“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”  
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Every town with community pride has its generational stars, those individuals whose mark on the community is so profound that it passes, like a torch, from that person’s generation to the next, something that over time we think we were born with, rather than given. Our town - and this club -- lost such a star last week.
Bob Oakland was not a Great Falls native. He chose us back in the ‘40s, met his future wife here, started his own business here, raised his children here. And what a wife and business and children they were and are. City Motors has prospered for 60 years and more because Bob knew the value of quality – quality in the product, quality in the service, and quality in community engagement.
But Bob’s mark on Great Falls goes far beyond City Motors. He set out to elevate the lives of others in the  community he called home.  He wanted to see that  happy runner raise his arms in victory at the Special Olympics. He wanted to hear a little girl say “that’s so pretty” and be understood because of the help she got from the Scottish Rite. He wanted that battered woman and her children to sleep safely in Mercy Home. He wanted the light to come back into a veteran’s eyes after hauling a “pig egg” across the beautiful Beartooths. He wanted a disabled child to go skiing, courtesy of Eagle Mount. He wanted a young man who should have been a drop-out walk across the commencement stage. He wanted a teacher to know how to reach that young man when he still could be reached because a GFPS Foundation grant taught her how to recognize and reach traumatized children. He wanted not just to save lives, but to change them. And throughout this community, he did just that.    
Bob Oakland built a booming business from the ground up, but all of us fellow Rotarians know he didn’t have a snobby bone in his body. He was a family man, content to live happily in the hum of a wife he loved and children and grandchildren who adored him. He liked to roll up his sleeves and do the work of building a community. He especially liked the camaraderie of Rotary, a place to socialize with other community leaders over lunch on Tuesday, but to do more than socialize – to learn more about the community and the world and to work together to make both better places.
I first met Bob through my work at the college but I really got to know him at Rotary. He was, as the Irish say, a lovely man, a man of quiet warmth, a ready laugh, and unfailing kindness. Still, I was not a close friend. I have no reason to cry at his loss. Yet the night I learned we'd lost him, I found myself watching a movie I’ve seen a thousand times, about a mother losing her daughter to diabetes, a movie full of laughter and acceptance and the special community that human beings create with one another through association over time. And when the tears came, I went outside on the deck and looked up at the stars and recalled Juliet’s words about Romeo.
As all those little stars twinkled down on me, I thought of all the people in Great Falls whose lives have been brightened by the touch of Bob Oakland. He’s done his work here. And, ooohhhh, he will make the face of heaven so fine.