For those of you that knew him well, Buffalo Bob Smith was a kind and gentle soul whose excellent record of leadership set the bar high for staff members from the late 1970s onward.
For those of us that were too young to know him or have only heard the name, Bob was a legendary Takodian that has passed into our history as a director whose love of Camp and affinity for poetry and heartfelt songs continue to serve as inspiration to us all.
For more details on Bobs history with our Y, I turned to the short bio we have on our site. It reads as follows:
Buffalo Bob Smith joined the Takodah family in 1976 as Assistant Camp Director under Fred Toot. Bobs involvement brought our YMCA team to three fulltime YMCA directors, serving as the Associations Program Director. In 1978 he became the first year-round resident on Takodah property in Big Pine. Bob served with four colleagues (Fred, J.E.F. Craig, Latta, Bill), making his mark felt as a most competent leader of program staff teams. He weathered three leadership transitions and in each void filled the leadership needs with competence and skill. In 1984 Bob became Associate Camp Director and administered day and travel camping. In 1985 he became the day-to-day operations director for Resident Camp Takodah. Bob died on Takodah property in November 1985 and was laid to rest behind the altar in the Elwell Chapel.
Im talking about Bob today because of something I recently found in our archives when I was searching for some old meeting minutes to share at a recent Cheshire YMCA Board meetings. Tucked away in the pages of a large, packed binder full of notes and records, there was a half sheet of paper that I believe has not been seen by anyone at the Y since it was read by Bill Allen at a meeting dated February 11, 1981. Its a simple, short, letter thats typed and signed by Buffalo Bob himself.
Here it is exactly as I found it:
What I like about this letter goes beyond his appreciation for the organization or the opportunity I had to read some words written by a man we continue to speak of year after year. Its the story he tells that counts. A college grad, starting a journey into the Y movement, looking to make a difference and do something meaningful. And while he doesnt use the exact words, its clear that Bob had a vested interest in our three core tenets of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Its also clear that he was put through a rigorous and important vetting process in order to join our ranks.
This is a story that so many Takodians, young and old, can relate to. Its a story of becoming part of something bigger than ourselves into order to figure out who we really are and then taking the time to give thanks along the way. Its the story of answering the call, meeting the challenge and rising to the occasion.
One point of curiosity: Im not sure why Bob crossed out that last line with his pen. Im sure he meant it but maybe he just wanted to keep that part to himself to be shared directly with those he loved. Also, please note how he crossed out the word staff and left it simply to read people. That tiny edit speaks a thousand words about the man that walked our hallowed paths of Camp for ten years.
If Bob was still alive, and I know many of us wish he was, Im sure hed enjoy that his letter has been found and shared with you. Im sure hed echo these sentiments and encourage you to give thanks to anyone in your life that has helped make you a better person. And then, no doubt, hed kick back in a wicker armchair on the porch of Mem Lodge, pick up his guitar, flash that famous bearded smile and sing a song about something beautiful.