Coffee with the unforgettable Bob Enkey

On Thursday, I learned that a good friend and colleague from New Trier was no longer among us. Bob Enkey was one of the nicest friends and colleagues a person could have, a talented Art Teacher and human being. When I think of him several things come to mind: the repartee at coffee (something that so many of us never did and if we did, it was not all that often), the art exhibits and showcasing of students’ work, his signature style of writing and printing, his smile, his demeanor with both colleagues and students, his professionalism and expertise. Bob was one of the kindest men I have ever met and we will all miss him.

I am particularly sad that our efforts to reconnect with him had not worked. Just a few days ago, I noticed some photos on Facebook, and I promised myself that I would contact his daughter. By the day I was about to send a message, I saw a message from his wonderful wife, Gail, that he was gone.

I had tried connections on Facebook and I found what I thought was his e-mail address from the list I had from the TARP (Trevian Association of Retired Persons) and e-mailed him numerous times to no avail. I never did find out what happened. Things just got lost in the shuffle of life. Nonetheless, he was always on our minds.

Coffee with him was great, it forced me to put aside my work for a few minutes and find the time to talk to colleagues. Coffee with him was as if he was holding court. People literally sat around him as he quietly, without anyone even realizing it, took charge of the laughter and fun we all had. Those who missed coffee with Bob, truly missed out.

Bob was a natural mentor, mentoring well before New Trier had a mentoring system in place. He put all at ease and we would seek him out for advice on dealing with all sorts of things within the system.

Plants and gardening were a commonality and I marveled at the way that he could grow them and plant them, using his artistry in the garden and never ceasing to blow us all away with the visuals of his Wilmette back yard. All this year I have thought of the Enkeys and their Wilmette home as I passed it on the way to tutoring North Shore kids. Little did I know…

The Enkeys had moved to Florida; I am not even sure when. Bob retired in 2002 (to my 2007) and somehow the busy aspects of life had intervened and we were no longer in contact. Facebook intervened and I was ‘friends with him, his wife, and one of his daughters, yet the communication was limited as we were all so busy with our new lives.

I watched from afar as it appeared that there were illnesses in the family but the Facebook information was a limited, Facebook-informative and despite my attempts with Facebook messaging, we never found out anything else.

With Bob, Gail, Megan, and Rachel, our family had their first camping moments in 1984, that ended up being some of most remembered moments ever. Great care was taken to have a good trip. All efforts exploded on us. I believe that MK was pregnant with our youngest, she was a great sport throughout the experience. We went to Lake Ladonna in Oregon, IL. What was supposed to be a great trip ended up with being a Viet Nam veteran’s campsite, near a highway and a train and noisy all night. There was a microphone at the main desk to which people were called, it sounded like a ‘Mash’ episode. The RVs were stocked with loud radios and people who were more into just living their lives in the out of doors and not appreciative of nature. It was so bad that we all laughed like crazy about the incident and for years we would look at our Lake Ladonna tokens and think of the fun we had. It was so bad it was good. We even went out for pizza that was actually amazing. MK pointed out that perhaps it was a front for the Mafia. Several days after our return, that fact was pointed out to be true. Not that we had much time for television at the time with two little ones and one on the way, but we caught a bit of ’60 Minutes’ and lo and behold, our pizza place was on the docket, totally Mafia as MK suspected. It was a very memorable time. The only really bad thing that happened was the salmonella that one of the Enkey girls came down with from the water in the Lake. That was scary, really scary. The rest goes down in history.

One would think that we would never go camping again, but despite this trip, we did camp many times with the boys, using things that the Enkeys had taught us. Just last weekend two of our sons and their families went camping and I cannot help to think that this legacy was started with Bob and Gail.

Bob and Gail introduced us to having a dog for our kids. MK and I were used to having tiny dogs as kids, Bob and Gail introduced us to the real thing. Tania, their delightful dog, even once stayed with us when the Enkeys were out of town.

Bob was one of a kind, a New Trier icon, a man who never ever tried to make a name for himself, who never did anything but the right thing, a man truly loved by his colleagues, friends, and students. He will be sorely missed.

For the obituary, please copy and paste the following URL:

About Richard Koerner

Sixty something, father, papi, educator, organizer, Francophile, traveler, amateur photographer, gardener, cyclist, kayaker, calligrapher, cinephile, reader, and overall renaissance type human being.
This entry was posted in Art, Friends, Gardening, Life in general, New Trier High School, Thoughts and philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Coffee with the unforgettable Bob Enkey

  1. Darrelyn Marx says:

    Lovely, just lovely Rich. I couldn’t agree more with the character of the man you so aptly described. Bob exuded an abundance of warmth that I so appreciated. NT could have been pretty chaotic without people like you and Bob!

    • He was, in many ways, such a wonderful, quiet leader, and although a very popular teacher and colleague, I do wonder how many people really knew of all of his great qualities and accomplishments.

  2. Sharon Bender says:

    I only had him for art class freshman year, but I remember enjoying his class very much. I’m so sorry for your loss. May his memory be for a blessing.

  3. Mindy says:

    Great thoughts, Rich. Bob was so kind, soft spoken but you listened to his words.. and a wonderful laugh. Always drove by the house on Lake Ave. didn’t know they had moved. Keep us posted if you learn any more.

  4. Donna Enkey says:

    I am so grateful for coming across this story today. I am Bob’s neice in Florida. I hope you don’t mind that I shared the link to the story in the photos on Gail’softball Facebook page. We had a small beautiful ceremony for him this past weekend in FL. I believe they willl have another ceremony for him in Evanston on June or July for him

    • I am sorry I did not get back to you sooner. I just saw your posts today. I am thrilled that you could use my post. Bob was one of the most amazing people I have met in my life and he will be so missed. I am sorry I did not know sooner of the issues the Enkey family were going through. I would have been far more vigilant in getting in touch with them. They ‘typo’ issue is often that annoying ‘autocorrect’ when we correctly put something down and the autocorrect does its own thing with what we write.

  5. Donna Enkey says:

    I have to apologize for the typos. It was on Gail’s Facebook page not her softball Facebook page. Sometimes these phones can be not so friendly when typing.

  6. Donna Enkey says:

    Rich the Memorial service will be at Northminister Pres. Church, Evanston, Sept. 9 at 11 am. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Gail…… sent via her niece

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