Cap’n Bob

June 22nd, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »


Where do you go from running a kids’ show and being a TV clown? Well, lots of places.

My friend Bob Ford died Sunday after an amusing and amazing career. While the stages are sketched in his obit, those are not what we’ll remember him for doing and being.

Let’s be plain. He was one funny guy…and the right type, never cruel. In fact, born a Yankee and living Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine, he spent most of his life in South Carolina. In many ways, the showed the wisdom of Ovid’s snippet that became the motto of the University of South Carolina.

In describing a liberal education, the great poet wrote (Epistulae ex Ponto):

Adde quod ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes
emollit mores nec sinit esse feros.

The second line is the motto of the red Carolina. Many others, including Napolean, used that as well. In South Carolina’s case, the literal translation, (liberal education) humanizes character and does not allow it to become fierce, has a vernacular definition — we make gentlemen out of roughnecks. Bob was wise and kind.

I tended to call him Cap’n Bob. He lived and spread his equanimity and good humor even when he worked in county sheriffs’ offices. As a flack, a.k.a. public affairs officer, he still had to qualify as a cop, with badge and gun. In what was stereotypically a coarse world, he remained a reasonable and modulating force.

The drawing here is from his long-running Call the Cops column.  While each of us who got as high as elementary school will say, “I could write a book about it,” Bob actually could. Beyond the police hardware, he had consider experience and expertise as a reporter and photographer. Not only did he have observations and insights, he could and did explain and illustrate them so we could all understand.

At 82, the Cap’n had a good run. One the family side, he had two marriages, numerous kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, all of whom enjoyed him as he enjoyed them. He was above all a guy who always listened and always cared.

Suddenly, his death brings to mind Hamlet’s musing on the skull — Alas, poor Yorkick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.


5 Responses

  1. Betsy Ford says:

    Mike, what a wonderful tribute! Thank you!

  2. Harrumpher says:

    Ah, Betsy, Bob was a oner. I’ve long used him as an example how you can be funny without being mean. Hearing people speak of him, an underlying message I got was, “He actually listened to me.”

  3. Debi Ford says:

    Wonderful words!

  4. Marion Etheredge says:

    Ah Betsy. Ah Michael. I am sorry for your loss. I love how
    you wrote of Bob that he was funny without being mean.
    There is so much to learn and that is powerful lesson every time it is given.

  5. Mike F. says:

    He was bigger than life, but always understood where even the smallest was coming from. He was there, even when he was busy. He last years seemed to always be busier than when he wasn’t retired.

Leave a Reply