The Passing of a Friend-
It is with great sadness I am writing this about a good friend we all just lost and one of the most important bottle collectors in our hobby, Robert Frank. Just 66, I first met Robert over 30 years ago, we somehow hit it off and we spent a lot of time wheeling and dealing together, buying collections or whatever suited his or my fancy, always delighting in a new acquisition and learning more by the minute. He loved the fact that I started an auction because he said he was always left out of the “under the table deals,” that often-permeated bottle shows. I found out later that Robert had collected stamps as a boy and with his mother accumulated a fine collection, finding this out only after I had put my own collection together. I told my wife on Sunday that I was thinking about going down to see him this week, I wanted to show him my stamps but that it had to be just a quick visit as the auction is going on and I needed to get back. Alas I may have met him just briefly as he just passed Monday from what I have been told. His death was attributed to a brain aneurysm, a rare event that occurs around 20,000 times a year across this country. It’s a pooling of blood in one’s veins along the side of the brain. They don’t always burst; they aren’t always lethal but for Robert it was his last day on earth.
With all the death and despair we’ve seen in the last year, this one hits particularly hard. People tend to leave us at the most inopportune time. “I can’t believe it,” is what everyone says. Robert, by no fault of his own became wealthy at an early age. His father invented a “thing,” that every computer needed and gave his kids a lot of shares that at the time were not worth a lot. By the time Robert was in his 30’s he was already a millionaire. Living in Salem near his mother and fending for himself in the woods, the idea of money to him was as foreign as speaking Chinese and since he wasn’t quite aware of what his shares of stocks his father left meant, he hung onto them until he found out they were enough to let him do whatever he wanted, forever. After his dad died probably 10 years ago, he inherited another ghastly amount of money and it never seemed to sit right with him. He told me when you can afford anything you want it takes the fun out of it. The one thing that money did was allow him to collect the things he did. At first he seemed more than amused at the idea. But fancy cars, a big house, none of that appealed to him. Years ago, he told me how he drove over to his local Ford dealer to buy two cars, one for him and one for his wife. The salesman who after a first glance at this T-shirt and cargo pant wearing character would dismiss him as he walked in, always shaking their heads as he left, finding out that he just bought two brand new Ford SUV’s, cash.
Robert collected a lot of interesting things besides bottles. He had a vast knowledge of rocks and minerals, a world class insulator collection, marbles, aforementioned stamps, barb wire and really anything old. His meager house couldn’t fit his collection, so he bought a couple large storage containers and turned them into museums. Baskets, dinosaur bones, a black light room to show his rocks that glowed in the dark. He was fascinated with everything and his collection was as big as his heart. Robert with his girlfriend Paula, would spend their evenings dumpster diving or going to the Indian casino. When he told me about a particularly neat find with his metal detector it seemed to mean more to him than anything he could buy. He had personal financial advisors biting their fingernails knowing Robert could buy a six-figure bottle, rock or bone at any minute. It seemed that when he inherited his second windfall, he almost gave up buying the best items but would rather go after a scarce clear pumpkinseed or common clear drugstore bottles. For a guy that could buy whatever he wanted he just didn’t care. I would tell him he could assemble a world class stamp album or put together a collection of things people would die for. No, his heart wasn’t in it and he would say that he already had enough stuff, “what would I do with more?” he would say.
His son Tyler is one of just a couple relatives he talks with or has left. That’s one of the things we had originally found in common, we were both the same age with sons named Tyler who were also the same ages. We were collectors and had a kinship in different regards. People don’t know it, but Robert was a shy, inward type person and had a warm, caring and friendly personality he rarely got to share. He drank alcohol to calm himself down and although some regarded him as a heavy drinker, he was just trying to slow down to everyone else’s level. It was like he was going 100 miles an hour while everyone else was going 10 mph. He flirted with sobriety and of late was drinking a lot less and enjoying life more. He was taking it all in. The goodness in Robert was unequaled and his random acts of kindness were often and without a thought about himself. He wouldn’t let you leave his house without giving you a gift. He showed kindness one of the only ways he could, by giving you something from his vast collection, always dismissing a thank you or gratitude, that was his thing.
I will miss Robert today, tomorrow, whenever I think of someone who despite having seemed to win the lottery, realized it was not for him and suffered from a feeling of having too much and sometimes dreading it instead of thriving from it. Robert was one of the smartest people I ever knew. We would talk for hours some nights and despite the enormity of the different subjects we would discuss, I was always astonished to hear him remind me the next day of all the tiny forgettable things that were said the night before. He had to have some kind of photographic memory, if not just for the encyclopedic categorizing of all the things he had accumulated over the years. Sometimes really smart people have trouble with social settings, they just can’t slow down long enough to see the world around them like everyone else. I can’t help but wonder if Robert knew what a great person he truly was he may have stopped and smelled the roses just a little more, he would have shown his love just a little more and may have given himself a minute to just take in the fresh air and the natural wonders of life we often take for granted. Robert is finally at peace, a turbulent mind is now being laid to rest. He will now finally find what others get to experience everyday despite not having the fortune he cared so little about. Bless you Robert, we’ll see you around.
Just totally numbed and in shock after hearing of Robert’s passing. Visiting Robert was like a vacation, a place to get away from the real world, sort of like a collector’s Disneyland. We had a mutual admiration, I taught him all I know about insulators, he taught me about bottles, marbles, target balls, stamps, humility… and the list goes on. I feel a big chunk of my life was ripped away, never having another opportunity to make the drive over to Lompoc, to take that narrow road up to the house and see that eccentric guy that always brought a smile to my face. You were one of a kind, Robert, and will always be fondly remembered, RIP my good friend.
