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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Robert W. Gibson: 1945 - 2013

It was one of those moments that was both devastating and guilt-producing.  I came home from on Monday, work, picked up the mail that had been shoved through the slot in the front door and found a holiday card from an old friend in Portland OR.  To be specific, the card was from the wife of my old friend.  This didn't surprise me, since Julie sometimes sent out the Christmas cards for her husband. I opened the card and discovered that my old friend and mentor, Bob Gibson, had died. I was shocked and was immediately awash in grief.

Then I found out that Bob Gibson died in May.  The next wave was guilt.  I allowed our relationship to atrophy and I was out of touch for three years; I didn't know about his situation.  I didn't help Bob or Julie.  I feel bad about this, because I owe Bob so much.

Bob was my first boss at my first job after graduate school - I joined the Chicago office of Bank of America. I was 23 years old; he was 32.  He was a wicked fit, former Division I college fullback (from Northwestern University - he played for Ara Parsegian in the 1960's before Ara left to coach Notre Dame).  Bob was also wicked smart, and hardworking.  I learned so much from this guy - how to take charge of a high-conflict meeting, how to behave with clients and senior management of the bank, how to analyze financial data, and much more.  I still use the things Bob taught me, every day.

Bob was also a kind person.  I never remember him raising his voice when I screwed up (which I did regularly).  He invited me over to his house, where I first met Julie (then his fiancĂ©).  He was a very active person - physically, intellectually, socially.  He climbed mountains, skied, played handball, bicycled Europe.  He had a big heart for dogs.  He knew a lot about wine.  He was an astute observer of the economic scene.  He was a venture capitalist.

Bob was a Chicagoan, from the north side.  He attended Lane Tech High School (the famous public school in the northwest part of the city) and people there still remember him.  He lived in San Francisco and London before settling in Portland OR.  I would visit him when I traveled to Portland to see my brother.  I also spoke to Bob when I was in need of advice or insight into a difficult business situation.

I last saw Bob during my trip to Portland during Thanksgiving of 2010.  He had just survived prostate cancer, and he looked lean and mean.  I thought he had soundly beaten the  "Big C".  Then earlier in the year, Bob was afflicted with acute lymphoblastic leukemia ("ALL"), a particularly nasty cancer.  It can come on suddenly, with illness occurring within days of its appearance.  The survival rate for adults with ALL is around 40%.

I am left with that old cliché - remember your friends and family, stay in touch, cherish them while you can, because they can be snatched away at any time.

Good bye, Bob.

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