In remembrance of Bob French: Working behind the scenes, holding this delicate fabric together

Sun, 03/15/2020 - 8:30pm

People pass away every day, and often their name is familiar, and we know something about them. Bob French passed away.  Unless you had some family or work connection to him, it probably didn’t mean much to you. Bob was the ultimate “under the radar” guy. If you met him for the first time, you would probably have wondered what his problem was and why he didn’t like you. Or people in general. Bob did not suffer fools and it was up to you to prove to him that you were not one. He had no skin in that game.  Never mind that.  What I have to share is important for people to know and Lord knows, Bob would never be the one to say it.

If you were living in Camden in the 70s and the fire department or ambulance every came to your assistance or the assistance of a family member, it was because Bob made sure all the apparatus was up to par and ready any time day or night.

He also administered tough love.

Some young men made some bad decisions and their punishment was community service at the firehouse. They showed up to do their time and Bob assigned them to waxing the aerial, the largest piece in the house.

After an afternoon of hard work, some firefighters arrive to take the aerial out for a test run in the rain. The kids had to do the job all over again.  I believe that was the last time they ever got in trouble.

The first person to make things happen in the area regarding extrication for victims of auto accidents was Bob. He was behind the extrication equipment and vehicles for Camden First Aid.  Dispatching was also a part of his job and no matter the seriousness of the call, Bob was always calm as a cucumber.

I mentioned that to him and asked how he could be so calm on the radio during a major fire.  He replied, “Why should I be excited? I’m not on fire.”

The equipment that plowed your Camden roads was ready to go thanks to Bob. Yes, the operators work long hours to keep your roads safe, but somebody has to be there when things break down and get them back rolling again. That was Bob. 

More importantly, he kept things up to par so they wouldn’t break down in the first place.

All fine and dandy, but here’s where you need to really show your respect to Bob. 

If you rode on a SAD 28 school bus, your kids rode on an SAD 28 school bus, or your grandkids rode on an SAD 28 school bus, their buses were always safe, thanks to Bob.  How do you put a value on that?  And yet very few people ever knew that Bob was the one responsible for those kids safety.

We read obituaries of people that were outstanding in this civic group or that, or had all sorts of accomplishments, but the Bobs of our communities are the ones that quietly, behind the scenes, keep this delicate fabric together. They are the ones we depend on and we often don’t even know who they are.   

Bob never said that he didn’t like me, so I take that to mean that he thought I was OK. That was as good as it got with Bob and that works for me.