Home » In appreciation: Robert Estabrook

In appreciation: Robert Estabrook

When I think of Bob Estabrook, I think enthusiasm.I was his managing editor at The Lakeville Journal from 1977 to 1980, when he was in his late 50s. In my 20s at the time, I thought he was ancient, so that enthusiasm in someone so advanced in age astonished me even more.Of course, he would maintain that curiosity and love of life for another three-plus decades.A particular story comes to mind.A single-engine private plane heading north through the Litchfield Hills went missing, and our offices at Pocketknife Square were alive with excitement. This was much more than our usual fare.A farmer from Millerton had called and reported that such a craft — “the color of a berry on a mountain ash,” an irresistible detail — had flown low over his vegetable patch about the time the missing Cessna had disappeared.I came up with the idea: Let’s call a psychic. What editor wouldn’t have scoffed? But Bob was intrigued, and when a psychic summoned up a vision of a crash site near “a pear-shaped pond,” our imaginations soared.That Thursday afternoon, after the week’s paper had gone to press, Bob charged out of his office and declared, “Bingham Bog!” And he and I hiked up Mount Riga, double march, convinced it would be there. Perhaps we would be in time to rescue survivors.For the next several days, we rushed off several times as Bob’s mind scoured the various features of the local topography.The wreckage of the Cessna — white, not the “color of a berry on a mountain ash,” it turned out — eventually was discovered near North Adams, Mass., 50 miles from our explorations. No matter, we’d filled two editions with detailed speculation and particulars of our, yes, perambulations.If a plane ever crashed in the neighborhood, we sure would have had it covered.The downed plane was more than a story — it was an entry point for explorations into aspects of the world around us.Journalism, as Bob practiced it, was an excuse for interacting with life, whether in righting an injustice, supporting a worthy cause, revealing a local oddity or selecting one of Mary Lou’s delightful images of life in a special place.Bob’s legacy lives in those he inspired. Jim Kevlin is the editor and publisher of the Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal in Cooperstown, N.Y.

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