In addition to learning about the tornado that devastated large parts of Western Massachusetts, I also heard tonight that Bob Paquette died this past weekend at age 55.
The news saddened me.
Bob not only was a rock within the newsroom of NPR affiliate WFCR-reporter Karen Brown called him the station’s conscience-he helped me get launched writing commentaries and reading them on air.
I started in the fall of 2000.
It was a momentous time for me.
On Friday, September 1 of that year, I packed up my white Honda Civic, left education, the profession I had worked in for 13 years, and moved from Boston to live with Dunreith and Aidan in Easthampton.
On Monday, September 4, the three of us eloped.
In other words, during Labor Day weekend, I changed careers, moved and became a husband and father.
It was a whole lot of new, and I struggled many times during that year.
Bob was a haven.
He gave me the opportunity to read first one, then two, then monthly commentaries on WFCR’s airwaves. Many times, he offered constructive feedback about my writing, timing, and inflection, pointing out the value of a subtle pause or how a rising voice at the end of a sentence can leave the reader with an entirely different impression than a consistent or falling tone.
Bob also provided the setting for one of my favorite commentary experiences-reading a piece about the first day of school with Paul Tamburello, my former fourth grade teaching, education mentor and friend. I was writing about Aidan’s going to school, while Paul was talking about gearing up for another year at Brookline’s Pierce School.
Bob’s wry sense of humor was on full display as he described the “temporary” digs at UMass, whose time as the station’s home began almost exactly when he started working in 1991.
We chuckled, but respectfully disagreed, explaining to him that this was our Blue Room.
Many people will miss Bob’s even tones as he read the news, his moral sensibility and insistence of high journalistic standards.
The same goes for me, too.
But I’ll also remember his unassuming generosity and steady encouragement at a time when I sorely needed both.
I wish Bob’s husband, other surviving family members and colleagues comfort and peace during this difficult time.