back to top

The Passing of Three Bobs

by Hayden Hollingsworth

Everyone feels sadness, a sense of loss when friends have terminal illnesses.  It seems to be occurring with increasing frequency which, given my age, should not be a surprise but it still gives one serious pause.

In recent weeks I have had three such occurrences:  Bob Fishburn, Bob Murray, and Bob Hamner, all well-known Roanokers, all will be missed.  My relationship with the three of them spans many decades.

As a native of Roanoke, I first met Bob Fishburn in childhood.  He lived at the top of Stanley Avenue.  Even as a child I recognized that he was cut from a different cloth than most of us.  If you could ever describe a ten-year old as “patrician,” it would be him.  He had a bearing and a presence that gave him an aura of gravitas but it was frequently punctuated by a humor that brought him down to the level of the rest of us.  Ever the journalist and grammarian, I am certain he would take his blue pencil to any article I would write and it would be the better for it.  The generosity of the entire Fishburn clan to our city is well known.  My family received many a gift from them, things that we could not afford, but Bob’s father knew we would enjoy. A special son of a special family, he will be missed.

Bob Murray I knew in a different arena.  We both attended Davidson College, although not at the same time.  As a young physician when I moved here, I set about finding doctors with whom I could build a relationship and Bob was certainly one of those.  As a member of a group of radiologists who worked in the same building, I frequently found myself reviewing x-rays with them. Although he worked primarily at Community Hospital, he occasionally filled in at our office building.  His quiet efficiency always left me with the feeling I had been the recipient of a great store of knowledge. Beyond medicine he was a man of many interests:  Bonsai, classical, musical, and especially opera.  No one knows how many times he heard Pavarotti sing.

Bob Hamner was one of those gentlemen whose presence you always sensed when he came in a room.   Not because of bombast or hail-fellow-well-met bonhomie but just a quiet certainty of who he was and what he was about.  And he was about a lot.  A Baptist minister and long-time successful pastor of Grandin Court Baptist Church, as he “retired” he became an Episcopal priest and served at St. John’s.  I knew him, not as one of his parishioners but as one of his physicians.  Although he had many physical trials, he never gave in to his infirmities.  The week before his death, I was discussing a lecture we had attended and his insights added to its worth.  He was a scholar to the end.

In addition to numerous children and grandchildren, these men left behind devoted wives.  Sybil, Marge, and Donna were all married to their husbands more than 50 years.  In a time when the institution of marriage is changing, they are a testament to the way it should be done.  The memories of those good years shared will bring comfort to them in the coming months, of that I am sure.

Three men all named Bob, all successful in widely different areas.  Each brought to every encounter a grace that they unconsciously shared.  That grace marked their terminal illnesses.  I learned a lot about living from each of them; I hope I can carry their lessons about dying with me as well.

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Related Articles