One of our community's forestry legends has recently passed away. I was not able to attend his services, but this is what I would like to have said.
Bob Jackson was a remarkable man. I only really got to know him a little over a decade ago. I would see him sitting outside his house by the park at the south end of Main Street in Joseph while walking my dog. After saying "Hi" a few times in passing, I stopped to visit one day. That was the beginning of my friendship with this gentle soul. We would discuss the weather or some item in the news for a while and then I would carry on with my affairs.
During these visits I noticed that when it was Bob's turn to say something there would be a long pause before whatever he wanted to say came out. At first I thought that his brain was working slowly and it just took time for him to gather his thoughts. But, as I gradually got to know Bob, I noticed that the thoughts that usually came after these pauses were very astute and often took the conversation places I had not considered before. Eventually, I realized that Bob's brain was not slow at all, but that he was just sorting through a huge amount of knowledge that he had stored away in there to find the most appropriate memories and concepts. His range of knowledge and the detail of his memories amazed me.
As Bob weakened and had to move to the Senior Care Center I continued visiting him there and played backgammon with him as often as I could. When he could no longer really reach to move his game pieces, I would ask him which move he wanted next and then move them for him.
Eventually even that was not easy for him, so I would bring in recent National Geographic magazines and read a few articles to him that I thought he would find interesting. Knowing his love of forests I found an article to read to him about researchers who were learning about how fungi in forest soils were growing around the rootlets of many trees of different ages and species, and that the hyphae — or fungus tendrils — were acting as conduits for the trees to pass nutrients and possibly even chemical messages from tree to tree.
When I finished this article I looked over at Bob and saw that his eyes were closed. At first I thought I had bored him to sleep! But, then I saw that slow tears were running down his cheeks. He didn't really have much to say that day, but I like to think that he was overcome with happiness that finally the rest of the world was coming to understand some of the things about forests that he had known for many years!
Goodbye Bob. It was my great privilege to know you for a little while. Rest in peace!