I met Bob in our first year at Fisher Park High School. We shared the same home room along with Andrew Carson, Brian Joynt and others who would become friends and acquaintences for life.
Even then, with his tall, lanky frame, high forehead, horn-rimmed glasses, and flat brown hair, he typified the quintessential nerd, long before the term became known. And it soon became obvious, he was every bit as smart as he looked. He was soft-spoken and kind, with a dry, never-biting sense of humour, and I soon began to hang out with him because he always had something interesting to say and I was being wonderfully and painlessly educated in the process. For my part, I shared my passion for music and art with him, and he seemed to enjoy the mutual exchange.
Bob was an A+ student....and I was not. I spent too much time day-dreaming and still do. I frequently called on him to help me with my Latin homework, and often, we would sit together in the cafeteria eating our lunches and pouring over our assignments. Years later, I found my my old Latin book when clearing out old boxes, and the pages were still generously sprinkled with his mother's gingerbread cookie crumbs, that still retained their smell.
I'm not sure where Bob's love of Literature came from, but I know it was reinforced by Mrs. England's Latin Literature Classes. Though the words were written over two thousand years ago, the epic qualities of Virgil, nobility of Horace, whimsy of Catullus and journalistic style of Ceasar were all brilliantly alive and palatable, and had a lasting effect on us both. At one point we even composed some Latin poetry together, and one poem was published in a province-wide, high school Latin newspaper. My contribution was primarily to come up with the idea, and Bob's was to translate it into flawless, beautiful Latin. Often we would rework a passage over and over again until we got something that was not only correct, but beautiful to hear.
Another probable literary influence was Mr. “Freddie” Howard, a retired English Teacher, who was brought in to fill in for the regular teacher who was on extended leave. Mr. Howard not only read literature to us, he acted it out! And though he was not a good actor, and some of the class snickered, many of us were caught up in his passion. Shakespeare was no longer dry. When we heard, “Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt and resolve itseld into a dew,” or “To be or not to be, that is the question,” we felt it in the marrow of our bones and understood we were experiencing life at the profoundest level.
I believe Mrs. England's enthusiasm for Latin Literature and Mr. Howard's for Shakespeare were instrumental in Bob's choice to focus on old literature in University where he completed an exhaustive treatise on Beowolf.
Bob and I saw less of each other at university though we both went to Carleton, he specializing in Old English Literature and I in Sociology. And our lives diverted even more when I moved to California to study, and later to compose and teach music.
Throughout that time, we kept in touch by email and I visited with him and Betty whenever I came to Ottawa.
I still find it hard to accept that Bob is gone, but appreciate, he was not well in his last years, and at least no longer suffers.
In the end, I thank you Bob, for your kindness, gentle humour, profound insights and love of learning that made me a better person than I might have been otherwise. And I hope that somewhere in that great beyond, you are enjoying your mother's wonderful gingerbread cookies.
Parting Tribute to a Friend:
Bob Margeson and Frank Levin
Heu! Fugit a nobis nunc qu(o) occurri tibi tempus,
Laetus ducens ad Vestam fessum soci(um) atque,
Frustra Parcas orans ut longe maneres hic,
Sed iam discedis longaequ(e) horae patiendae.
Pluris enim te certum quam mill(e) aestim(o) amicas
Qui, non temptati, nimbo desunt tibi primo.
Alas! Now has fled from us the time when I greeted you,
Joyfully leading you to the hearth my weary friend,
And vainly imploring the fates that you might long remain.
But already you are departing and long hours must be endured.
For I value you, proven, more than a thousand friends,
Who untested, let you down at the first storm cloud.
A fitting tribute to you Bob.
Frank Levin, January 2016.