Community remembers Robert Wood’s legacy

Photo courtesy of James Vaughan.

Photo courtesy of James Vaughan.

Nicole Aikens

Friends and family of Robert E. Wood filled the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent for a memorial service to remember the complex man who had many passions.

Wood died Sunday, Feb. 5, from a heart attack at the age of 68.

Whether they knew him by his beard or by his art, many Kent residents knew of Wood. The people who took the time to get to know him well told stories about his life to show the man behind the beard.

Christie Anderson, manager at Kent Social Services, had special permission from Wood’s family to break the confidentiality policy and speak about her relationship with Wood through the program.

“Robert was a man of contradictions. His gruff, sometimes downright wild-looking exterior belied the brilliant man who loved to talk,” Anderson said. “Robert’s behaviors conveyed contradictory messages as well.”

The same man known as “F*** You Bob” because he would give the middle finger to cars as they passed also gave his entire cart of groceries to a woman after she mentioned to him “the dire situation of her family,” Anderson said.

“We tend to categorize people. Someone is either nasty or good-hearted,” Anderson said. “Robert’s contradictions confounded out expectations that someone should be predictable.”

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As well as an artist, Wood was also described as a philosopher. The Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer said Wood was on a quest to understand life and the life of the mind, expressed through his art and conversation. Lee Brooker, Wood’s friend of 25 years, also spoke of Wood’s love for film and music.

Wood’s brother, Gary, spoke at the memorial, and Wood’s friend Bob Batian gave the eulogy. John Kluth of the FJKluth Art Gallery, and Katrina Perzanowski Kohout and Fritz Siefeldt of the Kent Winter Market and the Haymaker Farm Market, respectively, also spoke.

Batian said, “Bob always came at things from a different angle. Bob loved chaos. He saw chaos as an opportunity, as a challenge, as a place to find beauty, as a place to find something new, as a place to find himself.”

Scott Budzar, pastor of Vineyard Church, dressed in a Defiance Tattoo T-shirt and a newsboy cap because he wanted Wood to be able to recognize him, read an open letter he wrote to Wood.

“There has been a lot of talk about you this last week. In fact, so much talk that it feels like the joy of everyone remembering you is in some way outweighing the pain of losing you,” Budzar said. “I don’t know what Heaven will be like, but I plan on just following the paint splatters when I need to visit you.”

In his letter, Budzar said Wood intrigued the people around him by his constant questioning and thinking, but sometimes people distanced themselves from him because they weren’t sure how to handle him.

“I loved that about you, Robert,” Budzar said. “You made uncomfortable beautiful.”

Contact Nicole Aikens at [email protected].