Bob Beers: A Loss for Words

I want to write about him; but I know my words will fail to capture the essence of Bob Beers.  His words would be so much better.  And funnier.

He was brilliant, erudite, articulate—part curmudgeon/part newsman in the mold of Edward R. Murrow.  If he read that, he’d probably laugh and say he was more like Larry David.  Also true.

This week a British newspaper described him as:

 A lecturer teaching international journalism at University of Central Lancashire in England for the past 8 years.

an award-winning television correspondent and a documentary producer for CBS and local television news for over two decades.

He completed assignments in more than 60 countries and was a news consultant in the Americas, before working for The Guardian, BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service.

That too doesn’t quite tell the story of Bob Beers– at least not for me.

He was lost, found, and then lost.

It’s one of those stories when you long ago lost track of a close friend before there was an internet; and then they re-emerge in your life as if they were never gone.

That happened a few years ago when another friend from my Miami TV days tracked down Bob  on Facebook and found out that he was teaching in England.

A few months later he was in California and we each drove half the length the state to meet for lunch;  in two hours, we tried to catch up on more than two decades.

More recently, his daughter and her family moved to California.  He loved nothing more than spending time with them; so I got to see him several more times.

In between he filled my Facebook messages and email with words—anecdotes, insights, funny stories and takes on life.

And now I’m filled with grief after his unexpected death last week.

At the news of his death, people described him in the same words I would use:  Kind, gentle, supremely knowledgable, the ultimate professional. 

So maybe the best way to get across who Bob Beers was is through other people’s words.

Ike Seamans:  network news correspondent

When I worked at WTVJ in the 70s, Bob Beers was perhaps the ONLY news manager who was THE voice of reason and constraint everyday, the “go to” guy to calm things down when higher ranking bosses were out of control. As great as he was as a TV news professional, I think Bob found his true calling as a teacher and molder of young minds. In the Daily Mail article, it is heartwarming to read all the loving comments from his students in England. They are reminiscent of those I heard for years…and still hear…from the legions of students he taught at Barry University.

Larry Hendricks: cameraman, producer

Normally I would edit film or shoot it. I’d been given a shot at writing for a documentary we were working on; and gave it to Bob to review. He called me in his office and said simply “tell this to me like you were talking to your brother or friend.” I spilled it out. He said ” now go back and write it that way from now on.   Tell the audience what you know” …. Four years later I was made Executive Producer of the WTVJ documentary unit and his two minute lesson stuck with me for the next 25 years of my career.

Andy Dickinson, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at University of Central Lancashire:

The loss of the breadth and range Robert’s knowledge and experience brought to teaching is enormous but it’s the understated, generous and human way that he shared that with students and colleagues that will be most missed.

Alan Mendelson: TV host and producer

I don’t think he had an enemy in the business or in the world; everyone enjoyed working with him and being around him.

Charles Gomez;  network news correspondent

We worked very closely together in Central America. A man too gentle to walk among the wolves. Supremely intelligent and compassionate.

Andy Kay–photographer

I worked for Bob when he was the CBS News Miami Bureau Chief in the early 80′s. Bob was truly one of the few nice guys working in management in this biz. It was always a pleasure to work with him.

Robin Hirsh: cameraman

I remember covering a Fidel Castro visit to the United Nations in NY with Bob.  At this point in his life Bob hadn’t done that much field work.  He did a great job, because he let me do my job.  He understood that I knew what I was doing, and he let me do my thing.  There’s a lesson there for all who feel the need to control what everyone else is doing.  Bob did his reporter/producer thing, I did my cameraman thing and we got a great piece out of it.  Bob was a terrific guy to work with.

And surely best of all are Bob’s own words.  I actually thought about copying parts of them here.   He wrote so much and so well—had a funny line and funny story for everything—and unlike me, he remembered everything.

After the earthquake in Haiti he sent me a message about his memories working there.  I took his message and used it as a blog post.

And I kept pushing him to start his own blog.

So he did.  He only stuck with it for a few months; but whether he was writing about  covering news for CBS in Latin America, American or British politics,  his eye surgery, poking fun at himself or reminiscing about times spent with Orson Welles or Burt Lancaster, nobody could tell a story quite like Bob Beers—a true gentleman, and a gentle man.

He will be missed by so many; most of all by his wife Melanie, his daughter Carrie, son-in-law Charlie and beloved granddaughter Juliette.   Only Bob might have found the words to express my sadness and sympathy.

Bob and his granddaughter

The Daily Mail article reporting Bob’s death with comments from his students:

 Highly recommended reading:  Bob’s blog, Now that you mention it… 

 

Comments

  1. Oh, Darryle…this made me both smile and feel sad. These incredible people come and go in our lives, often with large gaps of space in between. He sounds like one who really left a mark, and I am glad that you had the chance to reconnect in recent years.

    xo

    • So sweet of you, Sherri. Bob really was one of those incredible people; so I’m really really fortunate that we reconnected; was far better to have him again briefly than not at all. Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness.

  2. Alessandra says:

    Hi Darryle,
    Thank you for writing such a warm and heartfelt piece on Robert Beers. The descriptive words you so carefully chose to use also describe his daughter Carrie. I know he will forever live on in her. Thank you for providing more closure to all who knew him, friends, family and especially to his daughter and my dear friend Carrie. Best, Alessandra

    • Alessandra, I know Carrie has so many of Bob’s wonderful qualities; and what a wonderful friend she has in you. Thanks so much; I’m sure she feels lucky to have someone like you in her life, especially now. It’s so hard to lose a parent, under any circumstances. Thanks so much for reading and letting me know. Best to you.

  3. Manuel Alvarea says:

    Thanks Darryle, he will be missed, and the worst part of it, is that if we wrote many miles of letters, we will found out, that we got short, there was more to say. Gentleman, good friend, extremely versatil, good writer and a wonderful human being. There are few left in our industry, but not many. God Bless.

    • Thank you, Manny, I really feel the loss not only of Bob, but of all the many words he would have continued giving all of us. Wish he had written a book but at least we have the many many words he left; and even more, the memories of what a wonderful person he was, as you say. Love to you, Manny.

  4. HI Darryle,
    As a colleague and friend of Robert I have been truly moved by what you wrote. He somehow managed to impact on all those who knew him in so many ways.
    I teach in China for his university in the UK and below I have added the brief message I shared with colleagues.
    It is likely we will never meet but we will share memories of a great and kind man for the rest of our lives.
    Best wishes,
    Matt

    Dear All,
    I know many of you do not know me but if I could just add a few words of tribute to those already written about Robert.
    Robert was the first colleague to moderate my work after I joined UCLan in 2005. He came for a week in Guangzhou and could not have been more supportive, enthusiastic or inspirational.
    His stories, ideas and opinions were never less thancompelling and he features in my classes to this day.
    His office was always the first place for me to stop by on my annual return and only a fortnight ago we were together there discussing his trip to India.
    I know from the students I have taught who met him that he was a real inspiration to them as well and I have started to spread the word back in China. Likje us they are devastated.
    I know he will be sorely missed by all of us.
    Matt

  5. Matt, how sweet of you to share your words and memories of Bob. I’m sure I speak for everyone whose life he touched in saying how much we appreciate your thoughtful and heartfelt words. I’m not surprised to hear how much he meant to you and everyone associated with the university. It’s a tremendous loss. Thank you so much for taking the time to share here.

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