A Tip of the Flat Hat
Since starting this project a number of people close to Robert have shared their memories of him with us. Longtime friend Don Leypoldt sent us this remembrance which was read at a memorial service. The William and Mary network is very tight and very involved. We thank them for their support and encouragement.
Rob was a great friend and good guy. That sounds so trite, but in a world where the vast majority of people are not great friends and good guys, Rob stuck out. He was on my hall at William and Mary three out of four years. This let me bypass his ultra-tight calendar. Whereas most people had to schedule dinner or coffee or drinks with him 2 to 3 weeks in advance, “Hmm…student government meeting at 3, Sam Sadler meeting at 5…can do you do 4 on the 18th?.”
I had the luxury of being able to rap on his door at 10:00 at night and talk with Rob “unplugged.” We literally racked up hundreds and hundreds of hours of these chats. There were dinners at the Caf, and hanging out at Paul’s (or more accurately, unsuccessfully trying to convince him to go to Paul’s. Or unsuccessfully trying to convince him to go to a game) This gave me, perhaps, a little different perspective on him than many of his friends.
We had great conversations. A lot of political discussions, since we were on different sides of the aisle. A lot of solving the world’s problems. Sports. Girls (Obviously this was pre-Kathy), and Life in general. He was one of the most fair-minded people I ever met, always willing to give someone a chance or a platform. I remember being a little surprised at how idealistic he could be, given that he came from a middle-class, non-Ivory Tower Brooklyn background. I also remember a man who could be very pragmatic. Darn, he was difficult to dispute or debate!
He and I both ended up in the Philly area immediately after graduation, so I made frequent trips to Penn to hang out. Dinners in Center City. Grabbing a beer at the White Dog (I think that was the law school hang out) He gave me a signed copy of his article that ran in Penn’s Law Journal, an article that has taken on much more personal significance in the last couple of days.
• The ubiquitous white sleeveless t-shirt he always wore when he was in for the evening
• We first became friends because of a bumper sticker- he had a NY Mets sticker behind his desk freshman year. Since he was from the Northeast and seemed to be a baseball guy, and I was from the Northeast and a huge baseball guy, that was the ice breaker. I think the first time we ever talked extensively was at a freshman mixer. It would be the first of many conversations
• I remember his absolute devotion to William and Mary. His dream was always to be the lead counsel for a university
• I remember him being a pretty lousy ultimate Frisbee player.
• I remember his laugh. Rob had a sarcastic side. I don’t know how often he showed it to others. But he would say something funny in a deadpan. I’d answer in a deadpan. And we’d go back and forth until he eventually would explode laughing. While he had a great deadpan, he couldn’t sustain it
• I remember that if law school didn’t work out, he could have been an Olympic race walker. I am a fast walker. My inseam is 7 inches longer than Rob’s. And I had to hustle to keep up with him
• On day one of William and Mary, he introduced himself as “Rob.” Everyone always thinks of him as “Robert”, and he tried to make that conversion- but to me, he will always be “Rob.”
• I remember his Geo Metro, “the golf cart with an engine,” as he described it, and his travails in learning to drive stick shift
• I remember going with him, Jon Tan, Brandon Ritchie and Jason Zazzaro to opening night of the Norfolk Tides our senior year. The game took 15 innings and the final score was 1-0! It was something like 4 ½ hours long. At that point, we were beyond bored, but there was the mindset of “Okay…we’ve come this far. We ain’t leaving until this is done.”
• I remember him taking me to dinner in Chinatown in Philly. I had never had dim sum and to Rob, this was a crime that had to be fixed. I asked him, “How do you tell a good Chinese restaurant?” He answered, “Simple. There are no white people in it.”
• I also remember that that was the only ethnic joke he told in the 14 years that I knew him. Which is astounding considering the thousands of hours of conversation we had, and the locker room nature of guy-on-guy chatter. What a great testimony to his sense of fairness and his complete lack of any racial or ethnic bias
• I remember how happy he was when he met Kathy
• I remember how amazed I was at the makeup of his wedding guest list. He had people from every conceivable racial, economic, political and sociological background. Again, what a great testimony to his ability to make friends across the board
• I remember how he would always, always, without fail ask about my family in phone conversations. It validated how important his family was to him
• Occasionally, I could drag him out to play wiffle ball, or have a catch in the Sunken Gardens
• I remember how torn he was as law school finished. He wanted to be a prosecutor. He wanted to put the bad guys behind bars. But what do you do when the Manhattan DA’s office offers you $38K a year, a good law firm offers you close to six figures and you have just racked up $100 grand in law school debt?
• I remember going to the driving range with him and Jason Zazzaro. He briefly caught the golf bug at the tail end of law school, and we tried to make a player out of him. I don’t know how successful we were.
• I remember that when you were passing through an area, Rob was the first guy you called. I got to grab dinner with him when he was clerking in Norfolk, interning in Richmond and living with Jason Torchinsky in the Arlington apartment
• I remember how happy I was for him when he took the job at RFA. Corporate law was not his thing. Making a positive impact on the world was. He would have done a tremendous job there.
• I remember him winning the Carr Cup at graduation, for his exceptional service to the College. I had two thoughts at the time: 1) He absolutely deserves this because no one has done more for the school and 2) Thinking ‘That’s my bro!’ as he went up to the podium
• The last time I ever saw him was in a Hampton Inn in Southington, CT. He and Kathy had to attend a wedding. We had breakfast in the lobby. It was nice for me, because I had never really had a chance to spend time with Kathy. A bride’s wedding is not the optimal time to meet the bride
• I remember a smart, funny, hard-working, honest as the day is long, extraordinary human being who will be sorely missed…and not forgotten for a long, long time.
-Don Leypoldt, William and Mary, Class of 1996