Another giant passes

Published 2:29 pm Saturday, June 2, 2012

My generation could learn a lot from the Greatest Generation.

Most of us have enjoyed a comfortable existence, free of the hardships of an economic depression. Few of us served our country in uniform, much less in wartime. We’re doing a poor job, for the most part, of giving back to our communities like our forefathers did.

We’re running out of time to learn.

Another giant passed on last month with the death of Bob Edwards at age 87.

There was much to admire about my friend Bob, from his combat service in World War II to his long, successful career in dentistry to his fierce loyalty to his friends to the wonderful children and grandchildren he and his wife, Mary, produced.

I admired him for all of those things, but I admired him most for his love of Franklin.

Bob routinely contributed to this page with thoughtful, usually hard-hitting commentary about city government. You might have disagreed with Bob, but you never wondered where he stood.

Even well into his 80s, as his confident stride to the podium gave way to a shuffle, he was a regularly attendee at City Council meetings, making the most of “Citizens Time” and the opportunity to hold elected leaders’ feet to the fire.

Many saw in Bob a propensity for negativity. I saw in Bob an optimist who wanted the very best for his hometown.

Bob’s was not a head-in-the-sand, inauthentic optimism practiced by many community leaders. He never bought the notion that if you pretend hard enough that a problem doesn’t exist, everything will be hunky-dory.

He called a spade a spade and challenged to community leaders to fix problems, not ignore them.

His final crusade on this page a year ago was an effort to rally the citizenry behind consolidated government services in Franklin and Southampton County as a solution to the approaching fiscal train wreck in both localities. He, like many of us, was completely frustrated by elected leadership’s inaction. He believed, correctly, that the only hope was to engage the grassroots in a bottom-up solution. His failing health zapped him of the energy needed to fight such an uphill battle.

Bob Edwards had nothing personal to gain from a prosperous Franklin-Southampton community. His professional life was over, his family financially secure. His children have found professional success elsewhere and had nothing to gain or lose from Franklin’s condition.

Yet, he cared deeply until the end. It was characteristic of his generation. With his passing, the leadership void gets bigger.

STEVE STEWART is publisher of The Tidewater News. His email address is