from listening to him talk about his family. And his religion. He was an intensely religious, God-fearing man and he gave testimony to that faith in his every utterance as well as his very example of how he lived his life. Myself, I don’t know if I believe in the same God as Bob did, but if He exists as Bob firmly believed He did, Bob’s in a good place and where he deserves to be.
We talked often on the phone before my Texas trip and about every week thereafter. And then, he didn’t call for a few days. Now I know why. He’d passed away in his hotel room doing what he loved doing—attending a writer’s conference in Massachusetts. A mutual writer friend of ours, Scott Morales, emailed me that he had passed away. I called up Carl to see if he’d heard anything and he hadn’t either. We eventually were able to get in touch with Bob’s son, Bob III, and found out that it sadly was true.
That was one of the darkest days of my life. But, I started remembering Bob’s indomitable spirit and knew what he’d say to me if he saw me grieving for him—I could hear his booming laugh as he’d grin at me and tell me to get off my butt and start writing. That he was fine and in the home he’d planned all of his life to be in when his days ended and to simply celebrate life. After all, that’s what he’d done all of his life—celebrated being alive and on earth and at work in the grandest calling of all—being a writer.
So, here’s to you, old friend—you may be temporarily gone from the physical plane, but you’re alive in our memories—your family and your many, many friends--and always will be. You made the world a much, much better place because of your presence and I’m a very lucky man to have been blessed to have known you as my friend.
Rest in peace—you’ve earned it.