1941 - 2002
The Measure of a
Sometimes, it takes a long time to see the real measure of a friend.  It’s
not the size or weight of them that counts.  What counts is the strength
of the soul, the strength of the heart, and one’s devotion to life itself.

How do you measure it?  I am sure there are many ways but my
measurement of my friend Bob came to me slowly -- spread out over many
years and always cloaked in the form of a simple question.

What now seems like a lifetime ago, Bob and I were sitting out on the patio
of a small restaurant on the island of Kauai.   The sun was setting, the air
was cooling down and we were just staring out at the mountains while we
sipped our exotic “genuine Hawaiian adult beverages” as Bob liked to
call them.

In the distance, we could see the mountains and the waterfalls tumbling
down the mountain sides.  With the mist in the air, we could see lots of
small rainbows.

“What do you think, bud -- beautiful, ain’t it?” was Bob’s only comment to
me.  Yes it was beautiful.  Life all around us was indeed beautiful and at
that one moment in time, Bob shared his love of life with me.  

Bob generally referred to me as bud -- short for buddy -- his buddy.  We
were.  We shared many a long conversation about life and the meaning of it
all.  One thing was for certain -- we both were awed by the overwhelming
majesty of life itself and we both held it dear to our hearts.

Many years ago we were standing together on a viewing platform hanging
off the side of  Fort Mountain in North Georgia.  We could see forever, it
seemed.  Standing there, we watched the hawks and other large birds ride
the air currents up from the valley floor until they reach the height of the
mountain top and then flew on their way.

“What do you think, bud -- beautiful, ain’t it?” was Bob’s comment to me.  
He then said “They are so free -- wouldn’t mind trying that myself.”  Yes
they were free.  We both stood there in awe of their simple beauty -- their
wings outstretched as they effortlessly rode the thermals higher
and higher.

He and I talked about that day weeks later.  We both came to the same
conclusion that we were free also and that we had many choices in life.  We
could go many places if we chose to do so.  We could speak of anything we
wanted to and we could love freely as our hearts allowed us.

A year ago, Bob and I were walking on the beach on Edisto Island, South
Carolina.  We had been idly strolling along, talking about life in general and
all the while, keeping a sharp eye out for fossilized sharks’ teeth.  We were
also sipping on Edisto’s version of “exotic adult beverages” -- namely Miller
Lite in a can.

As we approached one of the groins -- jetties -- that are scattered all
along the beach at Edisto,  we saw Judy standing there looking down at the
beach and also trying to find the elusive shark’s teeth.

“What do you think, bud -- beautiful, ain’t she?” was Bob’s comment to me
with grin a mile wide on his face.  I told him yes, she was -- that he was one
lucky man.

“Whew boy,” he said -- “I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

Bob’s outward glow and honest display of private thoughts to me showed me
how much he cared for life and how thankful he was for what he was now
blessed with.

Just a few, short weeks ago, Bob and I were sitting down on the beach at
Edisto and we were watching his baby grandson playing on a blanket by us.

“What do you think, bud -- beautiful, ain’t he?” said Bob with love as only a
grandfather could say.

As a grandfather myself, I knew inside exactly what Bob meant and what
was going on through his mind as he just sat there and watched Ryan with a
look of total pride and fulfillment.

I am here today as a living witness to my friend’s life long commitment to
love, beauty, strength, and unbelievable courage to keep going when times
were tough.  Through the one simple question that Bob always asked me
throughout all the years that I knew him, I got to know the measure of
my friend.

Not only did he honestly want to know what I thought about something that
mattered to him, he clearly told me how he felt by just asking his simple
but honest questions.  All the little questions added up over time so that
today, I can say with love in my heart, you were beautiful Bob, you added
value and purpose to my life by sharing with me all the small moments in
your life that meant the most to you.

I’m quite certain that Texas would proudly claim Bob as one of her most
cherished native sons.  Bob always stood tall and proud in his love of life,
his family, and his country.  He never wavered, he never backed down, he
never gave up.  Always looking ahead for new things to love or experience,
he made all around him constantly aware just how precious life really is and
most of all, he took the time to stop and whisper to me and others, “What
do you think -- beautiful, ain’t it?”

I will miss Bob, but I will always have him safely in my memories.  I will
always be able to see his smile, hear his laughing, and hear his voice
whispering to me every time I see or experience something beautiful in
my life.

The measure of Bob Haynes Finke was large -- that measure will never
be forgotten.

Mike Bailey
1941 - 2002