April 3rd, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 14
Looking Back - John Kinnear
If You Bid It Will Come
Looking Back
John Kinnear Photo
Celebration of Life at the Pincher Creek Hall
Last Saturday night a massive crowd filled the Pincher Creek hall to celebrate the life of the one and only Bob Westrop. Robert Allen Westrop passed away quietly in the Pincher Creek hospital on March 22 at the age of 76.

Anyone here in the Pass who has attended a local fund raising auction in the last few years will recall seeing this wonderfully charismatic and engaging man in action. Whether it be the annual museum gala and auction, Riversdale’s Australia Days or a special fundraiser like the Derek Sharp MS event at Pure Country last April, one could always find Westrop there expertly coaxing money out of peoples’ wallets.

I learned very quickly at these events to not do certain things like touch your face, scratch any part of your upper body or make any kind of hand gesture unless you were in the bid. Otherwise those beautiful steely blue eyes would fix you in his gaze. One felt like a deer in the headlights. His raised right hand and index finger would point at you looking for conformation. Then it was either wave him off apologetically or get in the game.

Bob usually sized up the crowd, recognized several people that were players and knew how to pit them against each other in a masterful game of one-upmanship. He knew our area history well, would embrace any charitable cause and somehow seemed to be able to connect with the audience in a way that made the evening highly entertaining.
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Of all the images I have taken of Bob there is one that makes me laugh every time I look at it. It was at the Riversdale 2018 Australia Days gala and auction. Peter Murray, then the company’s operations manager, presented Bob with a didgeridoo to auction off. This is an ancient wind instrument used by the Indigenous Australians and if you have ever heard one played you won’t soon forget it. The picture is of Bob staring incredulously at Peter as he put it to his mouth and unworldly sounds issued from it. You can see his thoughts in the image. “What in hell is that and why would anyone want to own one?”

Bob sold that didgeridoo along with dozens of other items that night and as usual raised thousands of dollars for worthwhile causes like the food bank.

Early in November the Maycroft Hall is the scene of yet another fundraiser, dinner and dance with the monies raised going towards the hall maintenance. The hall is a beautiful place near the entrance to the Gap and near and dear to all whom gather there. The last eight years this cowboy hootenanny has featured a special pie auction with homemade pies crafted with down home recipes and ingredients and often colorful stories behind them. The first time I beheld Westrop sell a pie there for $800 I was in awe of the man.
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Last October we attended a harvest dinner at the spectacular Zoeteman/Vogelaar barns at Heritage Acres. If you haven’t made it out there to see their one of a kind collection you should. It is an amazing place that hosts all kinds of events throughout the year. Bob understood the importance of this facility in telling the farming/ranching story and worked tirelessly to support them in any way he could.

When we got to the dinner it was revealed to me about Bob’s stage four cancer condition and I quickly realized that this was not just your average harvest dinner. It was a special gathering of many from the Pincher Creek area and most of Bob’s extended family. And it was a fundraiser to help support them through the next difficult part of their life’s journey and perhaps send them on a little holiday. I believe the evening total hit $8000 and even a four hour stint by the band playing there that night was sold. For once Bob got to stand back and let some other fine auctioneer work the crowd

I had my trusty Nikon with me that night and actually stalked Bob, watching for those special hugs and moments that could be shared down the road. I even videoed a bit of the grace he said to all prior to the harvest dinner. I had the presence of mind, as I stood in that beautiful massive barn complex, to realize that there was a very important photo opportunity there. So I rounded up all 35 directly connected family and stood them against the Vogellar’s curved barn wall and froze a moment in time for them.
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So who was this guy? This enigmatic life that could warm a room full of people with his humour. If you look up the word community in the dictionary you should find his name there in the definition because that was what he was all about. Parades, cowboy poetry gatherings, ducks unlimited, rodeo announcing, pie auctions, the list goes on and on. I found no small irony in the fact that Bob was the Agriculture Society president when the hall was built that 500 or so of us gathered in to pay tribute to him.

The gathering’s emcee Kathy Rast asked the question to us all: “What kind of a man would attract this many people. The answer was a man who displayed selflessness and unshakeable faith, a man dedicated to family and friends and a man whose humour left many with good memories. Kathy said Bob has a special ability to bridge gaps between cultures, political differences and faith differences with his sense of humour.

Open mike stories came out in his celebration of life about him being there for someone, anyone who could draw from his strength. Anyone struggling. Anyone he could support or help along life’s way.
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Bob’s life was a genuine cowboy’s life. It revolved around agriculture. He pursued an undergraduate degree in animal science from Utah State University where he met his cowgirl sweetheart Audrey Hall. They married in 1966 and moved to Pincher to a beautiful spread right next to the Oldman River east of that town. There they raised five children- Billi, Travis, Shane, Lindy and Regan. The legacy of this man will live on in this special extended family.

Bob’s service here in the Pass will also stand as another legacy. It mattered to him that the cause be served and that we all pitch in to support that cause whatever it might be. So Westrop family, from all of us whose lives he touched here in the Crowsnest Pass, we say thank you for sharing this remarkable man with us. We are all better for it.
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April 3rd, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 14
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