Last night, a good man left this Earth.
Bob White was a quiet, unassuming man. Ex U.S. Special Forces, he led a hairy life in Vietnam. He only told me a few stories. Others he could not. After more than 20 years in the service, he retired with the rank of major and then broke into real estate. And never looked back.
A wonderful human being, a friend, a mentor, a truly gentle man, Bob -- principal broker of the Prudential CRES Commercial Real Estate practice based in Columbus -- passed away last night almost three months to the day after being given a 3-5 month life expectency from doctors, who diagnosed him with terminal cancer of the abdomen back in September.
I cannot even begin to share all this man has meant. But I can say this -- I would not be where I am today in the business were it not for him. As his pain increased, he carried it quietly. Oh, he would mention he was having pain but never let on just how much it was hurting him. The last two times we had real interaction (his visits to the office became sporadic in early November as he began to feel weaker) were at a regional Pru CRES meeting, and later, at his home. Despite his "discomfort," he never stopped working to help the agents in his office.
At the regional meeting, I gave a lead-off Best Practices presentation on exploiting bleeding edge technology for real estate marketing (blogs, video logs, podcasts, Twitter, etc.). I received a lot of positive feedback, but none of it more meaningful for me than from both Bob, and our company owner, David Mussari. Bob kept talking about it later on, and we took a moment after a special presentation of testimonial letters to him from colleagues past and present, to have a photo made together. It is pinned up at my home office. He is and will always be, an inspiration.
About a week and a half ago, I was at his house. He, I, and another ex military man, Ted Mosure, shared a beer. I never had the honor of serving, but I was honored to be in the company of these two men. Bob is a founding member of the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor. He was doubly honored when those who determined who should be inducted into this hallowed hall chose him, and several others, to be the initial inductees. He later became one of the driving forces to keep this special recognition active, and has been instrumental in planning the annual recognition ceremonies. The OMHF ceremony held each May at the Ohio Statehouse is widely attended and is a highly moving and emotional service.
After Ted left, Bob and I,and his wife, Jody, had a long talk about business, life, what I want to do with my real estate practice, and so on. Knowing how little time he had left, here is this man feeling it is more important to keep instilling confidence in others, prodding all of us on, making sure we stayed positive when his life outlook was measured in days and weeks . . . and if he was lucky, months. He even recommended me to take his place on a particular Columbus city commission, though I don't know if that will come through. I may be the wrong political blood type. We will see.
That night I also got to closely inspect the 1954 MGTF he had lovingly been restoring for almost two years. He finally got to drive it in late November. Of that I am glad. He pored all his extra time into family, and his classic MGs.
In between the regional meeting and my visit to his home, Bob made sure to attend the Columbus Real Estate Exchangors holiday breakfast meeting on December 11. He had been busy the day before and was exhausted, I learned after. But he made made it a point to be there. Jody drove and actually, they were the first to arrive that icy, Thursday morning. I was glad to see them. Both, selfishly, for me . . . and because it was good to see him out, and not bed-ridden. As Jody noted in a wonderful comment to the post I wrote about the transition at CREE, he was glad I accepted the challenge of leading this dynamic organization for a year.
I still remember when I walked into the Prudential office a little over a year ago, and he said "Good Morning Mr. President." Seeing my blank stare back at him, he told me the CREE nominations committee was recommending me for president for 2008. My brilliant response was, "Nuh-uh!" Right. . . . really eloquent for a guy who usually has an opinion on everything. Still it was a great experience. And Bob was a cheerleader every step of the way.
He always had a grin on his face. Nothing seemed to get him down, even his illness. Forever the planner, he made his last remaining months one of making sure everything was taken care of so Jody wouldn't have more than her share to deal with, and meeting one-on-one with our office staff -- giving one final pep talk.
Bob, you built one hell of a team in the Columbus office from the ground up. From Day One you knew what, and who, you wanted. I was honored to be "Hire No. 3" among the agents and employees at our practice. We now have 19 agents and our commercial coordinator.
Even in his 70s, though he walked with a cane, I will bet he could still break someone in half with his bare hands. And yet, Bob White truly epitomzed the definition of a gentle man. All kidding aside, he will be missed.
The office has not been the same without you, Bob. I wish you well, my friend. You left a strong legacy down here in Suite 101 on Mound Street. I will do everything I can to make sure what you built continues to grow and prosper.
Just as you envisioned . . .