I can remember the first time I ever heard that voice.

I was a freshman at Elston High School, sitting in Mr. Adnson's biology class. A man who I didn't know peaked his head in, gave our teacher a hard time, ribbed with a student or two then moved on.

That's how it went for the duration of that school year. Eventually, I came to know that man as almost everyone knew him: "Bear".

That voice, which is difficult to describe in print, is something that gets tattooed on your brain. A bit throaty, but deep and booming. Usually something funny was coming out of it or it would find a way to transfer into an intoxicating laugh.

Bob "Bear" Falls died Saturday, at the too-young age of 63. He was a friend to me and to many others. But more important than all that, he was a mentor in some way, shape or form to every life he touched.

I can't begin to imagine how many lives "Bear" was able to impact in his years on this planet. The outpouring of grief overflowing from social media over the last several days gave us all some idea, though. Even if he was taken from us too soon, isn't that all any of us can ask? To leave an impact? To make a mark?

"Bear" certainly left his mark.

I spent Sunday talking to just about everyone I could think of. I'm sure I missed some, but hopefully the N-D stories wound up doing his life justice.

I was on the phone with his friends and colleagues, including those who thought of him as a mentor. We reminisced, talked about how none of us really knew anyone quite like "Bear". His obituary in Wednesday's paper contained words that I've always used to describe him: he "marched to the beat of his own drum."

He never let social policy dictate how he was going to act or be forced to like things he didn't like. As athletic director at Michigan City High School - the role in which I was personally most familiar with him - he would often make decisions that would anger some. That's the nature of the job, really, and if you're doing it right, that's going to happen.

But the thing with "Bear", even if you didn't agree - and he and I would butt heads on an issue here and there over the years - you at least respected his position because he'd always tell you the reasons.

Nearly everyone I spoke to Sunday said that, with "Bear", you always knew where you stood.

He was honest, genuine and sincere. He was a legitimately good man who loved his school, loved his city and above all, loved his family.

It's difficult to believe that I'll never see my friend again. I'll never again hear that voice: "Parky!"

But the way he was, the way he lived his life, will stay with me always. At his heart, "Bear" was a teacher. I can't imagine that anyone who came into contact with him didn't learn something.

Rest in peace, "Bear". We'll never forget you.

Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at aparkhouse@thenewsdispatch.com or 1-219-214-4170.

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