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The Celebration of Bob

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By Anne Northrup

Wednesday, June 8, was a very tough day for the community of Ellicottville as we lost the “Voice of Ellicottville,” Robert McCarthy.

As the news of his passing spread, folks started gathering at Katy’s Café to be with friends and mourn the loss of Bob. Katy Arena turned her ‘open’ sign to ‘closed’ as the locals gathered inside her café. An out of town customer asked why she was closing. She said: “we had a death in our family.”

Greg Cappelli asked a few of us to gather at Villaggio at 4:30 that afternoon to have a toast to Bob. Word spread quickly more than 150 people showed up to mourn and toast our friend. After all, the community just lost its “Gorilla Glue,” and we needed to stick together to process this loss.

I was looking at Bob’s Facebook page and this is what was in Bob’s heart the last few days he was alive:

On June 6, he posted a photo on his Facebook page with the comment: “Happy Days at Rushford Lake” with his family.  It was wonderful that he had that last special time with his family, including his two daughters Shannon and Rain and grandchildren, Lilly and Buddy.

Bob was all about the kids, and of course why not? He was a special education teacher at McKinley High School in Buffalo for many years.

On May 30, he posted: “A truly amazing evening filled with the excitement and laughter of children at play. NO PHONES NO TEXTING NO SELFIES just kids being real like it used to be…Congrats to the Rounds family for bringing back the real thrill of being young.”

So, how do I write a tribute for this man that I have known since 1975?

First he was my ski coach, and as I became an adult he was my friend. He was someone that my husband John and I and a wonderful group of people started every morning with for the past 20 years. Our morning coffee club was filled with belly laughter and camaraderie that was wonderful for the soul. It will be difficult in the weeks and months to come as we all wait for Bob to come through that door at Katy’s Café to join us for his morning green tea. His buddy Jeter will be looking for him too…woof woof!

The most amazing tribute to Bob was from his daughter Shannon McCarthy. I believe it is very fitting to reprint it here:

ìMy dad died on Wednesday June 8 on a gloomy cold summer day, a typically Irish kind of day. He left so suddenly that it seems an impossibility that he is no longer around. He died with $7 in his pocket and all of his important possessions fit into a little zip up Landsí End briefcase. He is going to be placed into a cardboard box after donating what can be used to help others medically. He may not have had a lot of money and certainly not a lot of material goods, but he was not poor. In fact, he was richer than anyone I know. He was rich with friends and rich with love from and for his family.

I know he would be delighted to know that he had given away all he had and would find it a hilarious joke about the cardboard box. I bet it would make a great story that would only get bigger and more embellished as the years go by. I imagine it would involve a story about his scraps being dumped into a cardboard box and somehow left on a bar stool on the way over to Croagh Padraic or something wilder and more fanciful.

Robert McCarthy came from a long line of educators and special people and I hope that each one of us will learn a lesson from him. First, we should not be sad that he is gone, we are sad because there was so much more we needed from him. But, we should not be selfish and sad to mourn him because we need him but we need to celebrate what he taught us. He taught us to not be selfish, and to put other people first. Things were not important to him, and it would please him so much to know we learned to help others. So he would want us not mourn, but come to celebrate on Saturday and keep the lesson alive. Take time to pet a stray, share a kind word with a stranger, give a little kid a smile, help a neighbor. That is the essence of Robert McCarthy and we should all do our best to be as good.
Shannon McCarthy ñ Facebookî

The community and friends and family of Bob pulled off the ultimate event this past Saturday night at the Yodeler Lodge at Holiday Valley. It was the “Celebration of Bob.” It took just two and a half days for this community to organize it and I have to say to all of those involved: you hit this one out of the ball park for Bob. You all know who you are, that spearheaded this out of love, so I won’t mention all of the names, but I just want to say, well done!

Deb Shay, Bob’s longtime companion, told me at the end of the night that it was “just perfect.”

The evening started with the playing of the bagpipes by Asa Moss. The Yodeler Lodge was filled to capacity with standing room only. Bob would have loved that! Photos and slide shows, food donated by the local restaurants, music by Gerry Dixon, and of course there were eulogies spoken by close friends Paddy Walsh, Kyle Shay, Hugh Dunne, Dennis Eshbaugh, Greg Cappelli, Otto Reinhardt, Peter Hurley, John Northrup and myself in honor of our longtime friend.  John Burrell, Mayor of Ellicottville, served as the master of ceremonies – passing off the “BOB” (no longer called a “mic” in Ellicottville!) to the next speaker.  It was an evening filled with wonderful stories, emotion and an outpouring of love for Bob.

Liz Boberg sang “Fields of Gold,” which will forever bring tears to my eyes and remind me of my friend Bob.

Joe DiPasquale and Otto Reinhardt presented the American Flag to Bob’s family in honor of his military service as “Taps” played in the background.

There was a large farm tractor owned by Tom and Helen Bradish present just outside the lodge hooked up to the infamous Rotary Hay Wagon owned by John Northrup. We could all visualize Bob driving it one more time.

The grand finale was the “21 snow-gun salute” organized by Dan Aldrich and the snowmakers of Holiday Valley in honor of their friend, “The Voice of Holiday Valley,” Robert McCarthy.

As Dennis Eshbaugh said in a text to me the morning after the celebration:

“It was an exceptional evening that will be talked about for a long time. Just as it should be and as Bob would have loved. His family was honored by the entire celebration and love. We are now charged with moving on and doing our part to pick up a few of the pieces we always counted on Bob to handle.”

Memorials can be made in Bob’s honor to:

The Rotary Club of Ellicottville

Foundation for Youth

PO Box 101

Ellicottville, NY 14731

Words of Love and Celebration

From the Facebook page of Robert McCarthy

Today is a sad day! Ellicottville lost its voice!! RIP Robert McCarthy. You will be missed but never forgotten!!!!

Sean Heim – Facebook

Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your generous heart. Thank you for all your stories. You were a Good man, Robert McCarthy.

Laura Solly – Facebook

Thinking of everyone back in Ellicottville, New York. The world lost an incredible guy this a.m., and a community lost a man so rich with character. His immeasurable generosity and charisma will certainly be spoken of fondly for years and years to come. Tonight, I raise a small Blue for you, Robert… Slainte.

Pat Morgan – Facebook

The world is a sadder place this evening. A true gentleman passed to his eternal rest this morning. Robert McCarthy, you touched so many lives with your good nature and overwhelming kindness. You were one of the first people I met in WNY and I am so happy, and fortunate, we got to share so many great memories together over the past seven years. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam (RIP).

Padraic Walsh – Facebook

Robert McCarthy thank you for being such a shining example of what life is truly about and for the beautiful imprints that you left on all of our hearts. You will be dearly missed. Here’s to you, Robert McCarthy.

Jillian Vogtli – Facebook

Hey buddy, going to miss the celebration tonight, but I’m sure you would approve of my absence as I will be giving my little sister away at her wedding today. As a Veteran Snowmaker and being the great voice at our ice bar, Jeff boss-man and myself have arranged a [snow]gun salute in your honor sir. I will miss all the advice and great talks over the years along with everyone else in our community. Say hello to Andrew and Mad Dog for me. The Lord will certainly be entertained. RIP my friend.

Dan Aldrich – Facebook

“THE TIME you won your town race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town…”*

Ann Daniels Ulmer – Facebook

(* excerpt from the poem, “To an Athlete Dying Young,” by A. E. Housman)

See our online edition for more photos and memories of Bob McCarthy.

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