Bob held up a mirror and showed the community to itself


By Lilly O’Donnell

I first got to know Bob Arihood during the Save Ray’s project. I wanted to know what Ray needed most to keep his store open, and Bob seemed to know not only that, but every detail of his situation.

Later I realized that that was a theme with Bob. Whatever you asked him about, he seemed to be an expert.

I live a block away from Ray’s Candy Store, and would see Bob almost every day, standing at his post out front. Sometimes we would just nod at each other, sometimes I would stop and we’d have long conversations — first about Ray but later about whatever else was going on.

When I told Bob that I wanted to pursue journalism as a career he got really excited, and then the methods and importance of covering one’s community became our most common topic. He encouraged me, and offered help when he could. When I finally got myself a decent camera I showed it to him right away, and he explained to me exactly why my selection had been the right one.

At the memorial gathering for him on Tuesday night Oct. 4, I was struck by how many other people seemed to have had a similar relationship with him.

“When I started blogging it was mostly because of him,” said Eden Brower. She said that she encouraged Bob to put a traffic tracker on his own blog, and that he was astonished to see how many people looked at it.

Hugh Burckhardt, who also blogs, referred to Bob as a mentor. He said that when he got a telephoto lens for his camera Bob told him not to use it, that he should get close to his subjects. “After that I never really used it,” he said.

Lindsay Wengler, who organized the vigil with Shawn Chittle, noted that while Bob could never be replaced, it was nice to see so many people come out with cameras.

I felt guilty at first when I thought of writing an article about Bob’s death. But I quickly realized that he, of all people, would have encouraged it. When I expressed this to Chris Flash of The Shadow, he reassured me in an e-mail: “In the case of Bob’s death, who better to cover the story than YOU, someone who knew and loved him and who will get it right????”

The neighborhood lost a friend, and its most dedicated chronicler. But in death, as in life, Bob held up a mirror and showed the community to itself. Bob showed us all how many of us there are who cared about him, and who will continue his work.