by Joseph Roberts
The phone rang early in the morning. On the floor, between it and me, lay a brightly coloured business card with “ALL ONE!” written in large capital letters. Wondering where it had come from, I reached for the call. A voice from the past, Alex – a friend of Bob Turner for 45 years – reported the bad news: “Bob is dead!” Shocked, my mind raced, as the finality of the word “dead” sunk in, followed by tears. And questions of how could it be?
Bob was many things to many people. His Facebook page is huge testament, populated by real people, the type that appreciated the depth and wit of a real human, an authentic artist, clearly perceiving those around him. The first time we crossed paths was 1966 at a Centennial High School dance. There he was, in the Black Snake Blues Band, grooving on the bass. Fast forward to the founding of Common Ground, in 1982. This Renaissance man in a van was hired to distribute our magazine. He laughingly and lewdly referred to himself as a “distabator.” His insights on society, art, music, people, politics, habits, continued unabated for decades. He was my go-to person for advice on distribution, music, parenting, and life in general.
Bob had a degree in early childhood education which he said, helped him understand us so-called adults. With disarming comments, always ready for the next round of jokes, he found his way into the hearts of most wounded adult children who crossed his path.
He did a stint as Artist in Residence at SFU. His home was a working artist studio two blocks off The Drive. And he befriended a stray cat that would only relate to him.
If you knew Bob, you understand why so many loved him and grieve his loss. I can go on and on, but I won’t. Let me pass the pen to another person who worked distributing magazines as Bob’s swamper and was with him the day he died.
Co-worker Paddy Kellington wrote : “My dear friend and the nearest thing I ever had to a real father (although HE would have laughed at the description) Bob Turner, died, September 5th. He wasn’t feeling well, so I made him stop and go home, although I thought Emergency would have been a better choice. I stayed with him to make sure he was comfortable. Shortly after 6, Bob simply fell asleep, and became non-responsive. I called Emergency, and as instructed, did CPR until the ambulance arrived. They couldn’t revive him. I am deeply shocked, deeply saddened. I had always thought being parentless, I’d be spared from this particular species of grief. Looks like I am not. He was a brilliant man, a great human…even if his sense of humour would have made a middle schooler wince. He was a great artist, and a great support and mentor for other artists, or frankly anyone who was genuine and struggling to articulate their voice.
He was remarkably patient, even with my rather reactive emotionalism (Bob was a pragmatic existentialist) and known for his ability to deal with near anyone or anything with humour and wit.
I probably laughed with him more than with any person I have ever known. I cannot believe we will never share a warped joke, or ridiculously satirical take on life, the universe, and everything else. Including, of course, ourselves.
No words are enough for a life as full as his, as quietly influential as his. Someone else who is more eloquent will, I hope, speak to the life of this very human and remarkable man. I am proud to have had his friendship. I loved the man. I will miss him.