Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Bureaucrat's Eulogy for Bob

Let me start off by saying that I didn't know Bob O'Connor personally. When you work in a large bureaucratic structure, the help doesn't get a lot of face time with the Lord of the Manor. In my years during the previous administration, I believe that I had exactly two contacts with Tom Murphy and I can't say that I made much of an impression on him either time. We bureaucrats are supposed to sit in the back and make these people look good, or at least like less of the idiots that they can be.

I believe that I actually was in the same room with him a handful of times. The one that sticks with me most is a seemingly random encounter at Coffee Tree Roasters, where he walks in and starts shootin' the breeze with a couple tables of patrons, and working the room. Even though this was back when he was employed by the Governor, there was a real recognition from those sipping their coffee that this was a Big Man of Pittsburgh.

And yet, he was really, really short; I almost literally ran into him coming out of the Steel Building, and couldn't believe how tiny this man with great hair was. I suppose he exuded more than his stature.

I didn't really have much of a chance to make Bob look good as part of my duties. This hits at the nub of the tragedy of Bob's death: three tries at Mayor, ten years campaigning, and only 8 months as Mayor. Poor guy didn't even have a chance to enjoy it.

Still, Bob won't be remembered as a great mayor of Pittsburgh, but he will be remembered as a great guy. His real gift, as many have been remarking, was his touch with Pittsburghers. I'll remember the thousands that poured into the City County building to partake in the yinzer food and possibly line up for a handshake with the Mayor. I'll remember the Redd-up drive, not for it's spine chilling use of Pittsburghese, but for the passion that he brought to it. And, of course, everyone will remember the Cookie Cruise, even if, like me, you never got to go. He was one of us; a true Son of Pittsburgh.

John Donne's Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, no. 17 reminds us:

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory
were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or
of thine own were: any man's death diminishes
me, because I am involved in mankind...
And Pittsburgh is diminished for having lost Bob.

Thanks Boss.

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