By the time I was born in April 1945, Bob Weiss had already fought for the Allies in Europe and won a Silver Star in the small French town of Mortain. How much of his further ‘travels’ throughout Europe courtesy of the US Army preceded my birth, I will never know, but surely a substantial portion. He was twice wounded there before being discharged and returning home to the University of Chicago Law School to study and settling down in the city of Portland, Oregon to practice law. The extent of these early European ‘travels’ is unknowable, except to say that it likely involved thousands of miles undertaken in the least desirable of conditions – in constant combat for the most part, as an officer and forward artillery observer.
Ironically, Portland is my birth place due to the fact that my father’s war service consisted of working on the construction of Liberty Ships in the Columbia River shipyards. Bob’s residency in Portland was a conscious decision rather than an accident of birth, and was probably substantially informed by the horrors of war he witnessed during his service. We were not to meet until some 25 years after my birth.
Bob traveled extensively throughout his life, and not all of his travels were limited to the physical realm. During the course of a long life, he became a well-regarded lawyer acknowledged as such by both clients and fellow members of the bar, a published author of nonfiction (Fire Mission, his version of the events at Mortain) and fiction (Mardi Gras At The Monastery and Other Stories), a poet, a playwright, a public speaker, an honored veteran (receiving from France, late in life, the title of chevalier in the Legion d’honneur for his service at Mortain, in addition to the Croix de Guerre, two purple hearts, and a silver star given to him while he was in the Army), and a beloved lifelong hero to, and friend of, the residents of the City of Mortain, a city in Normandy that he returned to several times during his physical travels. At his memorial service last August, the Mayor of Mortain sent a wreath and a bilingual spokesman to read the Mayor’s eulogy about someone who had served his city so well in its time of greatest need.
Bob was also a mentor, companion, advisor, colleague, and friend to more people than I dare to name for fear of inadvertent omission. It doesn’t matter whether I name them or not, since each of them knows who he or she is and is personally aware of the mathematical constants that filled each of his relationships – the ability to listen carefully and suggest a common sense solution to a problem or an alternative course of action to one especially dreaded, his unrestrained laughter, sense of humor and shared mirth, his willingness to become the wartime officer he once was whenever there was a need for one of us to buck up, his willingness to speak his mind candidly and honestly in a manner suitable to any situation in which you might find yourself, and the warmth and depth of his smile.
This active life allowed Bob to engage in a lot of discretionary physical travel – to speak, to serve his clients, to serve the welfare of his partners and friends, or to simply enjoy the fruits of a long life (he died at age 92). But his family and friends have all known since his memorial service that he had one last journey to undertake, and yesterday I learned of the date in May when he will finally come to rest and travel no further.
His final journey will be to Arlington National Cemetery, where he is entitled to be interred due to his war service and his Silver Star. He looked forward to being buried there and was proud of the honor to be given to him by a grateful country. He took comfort from the notion that he was to be buried among his comrades-in-arms, his fellow citizen soldiers who fought during World War II. He believed in, and took comfort from, the spirit inherent in the term ‘citizen soldier’ and was proud to have been a member of a generation that answered a call born of great need. He took the term as a compliment for the beliefs and bravery of an entire generation, often telling me that he was nothing special, that he was just one of so very many.
Bob’s final journey can only be undertaken with the assistance of family and friends, but it will be a journey chosen and anticipated by him. It will be a well earned journey to a place of honor, a journey on which Helen, I, and others will accompany him. And while his physical remains will find a final resting place there among the brave, his spirit remains alive, free, and thriving in the conjoined memories of his family and the legion of his friends.