“We need to give Rob a call,” he said as I crossed out the $1 Natural Ice special and wrote “SOLD OUT” on the dry-erase board softly catching the glare of the pink neon. There were a few people left at the bar as the band packed up their gear.
I nodded, “Yes we do!”
“That’s Rob’s brand!” Steve said.
I knew Rob’s health was fading and I took Steve (Campbell) seriously when he said we needed to check on him. Rob Titlow and I joined the Knights of Columbus together in March of 2013. Back when we were first trying to establish a regular weekly hang at the Hall, oftentimes he and his four-legged companion Bandit were our only customers.
Some time later Steve made his way to the door as I wiped down countertops and tossed empties. As he grasped the doorknob I said, “Alright Steve. Let me know when you get in touch with Rob and I’ll join you.”
A couple days later I received a text. “When will you be at the Hall?” Steve asked.
“Round 6:30, why what’s up?”
“I’ll stop by after dinner and tell you,” he said. It seemed a bit formal but I didn’t think much of it. Steve dropped in later to let me know that Rob had passed. He wanted to tell me in person. “He was with us. Natty Ice. That’s what Rob liked. He’d always bring some over when he had something to say…it was like ‘King of the Hill’ out back by the garage. Rob, Burt, Ken, me. Mmm hmm. Yep. Mmm hmmm,” Steve said, mimicking the show where the main characters solve the world’s problems over a few beers on the back porch if you’re not familiar.
I met Rob, and later Steve, through ONS residents Burt and Ken Kaiser, who have since relocated to Florida and Missouri, respectively. It’s easy to see how the Kaiser brothers, Rob, and Steve (all neighbors on New Jersey St.) would get along…all sharing a near encyclopedic knowledge and appreciation for anything that burned gas and shifted gears. The faster the better. Rob had a Ferrari 12-cylinder engine block under a plate of glass serving as a coffee table at his home. His living room was adorned with vintage F1, Le Mans and other classic road race posters from around the world. One day he showed me his police-issue Harley and told me about his ultra-rare Norton as if they were a couple old dusty Schwinns. I knew him to be straightforward, humble, and quiet about his accomplishments…of which there was no shortage.
Rob spent 10 years in the Air Force as a commissioned officer and a navigator assigned to the C-130 transport aircraft. His overseas assignments included the Phillippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Germany and Greece. After his stint in the Air Force, Rob decided to return to school where he completed his bachelor’s degree at IU Bloomington. He later obtained his MPA and law degrees. Rob landed at Allison Gas Turbine as a Contracts Attorney. During his career with Allison he migrated to the advanced development area, AADC and Liberty Works with Rolls Royce until his retirement.
Bandit, Rob’s Husky, was a friend to all and a bit of a celebrity around the neighborhood. Rob could often be seen taking a leisurely stroll with him. “Just water for him. He quit drinking,” Rob would joke whenever he’d bring Bandit down to the lounge. It almost seemed that Rob’s health started deteriorating slowly after he lost his best pal Bandit. Surely they are both in a better place shooting the breeze over a Natty Ice…maybe rehashing the epic Ford vs. Ferrari Le Mans battles of the ‘60s or some of A.J. Foyt’s best Indy 500 victories with a couple fellow gearhead saints.
“He was with us that night,” Steve said. Maybe he was right…I hope he was. And I hope Bandit was there too. I’ll miss them both dearly.
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