Larry Mantle

Bob O'Rourke (1939-2011)

I lost a good friend yesterday – a man I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for 25 years—longtime VP of Public Relations for Caltech, Bob O’Rourke.  Bob was not only a dedicated booster of Caltech; he was always working to connect people he knew when their interests intersected.  He was a matchmaker in every area but romance (as far as I knew).

I last visited Bob about two weeks ago and, even as his body was failing, his robust personality was fully there.  He was interested in connecting me with an acquaintance of his who was doing significant philanthropic work in our area.  His mind never stopped working.

Bob also dedicated his last years to furthering research into the treatment of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, the disease that eventually took his life.  He joined me on “AirTalk” just over a year ago to talk about how he was diagnosed with the illness and little is known about its causes.

Bob used his force of personality and persuasive abilities to lobby UCLA into performing a lung transplant on him.  After waiting for nine months to get a match, Bob got a new lung to replace one of his diseased ones.  Unfortunately, the donor lung never properly functioned in Bob’s body and, from that point, the illness’s course was clear.

During these past few months that Bob was home on hospice care, I had the chance to visit him a few times and enjoy his and his wife Sandy’s company, despite his difficulty in breathing.  He made sure our conversations were upbeat and warm.  His was the best example of facing impending death head-on and with spirit fully intact.

I’m sure that for Sandy, their children, grandchildren, and those very closest to him, it was extremely difficult and stressful to provide full-time care and to see the man they love so much struggle for breath.  However, I have no doubt how much pride they have in the man who set the best possible example for how to live with fast-approaching death.

I’ve reached the age of 52 with this being my first loss of a good friend.  I’ve seen the passing of several family members, but, until now, no friends.  This loss is tough.  There will never be another Bob O’Rourke, but his impact on this community and his friends will outlive us all.  Bob, I’ll miss you.

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