By Sherry Stokes Kraus
I first met Bob five years ago at Charlie VanHuss’s funeral in Ravenna, KY. But I had known of Bob all of my life since he was an often-mentioned example of an Estill Countian who had gone far in his personal and professional achievements in spite of humble beginnings.
Bob led a remarkable life from start to finish. He was one of five children raised by his widowed mother, Eddie Doty, on a small salary as a cook at the Wigwam after his father’s untimely death of pneumonia in 1941. Eddie was a remarkable human being in her own right and Bob wrote of her in the 2017 history of Ravenna published and edited by Jerry Rose. Here is how he described her:
“Eddie Broaddus looked like an old softie, but underneath she had a very strong and resilient nature. The hardships and tragedies of her life are hardly to be believed, but she was never bitter nor vindictive. She was the most socially and racially colorblind person I have known. She always gathered up the pieces and went on. At the end she simply said, “I’m just tired.”
While the family struggled financially, Bob clearly inherited his Mother’s energy and indomitable spirit. Since that meeting five years ago, I have grown to know Bob and we became close friends. I don’t think I have ever met a person with a kinder heart and more generous spirit. In addition to his academic accomplishments, he never stopped giving of himself and lived every day trying to honor his Christian value of a commitment to caring. In 2019, the final year of his life, he made five mission trips to Thailand, Honduras, Bolivia, Peru and Costa Rica, the latter of which he described as doing “street witnessing in 88-degree weather on dirt roads with open sewers at the sides.” He stayed active to the end in the Boy Scouts of America and of England and had long ago been awarded the highest American honor of the “Order of the Arrow.” Even though retired for thirteen years, he continued his regular office routines for projects and correspondence, and the occasional editing tasks at Campbellsville University, which generously allowed him to remain a part of the academic community in which he had been affiliated for 46 years. He also served as a Trustee at his alma mater of Georgetown College.
Bob was a modest man who was not interested in the accumulations of material wealth such as pension accounts, expensive homes or cars. I believe that his most prized material possession was his library of over three thousand books. When he recently had to move to a smaller college office and had to radically downsize his library, he didn’t just take the easy route of simply throwing the excess books out. Instead, he spent months trying to find good homes for these treasured possessions by giving as many of the books as possible to friends, scholars, students and colleges.
Easily, his most treasured recreational activity was his annual fishing trip to Lake Kishkutena in Northwest Ontario where he and a small group of his long-time friends went every July over the last 35 years to fish, canoe and camp. He loved this annual excursion so much that he was writing a book about the lake and his experiences there. I wish he could have had a few more visits there and time to complete that book.
Also, I hope that someone will be able to find the autobiography that he started in 2015. He last reported that it was 271 unedited pages long, with a narrative through the year 2003. Bob had such an extraordinary life that I’m sure many of us would like to read that autobiography of our friend. And there might be a young child in the future growing up in Ravenna and Irvine who would be inspired by the life story of a young Bobby Doty growing up in Millers Creek who had done so much with his life.
If Bob were here today to say goodbye to all of us, I can imagine that he would say something like what he said at the end of his 2019 Christmas letter:
We live but a short time, and then we are gone like the grass. Even the memories of us as persons, not just as progenitors will disappear. Let us, then, live authentically and lovingly as we learn from Paul’s offering in I Corinthians 12, “I show you a more excellent way.”
Peace and grace, Bob