On the Corner


Friendship–a permanent kind of thing

What lasting joy true friendship brings.

It spans the tests of time and distance and glows through life’s storms and stress. Its enduring warmth sends souls soaring ­ even through the pain of death.

I am a wealthy man. There are within my life a simple few such friends — we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. We have shared our joys and exultations, comforted each other in our grief, felt the trials and triumphs of our children, helped steer each other through life’s uncharted dangers.

Such a friend in my life for almost sixty years has been Bob Tobin. He died on October 19th.

Robert Tobin’s consistent and creative artistry on the canvas of life was a masterpiece. The warmth and beauty of the colors invited all to share the joy he found in love and in life. The integrity of the content revealed a complete work ­ a strength of feeling, an ease of empathy, a brilliance of intellect, a richness of humor, a strength of devotion, a finished creation. The strokes of his brush combined both a bold breadth and a delicate dedication to detail. The genuineness of his humility was evident in the very unassuming way he expressed his identity.

He was the first corps officer assigned to my corps who was younger than me ­ they’ve all been younger ever since.

He ministered to me in life’s delicate moments ­ the deaths of each of my parents ­ the dedication of my children ­ stimulating their awareness of God ­ participating in their weddings ­ all with such unassuming excellence ­ such magnificent humility ­ such genuine caring and concern ­ always willing, always available, always a class act. He seemed as much family as friend.

We found friendship during adolescence when his Salvation Army officer parents were transferred from Canada to the Western Territory ­ working at camps together ­ attacking Colorado Blvd. on New Year’s Day ­ competing ferociously in Army sports leagues or pick-up football games. His father, Eldon, told the story about how he came to know the Army. As a cowboy ranch-hand on the plains of Alberta ­ wandering through the little town of Camrose, he heard a beautiful soprano voice singing a hymn. It was my mother’s voice ­ in an Army street meeting led by her father. The cowboy followed them to the corps and never looked back.

With Bob’s resonant and melodious bass voice, it was natural he would look for education in broadcasting. He joined my brother and me in the Radio Broadcasting department of Los Angeles City College. He could have written his own ticket anywhere in that profession, his “on-mike” style always smooth ­ his voice a magnet. I was destined for the control room. Once we entered a singing contest on campus competing with voice and music majors of significant prominence. In Ivy League style, we hoisted our ukuleles, and the magnificent aria I Wuv a Wabbit ­ a cwazy, cwazy wabbit is writ bold on the pages of the college’s history as we sang our way to victory.

He got married ­ a perfect choice ­ and found a lifetime of pure joy in Marianne. Shortly thereafter they went to training. About ten years after being commissioned, they became our corps officers. They stayed with us for eight exciting years as families grew. He had a congregation of 300 and one half-time never complained. They never criticized people although he was always strong in his sense of right and wrong.

Next May, his family will carry his ashes to the beautiful hills overlooking Juneau, Alaska ­ the place of his birth. They will sprinkle them there ­ but they will not leave him there. The warmth of his smile, the knowing humor in his eyes, the brilliance of his intellect, the genuineness of his love, the compassion of his heart will be with us forever.

The depth and intimacy of Bob’s magnificent bass voice was surpassed only by the depth of his authentic intimacy with God and his consecrated commitment to the Army, to his family, to excellence and to quality relationships with people everywhere.

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