Robert Sherman Blair II
Bob Blair died on May 7, 1966. Below is a remembrance by his roommate Nick von Baillou '64.
Remembrance of Bob Blair
by Nick von Baillou '64
August 14, 2013
Bob arrived at Yale as the prototypical image anyone would have of the gifted Yale freshman. He was medium height, blonde, casual, from New Caanan, athletic (excellent tennis player and golfer), driving up in a black MGA with the top down after a sterling four years at Hotchkiss. He was also the best friend of one of my closest chums for five years at Salisbury, the neighboring prep school. Hotchkiss was high tone and had a superb reputation for preparing boys for the Ivies. Salisbury was more for academic retreads and disciplinary problems. Since I was both of those, meeting Bob was the start of a new life. We got together a couple of times on the Old Campus and decided to become roommates when we were assigned to Pierson College.
I liked him instantly. He was fun, smart, kind, patient, generous, and a good sport. We turned my room into a double and his into a living room with good furniture and a stereo we could keep on low when we did our work there. It was also great for entertaining our dates. Our mates there were Clancy Ridley, Mike Sherwood, Joe Wishcamper, and Charlie Barker, and we were all fast friends.
Three years flew by in a flurry of course studies, sports, events, road trips — all the usual stuff. We all had a lot of fun. Most of us had summer jobs and Bob was a tree surgeon making top wages at home. He would come back each fall, in fine condition and enthused about the upcoming year. We compared notes on various jobs: Mike was a smoke jumper, I was an airport lineman refueling aircraft. Bob was up in his trees. And so on.
We visited Bob in New Caanan and enjoyed the hospitality of his parents. His mother was sincerely interested in each of us and his father in his quiet way took his measure as well. Bob had a knock-out sister, Chilla, who was a few years older and an experienced traveler in the fast lane. She was dating Joe Dimaggio and having a truly wild time in the City. She sure was our idea of what we might date when we grew up. And she was really a lot of fun.
Bob was an economics major and had a very practical view of life. He planned to go to business school and then on to a fast-moving corporate career. He did superbly in academics, always Dean's List and clearly focused. I could see him as a top CEO.
The war in Vietnam was heating up and the draft was starting to get real for most of us. Bob and I agreed at graduation to join the Marines together after grad school. Bob and I both graduated from Columbia Business School and were planning to enter the October class at Officer Candidate School in Quantico.
Then came news of the awful accident in the summer of 1966 when Bob was killed in a fall from one of the trees in which he was working. I remembered how nervous his mother had always been about that job, but he was so competent that it never seemed a possibility. It was gut-wrenching. It made us feel mortal. The reality that Death could grab one even before combat was deeply disturbing.
And we missed him horribly. I thought about him constantly and remembered his wry smile, clear blue eyes, his rolling gate, and the dreams we had of eternal adventure in the world we were about to inherit.
I am thankful to be able to write these words in his memory and hope they have done him justice. God bless him.