Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Uncle Bob

Robert Lincoln Walters was the youngest child born to Frank and May Walters. His arrival on January 22, 1938 probably raised more than a few eyebrows considering he was 17 years younger than his next sibling, my mother Frances. He had an even older sister Virginia. I suspect he was pretty spoiled, much like his nephew John.

Four years ago this week Uncle Bob passed away at age 69, robbed of what should have been his golden years by a brain tumor, that shattered his life in 1999.  He left behind his wonderful wife Anne and his three sons, Drew, Chris and Mike.  He also left behind a nephew who had grown to admire him as a role model and stabilizing influence on his life. 

If I could have a man crush it would have been on Bob Walters.  My goodness he was handsome.  It was pretty clear to me even as a very young child that he enjoyed life and everything it had to offer.  But he was a man driven by goals, one of which I suspect was living up to the Walters name.  His father Frank and his Uncle Ray had been successful farmers in the Lawrence area.  Unfortunately Frank Walters never lived long enough to see the success that his son would become.

For years he ran the Space Technology building at the University of Kansas, now called Nichols Hall.  During that time he found time to purchase and build a moving business that reached across Kansas. As Bob grew older he tried his hand at politics, eventually serving a term as the mayor of Lawrence.  He loved his community but he hated politics.  It's a shame he didn't have the stomach for it because I believe his political future could have gone to bigger and better things.

Just days prior to my own mother's diagnosis of lung cancer in June 1998, my Uncle Bob had part a lung removed and some repairs done to his heart.  The years of smoking had caught up to him.  He rebounded while first my mother in November and then my Aunt Virginia in December, would both die because of cancer.  Bob lost his two sisters and then almost immediately had to face another surgery to remove cancer, this time in his brain.  He was never the same.

I held a deep admiration for him and all the things that he accomplished that go well beyond the brief things I outlined here.  I loved him because despite my many human failings, I never felt that he was judging me.  I think he understood them better than anyone in my family and Uncle Bob would offer his best counsel and wisdom when dealing with life's pitfalls.  I can't begin to explain how important it was to me.  Just like my mom, I miss him.

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