I met Bob Beal Aug. 7, 2015, the day I started working at The Pioneer. I sat down at the desk directly across from his and from that point forward, he was my mentor. Those close to me know I referred to him as my sensei.
But he was more than just my instructor and colleague in the newsroom – he was my good friend.
Bob always told me to “go for it!” He liked my gusto for writing – he believed in me. He showed me the ropes of community journalism and what it takes to be a reporter here in Fort Stockton.
Bob was, down to the core, an old-school, authentic newspaperman. He considered editing stories to be the gift wrapping of every issue, and took immense pride in the end product. He made sure every article was clean as a whistle, reviewing all the paper’s copy with a fine-toothed comb and enjoyed every moment of making that happen.
Bob had swagger; he always looked the part of the professional reporter. Monday through Friday he wore a long-sleeved, button-up shirt, neat as a pin and sharp as a tack.
Every summer, he lit up. He’d walk in the office with the scent of sun block swirling around him, smiling, sunglasses still on, and his ever-present, favorite floppy hat on his head.
His old-school attitude colored his everyday speech, saying things like, “I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age,” or “We got a good bucketful of rain!”
He drank his coffee out of a steel thermos, and the music he listened to at his desk was either reggae, Americana or folk. I heard him listening to an Adele song once, but only once.
His hunger for more information knew no bounds. One workday, he grabbed a thick stack of documents and his swivel chair, then said, “I’ll be out in the patio reading.” He then rolled the chair out the back door into the shade of the only tree in our parking lot, and dived into his research.
Boy, could Bob fill a yellow legal pad with notes.
Bob’s body of work on the Middle Pecos Groundwater District meetings and anything related to water in the county were, without doubt, the best-researched and best-written articles in the long history of the paper. Whether it be rain or local water wars, Bob was well-versed and knew the subject better than most of the experts brought in to make judgments on the situation.
But then, Bob took a one-week vacation and remembered his heart has always been in his backpack. He was an outdoorsman and a river rat. That free spirit decided to finally retire to do more backpacking with his wife and friends.
His wife continues to tell me, “He was so good to me.”
And he really was.
Professionally, I want to honor his legacy as a reporter and an editor, but my personal ambition is to be the attentive, devoted husband to my wife that he was to Iselda.
I want to carry on his kindness, too, to perpetuate his old-fashioned manners and common courtesy. Bob was a door holder; he’d grab you a drink, and he’d pull out a seat for you.
Pam Palileo introduced me to Bob Beal, and in full circle, his last email was sent to both me and Pam.
We both miss you dearly, Bob, and we’ll look out for Iselda for you.
Thank you for everything you taught me, and for the legacy you left for the paper and this place. All your “key findings” will live on in Pecos County history.
Your apprentice, Jeremy