A difficult goodbye

I lost a friend this week.

I guess I need to break that down a little better to better explain the relationship between Bob Moore and myself.

We were not boon companions nor bosom buddies. We were not colleagues unless you stretched that definition to its breaking point. Coworkers, yes, Colleagues, no.

We were, however, more than passing acquaintances. We’d never broken bread together, I’ve never been to his house nor he to mine.

But he was my friend, and I’d like to think he considered me as his.

Anyone who knew Bob for longer than five minutes could probably make that boast. Bob never met a stranger.

And, God love him, no one was stranger than Bob.

Please know that was not a dig at him, it was nowhere near an insult.

It was simply who Bob was.

I worked with Bob for the better part of 17 years. In that time, I guess you could say I got to know Bob as well as any of us did at the newspaper, or even the community at large. I had a singular advantage in understanding him. Like Bob, I am an early riser and got into the office earlier than most everyone else. The similarities continued in that we both enjoyed that early time of relative peace and quiet before the rest of the staff drifted in and before the phones, the fax, the everything contributed to the daily cacophony. We also enjoyed some quiet conversation, usually brought up by Bob and usually about something he had read somewhere or heard somewhere else.

That’s pretty much where any similarities end between us.

I’ve been a Jean-of-all-trades at the paper, doing a little of everything. Bob was committed and devoted to his city government and crime reporting. He did feature stories, too, but only if the topic appealed to him on some deeper level than any of us could imagine.

When I say Bob was committed to his beat, I mean with his whole body and soul.

He knew the back story. He recognized all the players. He knew who did what, why, when and how. And if he didn’t know some minutiae of detail, he would dog it to the ground with everyone on his lengthy contact list until he knew it.

Bob Moore loved Morristown. To be a transplant from Alabama, at some point over the last 40-plus years in East Tennessee, Bob gave his heart to Morristown. He knew everyone, old-timers to recent arrivals (again, he never met a stranger, he’d talk to anyone). He’d learn their stories without really trying to; he’d ask questions no one else would consider asking. He did so unabashedly and with no ulterior motive – he just wanted to get to know whomever to which he was speaking.

One important thing to remember about Bob, among the dozens of memories that will come to mind over the years: you always knew where you stood with Bob. If he liked you, he liked you. He didn’t go on about it, didn’t declare his unwavering kinship with you.

And if Bob didn’t like you, you knew that, too. He didn’t broadcast it but there was no mistaking his feelings.

Same, I guess, you could say about Bob, in a way. You either liked him or you didn’t like him. There was no middle ground with him. He could, in his passion to get the information he needed for an article, rub folks the wrong way.

But, bless him, he was oblivious to any aggravation felt by others. He was aware of it, I suppose, but he had grown a thick enough skin to tolerate it. Nothing he did was with malice, either. He did not have blood lust to hurt anyone.

He could be the most exasperating man on Earth. He could be blissfully silent working away at his keyboard at the most disorganized desk in the newsroom, and then suddenly he would ask the most out-of-the-blue question or make a statement on whatever happened to cross his mind at the time. Random. Disconnected. Unexpected.

Yet, for Bob, deep and insightful. On point without ever really having a point.

He had his quirks, one of which was pausing occasionally while writing an article to gather his thoughts and tug at his hair, a move we in the newsroom began to recognize as his tell – he was trying to physically rearrange what he was trying to say by grabbing a handful of hair and trying to shift it to another location. It must have worked: the hair stayed, often in a wild pile on top of his head, but the story would be completed and to his liking.

Bob had a kindness in him, a type of empathy difficult to explain adequately. He would lend help at the drop of a hat. He loved children, wanted to see them smile. He would hurl epithets without reserve during disagreements, then in a literal blink of an eye, ask if you needed anything, was there anything he could do to help.

Bob was one of the most intelligent men I ever knew. He had a knowledge of the greater world that could be described as encyclopedic in its breadth.

Bob Moore was my friend. And I’m glad for it.

He will be missed.

Rest in peace, Bob.

-Jean Henderson is a columnist for the Citizen Tribune.