Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Goodbye My Friend, A Tribute to Robert Postula

Damn, this is so hard. Every time I sit down to write the tears come again.

Robert (Bob) Postula November 28, 1937 - March 18, 2007

He was my mentor, my champion, my friend. Bob was the President of the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan from 2001-2003 and an active member of the organization much longer than that.

I was a member of the PGSM for a few years, content like most to pay my dues and receive my copies of the society journal in the mail. I never went to meetings. Never submitted articles for publication in the journal. I wasn't actively involved on any level.

Bob was the one that changed all that for me. He was a member of the board of directors when he first contacted me about taking over the society web site. He'd been chosen as the liaison between the board members and myself. From his very first contact with me (email) he was the perfect gentleman and diplomat. When I took over the society web site it was a simple site offering contact information only. I built the site to be one of the best genealogical society web sites on the net for its time and Bob was with me every step of the way (the current PGSM site is not mine). When I redesigned it, made additions to it, or simply updated it, Bob was the first to notice and send comments my way. He loved internet technology and was able to see how valuable that media could be to the society. He was my champion when others failed to see or show enthusiasm for what the society web site could be. I put a ton of hours into that web site. Most people had no idea, but Bob knew.

After Bob was elected President of the PGSM in 2001 he asked me to be a member-at-large of the board of directors. I balked. I didn't want to get involved. Working on the web site was one thing but getting into the politics of the society wasn't my cup of tea. I much prefer to work as a behind-the-scenes person, content to make my contributions here and there without any notice or fanfare. But Bob persuaded me to join the group. He was very kind and encouraging and it wasn't long before I got comfortable with the board members and procedures. I started going to the society's meetings because I couldn't in good conscience take an active role at that level without doing so. I met several really nice and knowledgeable people. And then I met some more. Before I knew it, I'd made some good friends and the acquaintance of several very experienced genealogists and historians. Eventually I took a much more active roll on the board of directors.

At Bob's request, I wrote an article for the society's journal. It was the first time I was published. I wouldn't have done that if Bob hadn't encouraged me. It's not that I doubted my writing ability so much as I felt like a novice in the shadows of the more experience researchers in the society. Bob suggested I write about what was going on on the internet, something most of the members at the time were not utilizing. He was my editor (he was a terrific "details" guy!) and he was very enthusiastic about my writing and my subject matter. He was also a great person to bounce ideas off.

When I took the leap and started writing editorials on the PGSM web site (I was "blogging" before blogging was invented ;-) he was my strongest supporter. Perhaps one day I'll dig out some of my editorials and share them with you.

Bob was an early and strong advocate of using the internet for genealogy research. He subscribed to mailing lists, and e-zines, and posted on message boards too. If he'd been able, there's no doubt in my mind he would have been a genea-blogger as well. And he would have been leaving you all thoughtful and encouraging comments. But his health took a steady and rapid decline starting in late 2005, about the time I started blogging. By early 2006 he was no longer able to use the internet. He never got to read my blog but there's no doubt in my mind he would have been my number one fan.

The picture I've included in this post was taken this past summer at a Luau we attended together. I took lots of pictures and video that day and I'm so glad I did. It's a memory I will treasure. Bob was an old school gentleman who always opened doors and pulled out chairs for ladies, I loved that about him. He had a great deal of respect for women and I always felt special, respected and appreciated in his presence.

I've requested permission from the current President of the PGSM to reprint all of Bob's articles that appeared in the society's journal over the years. I'd really like to get his research out on the net, indexable and accessible the world over. Knowing how much Bob valued internet technology and was passionate about genealogy, I think this would be a most fitting tribute to the man. If I get permission, you will see his articles here and on PolishAncestry.com.

Goodbye my mentor, my champion, my friend. I will remember you, Bob, and I will miss you.