I’m going to make your life a little better today.
No, you won’t be receiving a small fortune by simply emailing me your Social Security number and a small check. Nor will I be sharing with you any dramatic weight-loss or fountain-of-youth secrets. In fact, if a man who looks like me in any way approaches you with tips on losing weight, getting younger or regenerating a lush head of hair, contact the proper authorities immediately. Something is most certainly afoot.
Today, I’m going to tell you about a guy. A guy named Bob.
Bob Bertram was a larger-than-life figure in the Coastal Point’s art department for more than a decade. He had an ability to incorporate old-school, visual-based advertising techniques with today’s software to develop aesthetically-appealing marketing campaigns that reached the exact audience our clients were hoping to reach, with the exact message they were trying to convey.
He was recognized for his efforts time and time again through awards from the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia (MDDC) Press Association, praised by our advertising reps for constantly hitting the mark and genuinely adored by a cast of young artists who were fortunate enough to soak in the wisdom and creativity he was so eager to share.
He designed and constructed our displays for festivals and shows, basically built the physical first issue of Delaware Seaside Bride in tandem with its editor, Maria Counts, and truly hopped in wherever he was needed, whenever he was needed.
Special guy, right? Relax. You ain’t heard nothing yet.
If the Coastal Point had a Mt. Rushmore of its most amazing employees, Bob Bertram would hold a prominent spot, and I’d guess that anybody who has ever spent a day on our payroll would enthusiastically agree. As a professional, Bob was uniquely remarkable. As a man — as a human being — he was so much more.
Bob was my friend. We bonded over a shared depraved sense of humor, argued about politics and went on vacations together. We played cards, “tried to solve the world’s problems” over coffee and brutally picked on each other’s vehicles and clothing decisions. When Bob and his wife, Maria, were getting ready to move away to Mt. Shasta, Calif., in 2016, they stayed with my family for a few days after they sold their house.
Ah, yes. The move to Mt. Shasta.
Bob and Maria had lived in the picturesque northern California town years earlier, and had made it a priority to make it back there in the future. I suspect they would have made the move a few years earlier if it wouldn’t have been for the way myself and everybody else at the Point, and in their personal lives, pestered, cajoled and begged for them to stay. Bob would bring it up, Shaun Lambert would cover both ears and start crying and Bob would have to calm him down by agreeing to stay a bit longer. The next time, it might have been Susan Lyons. Or Tom Maglio, who would even resort to bribery by helping Bob with his (Nintendo) Wii.
It was easy to see that leaving was difficult for Bob, and I’d actually back off some on pestering him when I could see it was causing him real anguish. He wanted to be at Mt. Shasta. He just didn’t want to leave behind this group of people who loved him, and who he genuinely loved in return.
And that was Bob’s magic. His gift, if you will.
When you spoke with Bob, you knew he cared about what you were saying. He leaned in. He asked questions. He would return a week later with a cartoon he came across in a newspaper that reminded him of the conversation the two of you had shared. One time, when my daughter was a baby, Maria and Bob got a kick over how fascinated she was with Maria’s purse. A few days later, the two of them gave Riley a similar purse they found at a yard sale, filled with little goodies they knew she’d enjoy.
I’ve spoken fondly of my friendship with Bob, and that’s because I’ve always thought of it fondly. Guess what? He had that kind of friendship with everyone he knew. After Bob and Maria moved, packages and letters would come to our office, addressed to different individuals, as Bob would stumble across something that reminded him of a “moment” he shared with someone at the paper.
He would send out emails, describing something he saw in his daily travels or an article he read somewhere that held his interest. He called me last year to tell me that a column I had written the week before was his personal favorite of mine. It made me go back and read it again to figure out what had struck home with Bob. If it hit Bob, I figured, I did something right.
As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, Bob passed away recently. As a longtime newsman, I know better than to “bury the lede,” but sometimes it’s just the right thing. The lede in Bob Bertram’s story should never be his end, nor the emptiness his passing leaves behind. It’s the way he made people lives better by caring.
Simply by caring.
Bob made so many people’s lives better by simply taking the time to consider what was important to them, and making that important to him, as well. I suspect it made his life better, too, as he generated an amazing amount of love back in his direction.
I told you I was going to make your life a little better today, didn’t I? I taught you the lesson of my friend, Bob.