"Glider Bob" Saunders: Blue Skies, My Friend

A memorial service for Glider Bob (Saunders) is scheduled for Wednesday, August 31, 5:30 p.m. in Telluride Town Park. The community is invited. Please scroll down to the bottom of Clint Viebrock’s tribute to watch a video filmed in 2009 of Bob flying high with his friend and Telluride Inside… and Out contributor Eileen Burns.

The loss of a friend is never easy. In a small, intimate town such as Telluride such a loss leaves a hole I’m not certain can ever be filled. That is the kind of hole in this community left by the death of Glider Bob.

Bob was everywhere in and above Telluride, seemingly every day. We saw him walking on Colorado Avenue in his shorts and sandals, no matter the season; we saw him in theatrical productions with the Telluride Rep, later Telluride Theatre; we saw him in Telluride Town Council meetings, often in the gadfly role when he felt the community was in danger of losing its soul; and always, always we saw him overhead in his Stemme motor glider.

Before the Show; Bob with Urinetown Cast

Before the Show; Bob with Urinetown Cast

My relationship with Glider Bob is by no means unique in Telluride: we interacted at so many levels. I first saw him onstage as the demon barber in “Sweeney Todd” in the early ’90s, before I had ever done any theatre. In the meantime we were in several productions together, including “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” in 2006, and “Urinetown” in 2014. Always the professional, always ready to be the necessary character, Bob was a joy to work with.

Bob and I often ran into each other (don’t take that literally) on the mountain during the winter season, he as a snowboard instructor, I skiing with Telluride Adaptive Sports Program. He always had time for a smile and a wave.

But it was through flying that we really connected. After 30 years of flying powered aircraft, I decided to learn to fly sailplanes. Glider Bob was my instructor in that endeavor. I confess I didn’t do enough glider flying in the years after getting my rating, but it wasn’t because Bob hadn’t instilled the joy of unpowered flight. And he never let the fact of my years of flying experience intimidate him, which would have diminished the value of his instruction. Again, the consummate professional.

So many people in our community have their own stories of their experiences with Bob Saunders. In that way he still belongs to all of us, and each of us will miss him in our own ways. I had a fascination with airplanes and flight from my earliest memories, and still, after 68 years since my first flight, I still have to turn my gaze to the skies when I hear the sound of a plane overhead. At our home along the bike path into Telluride, I could always hear the distinctive note of the Stemme’s Rotax engine as Bob climbed eastward after takeoff to share with another new friend the beauty of flying over our magnificent terrain, then proceeding quietly after he shut down the engine. I can see in my mind’s eye his smile as another new friend experiences Bob’s love of flight and his love of our common home.

I will miss that sound. Soar on, my friend.

 

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Clint Viebrock

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