I didn’t know him well, not like others, but I felt I did. Many more people, I’m sure, had the same feeling around him. Rob was so secure, grateful for his happiness that he made it his mission to pass it to others. Because of this, he was never petty, never particular. Open. Generous.
Maybe that’s why Rob was so popular. He was just too damned much fun not to invite to the party. I mean, this guy could give The Who lessons on how to trash a hotel room, but as much as he loved to have a good time, he was thoughtful, considerate, and fast about it. The consummate host.
To give you an idea of the way Rob lived, he liked to say, “It’s easier to say I’m sorry than it is to ask for permission.” That was Rob. Quick to act, quick to love, quick to forgive.
Always curious. That was Rob, too. One time, he took apart a broken toaster because he wanted to see what made it work. All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put this kitchen appliance back together again.
Rob also had a talent for seeing what people could be, which as a publicist, is something I deeply admire. But what makes him stand out is he took this all the way to becoming a volunteer in special education classrooms, before going full-time at Roberto Clemente High School on Chicago’s west side. He was very excited about this. I told him my time as a camp counselor contended for the most worthwhile thing I had done as a human being and so I was happy this was going to be his life.
Now, teachers see kids struggle and triumph in cycles, but these turns are especially uneven for Rob’s children. By every account I’m aware of, Rob is a miracle to all ages, no Gallup poll necessary. So I think he was most affected by the realization of what he couldn’t do for those kids. I sometimes wonder if this was his undoing.
When you believe the way confident men do in your ability, it’s hard to face up to the things we can’t do. I can’t save everyone. It’s not about me. I wanted to tell him this.
It was known that Rob had a more difficult school year than he anticipated. In 2008, he disappeared from his parents’ summer home by Lake Michigan. That was the last time anyone saw him alive.
Rob would have been 31 years old today. How he lived and loved reminds me that being sure of who we are is more important than what we aren’t because that means something. Rob meant something to us, also. He meant a lot. I wish he had known how much. Maybe I could have saved him. Maybe I couldn’t and I know now that this would have been okay. But it would have been worth trying.