July 24, 1933 – January 6, 2018
Robert “Bob” Spears, a longtime Canadian Southern Baptist, of Cochrane, AB, passed away on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at the age of 84 years.
In early adulthood, Bob studied piano building and tuning at the Steinway Factory in Germany. During his lifetime, he tuned many church pianos across British Columbia and Alberta; he even made a trip to Brazil to tune pianos at a seminary there as well as in various churches.
One of Bob’s achievements was the building of a replica of a church in BC. Every inside detail of the building was complete. Children loved to enter the child-size church, sit on the pews or pretend to be the preacher. It was a beloved attraction for a number of years at the Stampede Breakfast held at Richmond Hill Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta.
Equal to his love for music was Bob’s love of children. He taught children in many Sunday school settings, at Vacation Bible School, and most recently in the Awana program at Bow Valley Baptist Church in Cochrane. He served many years in the Grandparenting program at Glenbow Elementary School in Cochrane, Alberta.
In addition, he served as the children’s teacher for the Associational Sunday School Training Team for interior British Colombia for a number of years.
Bob had always been an avid reader and student of psychology and theology. After formally retiring, he moved to Alberta to study at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and College where he graduated in 2001.
“Bob Spears was a student in the first class I taught when we arrived at the seminary,” writes Steve Booth, Academic Dean. “He graduated with an Associate Diploma of Christian Ministry in 2001. Bob has been a faithful supporter of our school for many years. It was always a joy to see him at graduation and other school events.”
Susan Booth adds, “Bob’s mild-mannered exterior belied a quick, dry wit and the heart of an adventurer. I’ll never forget finding out that Bob rode his scooter across town, through the ranch, and up the hill to attend a Friday evening grad event! We will surely miss his sweet spirit.”
He never missed the annual convention meeting—but often failed to arrange accommodation until he arrived in the city that was hosting. Somehow, he always found a bed to sleep in.
Former CSBS&C President Richard Blackaby writes, “Bob wasn’t the kind of person who jumped out at you and made you notice him. But inevitably you would feel his influence as he quietly and humbly went about using his unique skills to further God’s Kingdom.”
An early and faithful member of Richmond Hill Baptist Church, Bob moved to the Bethany Care Centre in Cochrane for his final years. Bow Valley Baptist Church was close enough for him to walk or ride his motorized wheel chair to church.
Jill Wilhelm says, when possible, Bob would walk to Awana—where he had been serving for a few years. She describes him as “a shining example of being faithful to your dying day!”
Kathy Morales first met Bob in BC, serving as a volunteer with David and Barbara Wyman on a team for training Sunday school teachers. Bob faithfully taught a boys’ Sunday school class “and made some sort of collectable trading cards with Bible characters for the kids in his class,” says Kathy. “They were in high demand.” She adds, “Bob tuned my piano for many years in exchange for rides.”
Many of Bob’s friends humorously recall his later mode of transport:
“I’ll never forget the image of Bob scooting to church, with his hair blowing in the wind,” says fellow church member Kathy Doell. “The best thing about Bob was that he was so resilient. He would drive his electric scooter from Bethany Care Centre to Bow Valley Baptist Church in any kind of weather. Cold or hot, he never wore a toque or hat. Once we passed him on our way to church, and he was scooting down the sidewalk at quite a clip. It was very cold out, and I was amazed that he didn’t wear anything on his head. He just scooted along; his only care was getting to church on time!”
Bob faithfully attended church events as often as possible, whether at Bow Valley Baptist Church or the seminary in Cochrane.
“At Bow Valley he would drive his electric scooter right into the church. We would often see him waiting for the elevator to get him down to connection group or to Awana, or back upstairs for the worship service. When the elevator was ready for him, he had to back up slightly to drive straight in. He didn’t have any back-up lights, and he never gave us any warning. We had to get out of the way quickly, so as not to get run over by Bob’s scooter!”
A friend in class remembers that when Bob would sing ‘O Canada’ for the opening of Awana on Wednesday nights, he was very concerned about his pitch. “He had an amazing voice!” Bob always sat in the big group of children at Awana, a steady presence for the kids.
His beautiful tenor voice added to the music of The Master’s Singers, an all-male Christian chorus well known in Calgary.
“In the 1980s, when I was pastoring in North Battleford, SK, Bob came through town and stopped for lunch,” Paul Johnson remembers. “Afterward he offered to tune our church piano gratis. We were delighted to let him. Seems he did this to other churches, his ministry of helps.”
One friend vaguely recalls a story about “the mouse in the piano.” Apparently Bob tuned a piano and then days later was listening to someone play the piano during worship time. Immediately he knew something was wrong—and discovered a mouse had found its way inside the piano!
In addition to rebuilding and tuning pianos, Bob enjoyed crafting psalteries—a stringed instrument referred to in the Psalms. Local Bethany Care volunteers, Amy and Wilmien Brandt, often visited Bob at his “workplace” and helped him with his psalters. Amy says, “He was kind and strong-minded, and he had an amazing heart. My mom and I worked with him on some of his instruments at Bethany. He was patient with us, teaching us everything we needed to know to help him. He was always doing something and didn’t let his shaky hands get in the way of that. We loved him dearly and are very sad to let him go.”
He played the piano regularly for Alzheimer’s patients. Recently he began weekly jazz sessions with the Bow River Seniors. Despite failing health, he carried on his regular activities and before his last hospitalization, played a nearly unbeatable game of Scrabble every evening. He cared deeply for his family and friends and he will be sorely missed.
Written by Elaine Phillips