AT-Hale-8-27

Ask anyone around town to tell you their "Bob Hale story" and they will most likely have no trouble relaying a pleasant encounter, an enlightening conversation, or, in some cases, a life-changing impact. 

The front office at the Clipper welcomes a steady stream of visitors on a daily basis as patrons come in to take out an ad, pitch a story or just say hello. Since Bob Hale passed away last week, visitors have stayed longer than usual, swapping stories and recalling the profound, unexpected significance of having known him. 

"When I was a child and Bob owned Westwinds Bookshop, he would let me knwo whenever a new Nancy Drew book had come in," recalled Alison Arnold, a former colleague and close family friends of Hale. 

Arnold and Hale worked closely together at the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society when Hale volunteered as collections manager. Without Hale’s diligence, Arnold said, the DRHS would not have many of its current collections. She recalls his need to organize everything on note cards, even as she brought him into the 21st century with online collections management.

“When he supported something, he supported it 100 percent,” she said. “He is responsible for many of the society’s collections and without him it would have been impossible to improve the society as a whole.”

Born in 1928 in Batavia, NY, Robert D. Hale was a giver. He gave his life to books and he gave his time to Dux- bury. The giving started when he left Hamilton College after one year in order to help support his family, working in a lumberyard, as a census taker and as a bookkeeper and it continued on throughout his lifetime.

While in high school, Hale acted with the Batavia Players, a semi-pro community theater group. Post-college, he took acting classes and decided to pursue acting professionally. His acting career took him to many troupes and locations, including the Duxbury Playhouse and the Gershwin Theater at Boston University. In 1956, he returned to Duxbury to work at Westwinds Bookshop and start a community theater group. The theater group would lead him to meet Lydia Lund, whom he would later marry.

The two were married on Aug. 20 1958 and lived for sev- eral years in New York, where he was an assistant editor of the LeRoy Gazette News, one of the oldest continuing weekly newspapers in the country. He continued to become managing editor of Curtiss Johnson Publications in Connecticut River Valley. In 1969, Wellesley College hired Hale as the general manager of Hathaway House Bookshop and under his management the store became a nationally renowned bookstore, with a large number of authors who came in to speak.

In 1974 he was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Booksellers Association and was elected president of the ABA in the late 1970s. In 1978 he became the Associate Executive Director of the ABA in New York City. Hale then went on to establish The Center for The Book with Daniel Boorstin, librarian of Congress.

“I have always kept to myself the fact that frequently I am more intrigued by the life of a writer than the writer’s work, concerned that such a revelation would make me appear shallow. Perhaps it does. This isn’t true in all cases of course, because I know little about the lives of the authors of most books I read, but over the years when a “great work” has not lived up to its reputation for me, moved me or inspired me, I have gone around to the back door so to speak, by finding a biography of the writer in question and been enlightened by what I learned.” Bob Hale, ‘Books and Bob Hale’

Hale returned to Westwinds as owner in 1983 and took time to pursue his dream of writing his own books. His first book, published in 1990, was “The Elm at the Edge of the Earth,” which was based on his childhood experiences and sold very well. His second book, “The Cloud Dweller,” did not receive the same level of acclaim, thus ending Hale’s professional writing career. Hale sold Westwinds in the late 1990s and went on to devote most of his time to the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society, serving for some time as president.

Judy Hall, former DRHS president, colleague and close friend of Hale, referred to him as a “true Renaissance man” who deeply loved Duxbury and was dedicated to protecting its history and integrity of spirit. It was his gifts and strengths of character that resounded far beyond the town.

“He was a warm, vibrant ambassador for the love of book and human discourse around the world from Africa to Japan to the White House,” Hall said. “At the same time, he was pas- sionately devoted to his family, his beautiful gardens and his iconic bookshop.”

Hall called Hale a “master storyteller” who captivated people with wit and portrayals of fascinating people and places.

“Just a week before he died we lingered after a delicious meal with Bob and Lyddy and friends around their dining room table for five hours of memorable insights and brilliant stories and laughter," she said. 

“There is nothing that stimulates the appetite of one who is curious, intellectually or otherwise, more than attach- ing the adjective “lost” to something; the lost 18 minutes on the Nixon tapes, Gore’s lost email records, George W’s lost year in the Air National Guard.” Bob Hale, ‘Books and Bob Hale,” Jan. 10, 2000

Hale spent decades as a Clipper contributor and developed a strong following with his regular column, "Books and Bob Hale. " A welcome and friendly face in the Clipper offices, Hale delivered a well-written, captivating column every time. The column was widely discussed, due mostlyto his ability to command the written word into something that both captured and educated the reader. 

"Above all, Bob had an amazing capacity to draw people to him," Hall said. "He was forever engaged in opening minds with his masterful wit and intellect. Bob Hale always sought to elevate the human spirit and treat people with respect." 

Arnold said Hale was a surrogate grandfather to her; he told her when he was mad at her and praised her when she succeeded. With him gone, she said the world is not quite so bright.

“Anyone who ever knew Bob was better for it, not just with the society or Westwinds, but throughout the communi- ty,” she said. “He was a darling soul and the world is a little dimmer without him.”