Robert Patrick Jordan
West Point, 1969
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Joe Schatz on October 22, 2007:
Our Loyal and Selfless Friend, Rob Jordan
There are a lot of members of our class who owe their diplomas to Rob Jordan. Were it not for Rob’s tutoring, I would still be back there trying to pass chemistry. And I was but one of many beneficiaries of Rob’s gift for making complex subjects understandable and his generosity of spirit that impelled him to use his gift to help others.
There are always people who say they will help. Rob never said he would help, he just helped. No matter what your problem was and no matter what his circumstances were, Rob always came through. It was wonderful to know that he was in your corner.
Rob also helped many of us, and our dates, as the bartender at Snuffy’s. He shepherded the wayward safely home. Rob was happy working there, but looking back, it was the worst possible job for him.
I say that because no true remembrance of Rob could be made without acknowledging his epic struggles against demons. When he was young he fought alcohol, beating it by the time he was 30, and heroically remained sober thereafter. Unfortunately, by then it had taken a terrible toll on his health. He attended AA meetings until the end and helped many of the people he met there, too. Rob also battled depression, something that seems to disproportionately afflict the smartest among us, maybe because they see reality too clearly. But he never complained about alcoholism or depression or anything else, including chronic, severe back pain and migraine headaches. He spoke matter of factly about “chemical dependence” and other circumstances and events that had affected him. He stoically accepted the cards life had dealt him and he played them with class and courage.
Although he helped everyone else he seldom asked for help and usually insisted that he didn’t need any. Most of the time he figured out some way to get things done by himself. One time, he called me to help him move a heavy, cast iron bath tub into a tight spot. When I called to say I was on the way, he said someone else had helped him. I was disappointed to have missed a chance to help him for a change and asked him who had replaced me. I could hear him exhale on a cigarette before he answered, laughing, “Archimedes. We used fulcrums and levers.”
Another time Rob asked me, as his attorney, to talk to some investors who were considering putting money into his company. He had equipment, remote controlled cameras on wheels, that would roll through huge concrete sewer pipes looking for cracks. After the Northridge earthquake, Rob got a contract to inspect sewer pipes in Los Angeles. At the meeting with the investors, there were a bunch of “suits,” as Rob called them, sitting around a conference table. Rob was wearing work clothes. One of the investors said, in a tone that Rob later said he thought was condescending, “So, Mr. Jordan, could you tell me about what you do in the sewer?” Rob puffed on his cigarette a few times, creating a cloud of smoke over the table, and said slowly, “All you need to know is that shit flows downhill and if it don’t you got to pump it.” The investors did not make the investment.
After he retired, Rob several times came to the rescue of vulnerable people beset by bullying bureaucrats, unscrupulous creditors and pretentious blowhards who were routinely shocked to learn that the powerless object of their ill treatment was a friend of some old guy with missing teeth who looked like a biker but was smart and apparently had enough money to hire a lawyer to straighten things out.
My wife and children loved Rob. Of course, Rob helped them, such as by fixing the computer, getting the garage door opener to work, helping me with concrete in the back yard for a pole for a basketball hoop while eating chocolate cookies as fast as my wife could make them, even babysitting once. But I don’t think that was why they loved him. I think they loved him because they sensed, as so many others had, that he was “the real deal.”
An admirer of Samuel Johnson, the famous lexicographer, said of him, “Johnson is dead – Let us go on to the next best – There is nobody: no man can be said to put you in mind of Johnson.” That’s how I feel about Rob.
– Joe Schatz
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