Here’s somebody you should have known. You probably don’t if you’re mainly in edtech. But he was somebody worth knowing, regardless of what you do. Please don’t scan and run away. Read this.
One of the kindest people I’ve ever known died last week. Robert Perske. Whataguy!
Kind people aren’t wimpy. Bob fought his entire life for people with disabilities. Don’t get me started. That story will be told elsewhere and often. He spent a bunch of the last couple of decades fighting to get Richard Lapointe out of jail for a murder he didn’t commit, but was convicted because he wanted to please the police, who persuaded him to confess. He didn’t do it. Really. He just wanted to make other people happy – even the police. Bob got involved after Richard was railroaded.
Anyway, Richard’s free now because of the relentless advocacy and support of Bob Perske. Free.
Our son is out of jail too, in some way, thanks to Bob. Bob gave himself up as a friend to Jim, our adult son who has Down syndrome. Jim doesn’t have many real friends (but luckily, he does have some great people in his life). Bob was a FRIEND. Bob was relentless with Jim, writing letters, connecting, sending mementos. But he was even better in person. I wish you could have seen the two of them together. Jim called him Bob Brewsky—honestly, I don’t know why, but it stuck. He was able to connect with Jim in the most authentic, sincere…real…way. He would tell Jim stuff, not just pepper him with questions. He asked Jim how to do things – not something that happens to Jim very often. Then he would wait for Jim to give him something back. It can be a long wait, sometimes, but usually worth it. If Bob didn’t know what Jim was talking about, he would stay with it until he did. That, too, can take time. Bob seemed to have plenty of it.
One morning we got up and found Jim and Bob sitting on the couch downstairs. No talk, no activity. So Karin asked the obvious, “What are you guys doing?” Bob replied, “Nothing.” How great is that? That’s how comfortable they were with each other.
I remember Bob as a recovering Methodist pastor who could swear like a sailor when the mood struck him. He gave hugs like he meant them. He said generous things, but he required the same attention he was giving. He knew who he was.
And one of the things he was? A GREAT writer. His writing will survive him. I still use pieces of his advice for writers in my graduate courses. He was an editor for a publisher in New York (does that say something?). He saw something special in my wife as a writer before she did, and he was willing to tell her when her writing was great, and more importantly, when it was crap, and where it was crap. Oh yah. And it was evidently crap when she had written the first hundred pages of his biography, after he had schlepped four boxes of material to Saskatoon and spent several days with her telling stories. Ha. That was Bob. But he trusted her with his papers and stories. We still have them and something will come of them.
So much is made of big people who do big things in big arenas. Happy are we to have shared this planet for a brief time with a
Humble man, who was
A great writer, who
Cared about his friends, and whose
Eyes could sparkle with deep mirth. Who
Made real friendships with people who have few, and who
Saw injustice and fixed it.
Dear God, if there is actually a heaven, give this wonderful man a hug for the Schwiers and buy him a drink. We owe him more than one.
Here are couple of Bob’s letters to Jim: