Standing in the entryway to the office, I noticed a poster on the door which read, “Write drunk, edit sober.” A quote attributed to Ernest Hemingway, I knew like hell he wanted to, but I don’t think he would ever sacrifice the things he did the best. You see, Bob Mader was the consummate professional who communicated volumes from the weight of his words. And perhaps that’s why he had that poster on the door. Hemingway was famous for short prose, bereft of too many details, a mirror for Mader’s verbal prowess. Bob was a man of few words, anyone would tell you that. But once you got in, you could feel his warm heart, his hearty laugh, his dry sense of humor and the grace in which he interacted with people. And putting pen to paper, he was the best at his craft—the hard work, the writing, the preparedness and research, and the long hours to be “fair and balanced” to everyone, no matter the circumstances.
As I entered his office, I scanned the room and noticed all of the trinkets, the swag from industry events, the trade show name tags strategically located throughout—five decades of experiences in the plumbing and HVAC industry. Stuff that most of us take for granted or throw away as soon we leave an event. Not Mader. He loved every part of being a trade journalist. He lived it.
While Bob was working late that Friday afternoon to finish a story, I sat down and started picking up those experiences. The demo fitting from a trip to Wichita, the beer stein from the trips to Germany, the cowboy hat from a trip to Nashville, the ticket stub from the trip to Fenway and the basket of thumb drives from the countless trade shows. The room was full of experiences, and great memories.
Bob sometimes brought his beautiful wife, Kevyn, to these events, and I was fortunate to meet her and share a laugh with the both of them. While on a trip to D.C., she affectionately referred to him as her “warm biscuit.” Warm, affectionate and caring in every way, I completely understood.
Bob Mader passed away this past Monday, February 22, and it has left a hole in my heart. When Kevyn informed me through a message on Facebook, I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I had just talked with him last week. How could this be possible? I assumed that her account had been hacked. I immediately called his cell and it rang until I heard that familiar voice—that he’d get back to me as soon as he could. But this time, he wouldn’t.
Bob was a gentle giant. Gentle in how treated people with grace, dignity and fairness. Giant not in size but in journalistic stature through the weight of his pen. For nearly five decades, Bob was the consummate professional as he championed for the PHVAC industry, and he went about his business the right way. He was my mentor and my good friend, and I will miss him dearly. I love you, Bob Mader. I hope you know that.
I’m sure you all have your stories with Bob, and let’s rejoice in them. Let’s raise a glass and cheer our good friend. And oh, please don’t let Mader know, I don’t think Hemingway ever said that. 🙂