In April we said our final goodbyes to Uncle Bob. In keeping with the current demand for “full disclosure,” I need to say that Bob Peterson was not my uncle in the strict sense of relation through biology or marriage. He was my uncle because he adopted me and the 200 other students who passed through the Ubangi Academy during the years he and Aunt Ruth Ann were dorm parents there.
Uncle Bob taught me many important lessons which shaped my character and habits. Two of the skills he taught me stand out for the lasting impact they exerted on my life. Uncle Bob taught me how to play the trombone and he taught me how to sharpen a saw.
Trombone playing was one of the great joys of Uncle Bob’s life. He played with a warm tone, a smooth legato, a keen ear for the often-elusive pitch of a slide instrument, and a passion he rarely let show in other venues. As a teacher and band leader his patience never flagged, even when we junior band strugglers mangled the melodies of the simplest tunes. One of the third trumpets was too nervous to play a tuning C so she cajoled her stand mate into surreptitiously playing the C while she boldly faked it. Uncle Bob commented, “The third trumpet is flat. In fact, both third trumpets are flat.” Maybe he was fooled by their ruse, or maybe he was oh-so-subtly letting them know he was on to them but was not going to shame them in front of the whole band.