The phone rang last Saturday afternoon.
A dear friend and coworker from Hearst Castle was calling. After the normal pleasantries, she said, “We lost Bob.”
At that moment, the world changed forever. I can’t remember feeling so devastated since my father died suddenly in 1972.
Bob was Bob Stephenson — a truly gentle, kind, funny man. He was a retired, longtime Cambria resident who was a park aide at the Hearst Castle visitor center for years and years in what we used to call the Ranger’s Office, just adjacent to ticket office.
On the days he was at work, everyone had a better day. He was always upbeat, the official jokemeister who never seemed to run out of crazy, usually funny jokes that he’d print out and pass around in the employee break room. My husband John and I always called him Ranger Bob, but whenever we did, he’d say, “I’m not really a ranger.”
But he’ll always be Ranger Bob to us.
The first time I met Bob and his darling wife Patty was at a Christmas party at their house in 2007. Once I got to really know him at work, I realized what a gem he was.
Bob was not a young man, but he had so much life and fun in him that no one could ever think of him as old. He kept us entertained and was always ready to help if we needed anything.
As in this case, death often sneaks up on us. Until it does, we don’t always fully appreciate how profoundly someone has touched our lives. Bob touched the lives of everyone at the Hearst Castle visitor center who knew him. It is shocking and unthinkable that he’s gone.
The last “Bob” joke I heard at work was, “An Irishman walked past a bar.” Every time I think about that silly little joke, I will remember him fondly and mourn his loss all over again.