Robert/Bob/Buck Vogel went home to heaven on Saturday, August 14, 2021. He was 81. With his twin, he was the youngest of five and the only son of William and Norah. His obituary: https://obits.mlive.com/us/obituaries/muskegon/name/robert-vogel-obituary?pid=199794290
My mom was the oldest. Grandma was 22 when she had Mom, then had the twins at 39—what a surprise that must have been. My mom was 17 when Uncle Bob was born. He was almost 17 when I was born. Until researching to write this, I hadn’t realized he was exactly midway in age between Mom and me.
The first memories I have of Uncle Bob were at Grandma’s house. He was in his early twenties, tall, with an athletic build, and thick brown hair always combed back. Man, I was envious of that hair.
Grandma had photos of him in high school, playing sports for Muskegon Catholic High. He cut an impressive figure. “Grandma, was he good?” And off she went telling stories.
It wasn’t until years after it happened that his twin told us of the time, when they were teenagers, he pulled a nasty prank on her. It was after church, Aunt Barb said, and her brother came up behind her. He pretended to sneeze. Well, he had gone into the kitchen and broken an egg into his hand. When he “sneezed,” he flung the egg into her hair.
Uncle Bob was standing there as she recounted the event. He swore up and down he didn’t do it. She swore up and down that he did. She couldn’t see the face he made to the rest of us—mouth and eyes wide open, giving us an I sure did do it! look. I’m not one for practical jokes, but I always thought this would be a fun one to pull (so watch your backs).
Now, pay close attention to this: there were the twins, Bob and Barb. Barb married a man named Bob. And Bob married a woman named Barb. And, as if that were not enough, their sister, my Godmother Aunt Ginger, named her oldest Barb, who proceeded to marry a man named . . . yup, she sure did.
So, basically, when introducing the couples on my mom’s side of the family, I just told people, “It’s Barb and Bob, and Bob and Barb, and Barb and Bob, and Bob and Barb, and Barb and Bob . . .”
When he got married in 1971, Uncle Bob was a bit older for those days, getting married at age 31. I’m glad they got to mark their fiftieth anniversary. Aunt Barb sure earned it.
We used to kid him that he’d never get hitched. When Aunt Barb said yes, it was almost unbelievable. She was very pretty and so nice! What was the deal? Did she commit some crime, and this is how she got paroled? If it weren’t that, maybe it was that she wasn’t fully in control of her faculties: she grew up at a place where the barn’s sign read The Nutt Farm (her maiden name).
Uncle Bob married a Nutt, but Aunt Barb married the nut. Ain’t life grand?
I remember one thing about Uncle Bob and Aunt Barb’s wedding day. Well, two things, both at their reception. There were a couple of empty tables at the back of the hall. They were set up for guests. Each table had bowls of ice with butter patties in them. I think my younger brother Dave joined me in walking around eating the butter.
Until Mom caught us.
That meant moving onto the cake, which was on a small, round table. There was loads of frosting around the base of it. What’s a boy to do but walk around it, tracing his finger at that frosting, keeping it smooth so no one could tell any was missing?
Until Mom caught us.
Sheesh. Didn’t she pay any attention to the couple that just got married?
It turned out that Bob and Barb were a great match and enjoyed the kind of marriage all couples should. They were blessed with two dandy daughters, Rosemary and Maria, and three splendid granddaughters.
I found Grandma, Mom, and Uncle Bob shared strong attributes (which, I suspect, my cousins of their two sisters would argue so did their mothers). Each had a great sense of humor and were easily riled. (Yup, that describes the whole lot of them.) When a person is easy to get to, they are prime picking for bedeviling.
We were at a party, at my brother Tom’s. Uncle Bob sat down next to me in the living room, with a piece of cake on his plate. I spied it and said, “That looks good,” and proceeded to grab it and cram the entire piece into my mouth. As I chewed and swallowed, Uncle Bob was somehow simultaneously shocked and not surprised.
Because of deer hunting, and the family deer camp we established in 1981, I got to know Uncle Bob well. Indeed, I was thankful he continued to come to deer camp, and did so right up through last season (though COVID-19 kept me home).
Eventually, I no longer lived in the area. He was the only one on Mom’s side of the family I saw for many years. Before the days of social media, he was my source for news about the extended family.
When times were tough in the USA after the financial crash of 2008, we were discussing things at deer camp. Someone made a comment—something like wanting to buy a house—and Uncle Bob said, “In this economy?” He said it as if the person were nuts for even thinking about it.
Naturally, I used that against him the rest of the week. “Greg, could you pass the salt?” “Uncle Bob, in this economy?” You know, stuff like that. Comedy gold. And you who knew Uncle Bob can easily guess what he said in response. Since this is a family show, I don’t dare repeat it.
Uncle Bob had bad knees. He wobbled and hobbled as he cobbled his way over the uneven ground at deer camp. Of course, we made fun of him, even as we were impressed that he kept coming to hunt.
For a time, four of us slept in Tom’s tiny trailer—two large men each in beds that were barely big enough for one average-sized guy. The snoring was so loud, it was reported by NASA that astronauts could hear it.
We all pitched in with the food for camp. Uncle Bob often brought a pot of vegetable soup. He made it with ground beef. I love veggie soup, but had never made it with burger. Did I love it? Indeed, so much that it’s how I came to make veggie soup. From now on, I’ll remember Uncle Bob when I prepare a batch.
He always came to deer camp equipped with one item: hot sauce. He put it on everything. He slathered his eggs with it. I made fun of him. Until I tried it on my eggs. And was made a believer.
Speaking of being a believer, this is the best way to conclude my remembrance of this beloved guy. Our deer camp sits fifteen minutes from Montague. Uncle Bob lived in Muskegon. He was a faithful Roman Catholic.
How many people, when on vacation—and at deer camp!—take the time to go to church, and at a place that’s not their congregation?
Uncle Bob did. He never missed a mass. Each Saturday afternoon at camp, wearing his cleanest plaid shirt and jeans he drove into Montague, to St. James Catholic, and did what the faithful do: he worshiped the Lord and received the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection.
And it’s for this reason we, who mourn his death, enjoy the sure and certain hope that we are not saying goodbye, but see you later.
See you later, Bob Vogel. You were a splendid uncle and a great friend.