Mr Jeff – Thank you for sharing your friend with us, it is rare to have such truly dear friends as we age. We should take a moment each day to reflect what is really important in life – you have touched me with your writing: they just can’t slow down long enough to see the world around them… stopped and smelled the roses just a little more… shown his love just a little more and may have given himself a minute to just take in the fresh air and the natural wonders of life we often take for granted. So sorry for your loss – our thoughts and prayers for the family of Mr Robert Frank.
an old Sympathy Verse About “a Friend” I’d like to share
When we meet someone who shares our joys
Who knows when we are up or down
Who shows they care in so many ways
And never lets us down
That is who we can call our friend
A nice tribute to your friend.
Very well said! I did not no this man, but your assessment of him is well written. I’m sorry for your loss
Thanks for sharing about your friend. I am sorry for your loss
Beautiful testimony to your friendship!!
So sorry to hear this sad news. Robert was a very interesting person, and a collector of wide ranging categories and just generally cool things. Very nice tribute to him Jeff.
One of the nicest, and well written, remembrances I have ever read. Thank you so much for your words, Jeff.
Sad news for everyone !
Wonderfully written. An amazing tribute to a person I never knew. Unfortunately.
This is sad news for our hobby and for his family. I always liked talking to him when he came around or the few times lucky enough to go see him. He was a good friend to the LA club. He will be missed.
That is the finest & most heartfelt eulogy I’ve ever read! Well done!
Robert was a buzz saw of energy. I’ll always remember him coming by my tables at a show with a big smile and a comment that he would return and off he’d go. Good to his word he always did return. I will miss that energy and his personality. The hobby lost a good one. JR
Heart felt thoughts and prayers for his family. When I lost my friend Ralph Van Brocklin I changed me forever. I don’t take my friends for granted. I now check in with them much more often now..
I hope that when my time comes someone with your heartfelt compassion writes something as warm and touching as you wrote about your friend. The whole of life is pieced together with the little things that creates life as a whole. I did not know Robert Frank but felt your/our loss as a human being who feels friendship and caring of others is the mortar that binds us all together. Thank you as your writing just rejuvenated my faith in people and reinforces that we are not just a grain of sand .
Truly the most generous and kind person I have ever known. Robert had a heart of gold and because of him I am where I am at now in life. I will always be grateful for the friendship, generosity and love he showed to me at a time in my life when I was at my worst. He will be missed so very much by so many. Robert, RIP brother.
Some of our Los Angeles Historical Bottle Club members visited “His World.” We wandered through his property and into the area he had set up for displays. He had an area of “free bottles” from which we could choose. He bubbled with enthusiasm as he showed us around. His unique energy level always accompanied him as he excitedly showed and explained his treasures. He brought excitement to our club members in his explanations of whatever questions were shot at him. He could be seen at bottle shows quietly examining something on someone’s table. Inside his house, his kitchen usually had something bubbling enthusiastically on his stove. I remember, one year, that some of our club members even helped him celebrate his birthday. One could not “bottle” his high-level of energy. He has left a large hole behind……..There will never be another human being like him. He was unique to the bottle collecting world and unique as a human being. His energy is spent, the contents of his location behind him, but his memory will always remain as one who contributed many hours and successes to those of us who knew him in one way or another. Try to “Rest in Peace” Robert.
I was fortunate enough to meet this very interesting guy at the Reno Bottle show back around 1998 when it was at the Livestock events center off Wells Ave. Over the years I would see him at each of the Reno shows and he would always stop by my table to just chat for a bit. Then in 2015 I made a couple of trips with Dennis Fox down to see his place in Lompoc. We had fun sipping whiskey and Robert would very enthusiastically show me his collection and museum! He really loved bottles and insulators, and lots of unusual other antiques. His pride and joy seemed to be his insulators, and one in particular he took out and let me hold. It was I think either and EC&M or Cal Elec Works with an Indian Head Penny in the glass! How rare is that! He also knew my wife Vicky was from Paso Robles and gave me a nice Paso Drug Bottle to give to her, very generous. I also have an issue or two of the Old Bottle Magazine from the 1970’s where he had an ad to buy insulators. He told me that is how he got his start! Great guy, he will be missed
Jeff, an excellent article about a very interesting and complex individual. Thank you for sharing your insight. A very nice tribute!
Thanks, Jeff, for the information. Too bad I didn’t get to meet him, but I wonder if any of the Gulf Coast Bottle & Jar folk here in Houston knew him.
Rob was a a very dear and old friend of my family. When I was 5 or 6 Rob gave me a Megaladon tooth from his collection and a memento. Over the years I stopped by to see him when ever i could. The last time i saw him was six years ago. It broke my heart to learn of his passing. My family lost a dear and true friend. Without Rob we never would have escaped our past.
Rob was a dear friend of the family. I remember when he used to call us up excited over a new bottle, fossile, or insulator he found. I was always obsessed with shark teeth and when I was around 6 he gave me a Megaladon tooth out of his collection. I stayed in touch with Rob over the years and visited him when I could. If it wasnt for Rob my family never would have escaped our past. We are forever thankful to him. Farewell old friend, you will be missed.
Robert was a good friend to my late dad, Phil Desmond. As much as the bottle world needs him, the example he left is a call to arms for the rest of us bottle collectors, GOD REST YOUR SOUL ,DAVID DESMOND