Our Friend BobWho

This weekend we learned that our friend Bob Bredfield had died.  He probably went the way he would have liked – alone in his house. ‘peacefully,’ of ‘natural causes.’  Selfishly, we wish we’d had a chance to say goodbye.

As it is, every day of our lives is brightened by Bob.  He was a carpenter extraordinaire and especially loved working on old houses.  They “spoke” to him right down to their bones and he responded with a loving touch.  Over the years, he worked on the outside of our place – rebuilt the balcony and both the east and south porches.  And he redid our kitchen – took the old one right down to the studs. He rebuilt the curve in our upstairs bathroom wall, building what neighbors thought was a still in his front yard to steam the wood.  He lovingly removed old windows to be rebuilt by Bergerson’s and then reinstalled them – not a single old, wavy glass pane so much as cracked.  And on and on.

Shoalwater Storytellers Poster, 1981

I first met Bob in the early 1980s.  Lawrence Lessard and I had begun a performance group, the Shoalwater Storytellers, composed of Senta and Bob Cook and Noel and Pat Thomas and us.  At that time, Bob Bredfield had one of those Old Timey Photo places in Long Beach – where tourists could go put on gay nineties costumes and have their photos taken with suitable props.  Bob was a good friend of Noel’s and Noel convinced him to bring clothing and camera to my place on the bay and take a picture for our first-ever poster.  Nowadays, a copy of it is framed in my office – another reminder of Bob and of long-ago days.

Over the years, Bob became our go-to guy for the never-ending patchwork and propping of this aging (1869) house.  He was always reliable but worked according to his own drummer, so to speak.  Sometimes, in the middle of a job, we wouldn’t see him for several days.  Often, he’d arrive at noon rather than the agreed-upon nine.  “Is Bob there yet?” I’d call from work and ask.  Nyel’s standard response was “Bob who?”  Which meant, of course, that he had not yet surfaced – at least not in our direction.  And so, gradually, we called him BobWho which he seemed to take in stride.

Bob was a hard drinker.  Whether or not that explained his somewhat erratic schedule, we could but guess.  The only time we ever saw him seriously ‘under the influence’ was at one of our Croquet Galas, probably in the mid-’90s.  He somehow decided that it would be fun to throw croquet balls as hard and fast as he could across our yard.  It was scary.  Croquet balls are kinda hard and there were lots of people here.  Noel took Bob in hand – actually, I think, took him home, diverting possible disaster.

A few weeks later, Bob came calling.  “I think I owe you an apology,” he said.  “Noel tells me…”  I told him my greatest disappointment was that I didn’t think we could invite him to anymore Galas… Promises were made and those promises were kept – through Christmas parties and other gatherings… forever.

And now… who will we call when a piece of gingerbread falls from the eaves?  Who will crawl under the house to see if the foundation is in trouble.  And who will stay under exploring the “stuff” that has found its way there in the last century and a half – native oyster shells, broken crockery, rusted toys…  “Look what I found this time,” he’d call out.

We will miss you,  BobWho.

2 Responses to “Our Friend BobWho”

  1. Glenn Briscoe says:

    Artists like BobWho are becoming so scarce. We also have an old house and know how hard it is to find someone who understands what an old house needs and is willing to take the time to do it right. If only for that, we’re sorry for your loss. You’ve also lost a friend. Please accept our condolences.

  2. Larry Parsons says:

    Bob was simply a wonderful neighbor and friend. We will miss him terribly.

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