Every once in a while, you meet someone who gives so unselfishly that they make a permanent mark on the lives around them.
Bob Sweet was one of those people – and not just for me. Bob was my father-in-law, and I met him soon after moving to Colorado Springs in 2004. His family embraced mine – even inviting my parents over for dinner and welcoming them into their home. He was active in church and in the community – and he and Betty wrapped us in family almost from the moment we met them all those years ago.
He passed away last week and left a legacy that few can match. As a civil engineer working with the state of California, he built roads and bridges that will last many generations. As a dedicated hiker and backpacker, he developed an appreciation of the outdoors and created conservationists out of a generation of kids in California and Colorado. He took grandchildren on annual pilgrimages to the top of Pikes Peak (taking the train) and to the Royal Gorge. He loved the Earth, the mountains, the beaches, the fresh air, and his stories of old backpacking trips were brought to life with his wit and his humor.
As a Navy veteran, he served our nation honorably and well. As an Iowa farm boy, he learned about making the most of what he had – and building from there. As a college graduate, he loved to talk about issues and was always eager to debate. He loved learning about other people, other cultures, other ideas. He loved music – and in younger years, he loved to dance. (I always enjoyed the story about how he, Betty and some friends got kicked out of a nightclub for dancing on the tables.) Not many people live life as large as he did.
He also left a permanent mark on Colorado Springs as a member of the city’s planning commission. He took a generation of young boys out camping as scout leader for the Air Force Academy’s Scout Troup 79. He was a member of the Evangelical Free Church and the Masonic Lodge El Paso 13. He was busy, he was involved and he gave his time and talents wherever he lived.
And he was so warm and welcoming, so kind and generous. When we moved to Colorado, my girls were 5 and 7, and just had their lives turned upside down. We left North Carolina after a divorce and stayed with my parents for a few months before making the move West. Kids are resilient, but mine had seen so many changes, they were uncertain about the future for the first time in their young lives. They were hundreds of miles from family and needed a solid place to land. Bob was always so gentle and kind with them, he put them at ease immediately. Even my youngest, painfully shy at the time, grew to consider him family.
He left his wife, five children and their spouses, a passel of grandchildren and two great- grandchildren. His mourned by exchange students and friends all around the world – and we all stand as testament to his gigantic heart and welcoming smile.
We’ll miss you, Bob. You left behind instructions for living the best kind of life – one that many of us will strive.
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