|Bob's 1977 AKHS Yearbook photo|
Although I hadn't seen Bob in a long time, I'd known him all my life. The Berstlings lived on Carmelita Court, and the corner of their backyard butted up to the yard of our W. 30th Street home. So we played together as little kids in the early 1960s and were in the same kindergarten class at Charleston Elementary.
Some of the silly things we did at lunch – such as daring one of our gang to toss a piece of food at a cute girl at a nearby table – still make me laugh. Bob was usually the instigator in these hijinks, good-naturedly threatening to "cream" someone if they wouldn't carry out the dare.
It was during this lunchtime tomfoolery that I first heard Bob's funny laugh. It was a gleeful giggle that slowly erupted into an explosive "HAW-HAW-HAW!!"
Around junior year, I joined a polka/wedding band that Bob was in called The Four Links. The band consisted of four high school kids: an accordion player, a drummer, an electric guitarist (Bob) and me (on trumpet & trombone). The bookings, etc. were handled by a few of the parents, usually by Bob's father (Robert), a great guy who was a musician himself.
Thinking of my time with Bob as a "Link" makes me smile to this day.
The Four Links all wore big burgundy bow ties and matching checkered black and white vests (which our mothers sewed from a pattern) that made us look like an underage barbershop quartet.
We were all so shy that we never sang on any of the tunes. Every song we performed was an instrumental – except for Tequila.
We were so afraid of the audience that we were even afraid to address them. I remember him once that the accordion player had to threaten Bob with bodily harm to announce over the microphone that "The Four Links will now take a short break."
We played at the Saddle Inn in Avon Lake, Emerald Valley nightclub in Lorain and many other halls and venues. I feel sorry for the people who hired us to play at their wedding receptions. But it was fun to play out and be around Bob.
That's the thing I remember most about him from those high school days. Bob was a kind soul who was fun to be around and who could make you laugh. And it was even better if you could make him laugh, just to hear that distinctive guffaw.
I didn't see much of Bob after I came back to Lorain after college. Sometimes it's hard to keep high school friendships going. But I was always glad to see him when I ran into him at Willow Hardware or Fligner's or some other place.
Bob was a great guy and will be missed.