In the late evening hours of Monday, February 5th, 2023 Bob Wills (a.k.a. Uncle Bob) slipped quietly into the Big-Empty. He did so the way he lived much of his life – alone and on his own terms.
Bob, the youngest of four children, was born on March 13th, 1930 to “the old folks” Willie and Florence Wills. He was a lifelong bachelor and a dyed in the wool eccentric. Bob had a methodical mind, a whimsical intellect, a feisty spirit, and the uncanny ability to be completely at home with his own company. He was also gifted with a certain quiet brilliance. Above all however, he was a true Saskatchewan boy. Uncle Bob loved the prairies and was proud to call Moose Jaw home. He was also completely content to reside in the same house for 89 of his 92+ years. Of course his sanctuary, a two storey shop standing proudly in the backyard, played a major role in his contentment.
Bob was an east-ender. He attended both Prince Arthur School and Moose Jaw Tech. Though he had some struggles with the books at P.A., it was during the Tech years that his world would open up. Bob decided early on at Tech that he would forego academia to focus solely on the machine shop. With his request fulfilled, he became the first Tech student to gain such a status. Under the tutelage of his mentor Mr. Rainbow, Bob quickly blossomed into a gifted machinist. This gifted machinist, while still a student, was loaned to other schools in the system to undertake mechanical repairs. Moreover, Bob ceded his evening hours to night school for two years so he could assist Mr. Rainbow with the training of local women anxious to make their contribution to the war effort.
With his school years behind him, Bob worked briefly at Pasco’s Machine Shop before making a lifelong career as a machinist at PFRA. He retired on his 55th birthday and never looked back.
Being a man of deliberate actions, Bob continued a busy lifestyle after retirement. He always had a project on the go; a dream to track. Over the years, he found the energy to fill his spare time with a variety of pursuits. He was a pigeon fancier, a potato farmer, a harness horse racer, a voracious reader, a boat and barn builder, an amateur artist, a greenhouse gardener, a hobby farmer, a calligrapher, a house renovator, a model train railfan, and a Tchaikovsky enthusiast. He also made time on many an evening to watch high school football (a proud Tornado himself) or senior men’s fastball at Memorial Park while perched on the CNR tracks to the east.
Bob’s dreams and his pursuit thereof kept him young at heart for more than 82 years. But, as fate would have it, his life was disrupted by the unwelcomed and unruly powers of dementia. Despite a failing mind, he remained upbeat and positive during his time at Chez Nous, Central Butte Regency Manor, and Providence Place. A child of the 30’s, Bob stood firm as his Saskatchewan soils shifted.
A gathering will be held in the weeks to come to salute a life well lived. There will be no Funeral Service. In lieu of flowers (or potatoes 😊), Bob would have been pleased if those who knew him could spend a few minutes alone or take the time to smile at a memory of an eccentric man. In the meantime, his beloved sanctuary will undoubtedly sigh, and perhaps even weep, as the spring winds wonder through an east end backyard.