WILLIAMSBURG - In small towns like ours, when a resident passes away, it doesn't go unnoticed since we are all acquainted with one another.
Even so, there are those unique times, when a universally loved and respected individual expires, that the entire community collectively pauses to reflect, grieve and pay the appropriate respects.
One of those notable passings occurred last month when Robert "Bob" Tate left us after 88 years of glorious living.
Bob was forever embraced by his community, his church, his friends and, especially, his loving family. Beyond being a model citizen, as a distinguished World War II veteran, or a generous contributor of 22 gallons of his blood, or just being an exemplary neighbor, Bob has, for many decades, been a pillar in our community and a shining presence in the athletic arena.
As a scholastic basketball standout, Bob was Blair County's leading scorer in 1938 and, soon after, became one of our most loyal alumni in supporting the Blue Pirate and Lady Pirate athletic teams for well over 60 years.
He ranks right up there with the Ranalli brothers (Jack and Veto), the Lloyd family, and his brother, Sheldon, as loyal, lifelong Pirate boosters.
Bob rarely missed a game at any level, whether it be junior high basketball or varsity football. He would climb to the top level of the bleachers to not miss a single nuance of the games he loved. He consistently offered encouragement to players, coaches and, occasionally, officials when given the opportunity.
Bob's sons, Rich and Bill, continued the family legacy as they excelled athletically, and daughter Anne contributed as an enthusiastic cheerleader and band member. Later on came grandchildren who added to the family's accomplishments by competing for the blue and white at a very high level.
In recent years, Bob annually participated in the Blair County Golden Games, where he collected a host of medals in various sports. He rarely spoke about those victories, but instead emphasized the great camaraderie with his fellow athletes.
As a Sunday School teacher, or president of our borough council, Bob always brought a positive attitude and an amiable disposition to every endeavor. The Senior Games will surely miss Bob this spring as his community already does.
Bob loved the outdoors, which included hunting, fishing and the taking of photographs. We can still see him at age 87 jogging around the track "trying to stay in shape."
In 2003 he received the Williamsburg High School's Lifetime Achievement Award. No one could have achieved more or given so much in return to his community.
Bob Tate would not want us to spend time mourning his death, but rather for us to celebrate the gift of life - as he did -by living each day to its fullest. What an inspiration and role model he has been for all of us.
We realize everyone can and will be replaced. Nevertheless, Bob may well prove an exception to this time-honored truism. There will be a "huge gap" at the very top of the bleachers in our high school gym this fall and winter, which will never be adequately filled again.
Mr. Robert Tate was one of a kind, and we will cherish his memory for generations to come.
Don Appleman is a lifelong resident of Williamsburg and currently the school's girls basketball coach.