We were the only ones up. Everyone was asleep in the shelter. He had let us sleep in a bit, but we had a big day ahead of us, so it was time to get moving. With a hint of a smile, he motioned for me to be quiet as he grabbed the bag of pots and pans. Suddenly he starts flinging pans into the shelter, yelling for everybody to get up. I about hit the ground laughing.
This was Bob Tilley.
Bob was maybe the best teacher I ever had, yet ironically I never sat in one of his classrooms. I can without any doubt say that I would not be the man I am if not for the experiences I shared with him. Among many other things, I learned self-confidence, fortitude, and the value of a dry sense of humor. I also learned the art of patience … and when to leave patience behind.
Whenever things get tough for me, I find myself thinking “It’s just over the next ridge,” or “It’s just around the next bend.” I will even say this to others who may be struggling, usually resulting in an odd look. He was a man who knew how to bring out our best efforts, often with nothing more than a bit of humor. But if a stern lesson was required, he knew how to give it as well.
I am a very now oriented person, so don’t really have many memories of my youth that really stand out. Yet the ones that do; the ones that are permanently engraved, almost all revolve around the times I spent with him: memories of tear bringing laughter; memories of limit pushing effort; memories of peaceful tranquility … in short memories of living life to the fullest.
Bob was, and frankly still is, a force of nature. He touched the lives of so many people, and I challenge any one of them to prove that they are not a better person for it. He will live on in many a memory, even though his next adventure is now beyond our reach. I envision him stepping into a well packed ethereal canoe, guided by Al Cornelius, and together they paddle around the next bend, to destinations unknown. Thank you Bob Tilley, for being the man you were and for helping me be the man I am. Your legacy will live on!