On a warm afternoon in April of 2014 in a third-floor office on 50 Street, I packed up my laptop after filing my first column at the Edmonton Sun. A warm friendly hand gently squeezed my left shoulder.
“If you have time,” Bob Paterson said, “we’re having a safety meeting in my office. You are welcome to join us.”
What? Not even eight hours on the job and I have to attend a safety seminar on a Friday evening.
But being the rookie, I followed my marching orders. When I arrived in Bob’s office I was handed an ice cold adult ale.
Perhaps, I was nervous: I drank my ale in record time, sat back, and squished the heck out of the bone-dry empty can, sending a crushing sound through Bob’s office.
“Bob,” I said, with great concern. “I hate that sound.”
I thought we might need a safety meeting. Bob laughed so hard I thought he very well could have damaged himself. Once he recovered, Bob went over and got me another.
That was the opening act of a play which will run the rest of my days.
Bob was the advertising director of the Sun. I marvelled at how his infectious energy and his cheerleading abilities — never did ask him if he had pom poms — took the entire Sun staff to levels, perhaps, we did not fully comprehend we had.
That third-floor culture was something I had never experienced. I can attest, with concrete certainty, it will never — ever — be replicated.
Bob’s uncanny fashion of pulling together the advertising department, us crusty newsroom editors and reporters, the circulation department and marketing is a blueprint human resources associations should study.
Bob made you want to be your best.
His one-liners are epic: “I couldn’t sell rocks at a riot today” … or, “Thanks for coming in today” or … “You had a solid B-minus effort today” or … “You’re my fifth favourite Sun columnist” or, his signature, “Keep your stick on the ice.”
We didn’t win every day. I say “we” because there were days when Bob came back from a sales call and walked down that hallway, heading north, head down, hands in both pockets, deep in thought of something that didn’t go well.
We all felt the disappointment. We shared it. And we reminded Bob to heed his own advice … that tomorrow was a new day.
On a personal note, Bob was so generous to our family, often hosting my son Darren and grandson Nick at Oiler games. In fact, Bob invited our daughter-in-law Shiella to her first NHL game.
I had to write about Bob: he retired from Postmedia this past week after his 1986 Sun debut.
Now, he has time to continue his love of drumming and fishing at Lake Wabamum.
I am so blessed I met him.
And, now, Bob, my friend, since you have some time, let’s go crush some cans.