Farewell to Bob
It is with heavy hearts that the LWB family says goodbye to Bob Stright. Bob and his wife Terry are moving to Princeton, New Jersey to start a new chapter in their lives. We wanted to take a moment to recall our favorite moments and projects of Bob’s LWB career– and to let Bob know how much we love and appreciate him.
Bob began his Bloomington carpentry career working with noted Bloomington building company Russ Herndon Design. Russ notes Bob’s “deeply Norwegian work ethic and dedication to the craft.” Bob indeed hailed from the Minnesotan north woods, attending St. Olaf College (his son Sam, an LWB summer hand, currently attends St. Olaf).
Bob is a musician first and foremost, crafting a career in music teaching and music performance before the turn to carpentry in the mid-2000’s (for the big bucks!). Bob taught at Indiana University and Butler University as well as playing in several local bands. Bob’s specialty is the vibraphones and piano (and Sinatra), but he is a talented multi-instrumentalist and singer sic. (“long ride home”).
Bob has an innate ability to succinctly comprehend complex problems, then to solve them with maximum efficiency. Bob would spend more time planning his work than other carpenters– and his work would almost always proceed smoothly. The construction aphorism “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” applies perfectly to the Bob Stright method.
It’s impossible to list here all of Bob’s noteworthy carpentry feats. He designed, built, and stained replica 1950’s valances and trim in a retro-bungalow Hawthorne Avenue rehab. He was on the crew that installed a mile of stained walnut trim in a beautiful Lake Monroe home, and he built and hung a custom, steel-skinned barn door on another lake project. Bob installed 44” double pocket doors with custom trim and tracks in a Lawrence County country home in a brilliant bit of carpentry. LWB project manager Dylan Grigar recalls Bob’s “craftsmanship, problem-solving, tight joints and can-do attitude” as he navigated the complex trim out of a Pickwick Place remodel in Bloomington.
Bob’s work was full of surprises — and they were not always as dramatic or noticeable as his higher-profile projects. Bob would trim out an interior dryer vent penetration into a laundry room with the same craft and dedication as if it were a great room fireplace mantle. When Bob installed door hardware the fit was perfect. And when he caulked a line it was straight as an arrow.
Bob’s tool organization was legendary within LWB. His 1995 Mercury Villager minivan was a marvel of efficiency and packing precision. Everything had its place. Hard-cased mid-century hatboxes housed many of Bob’s tools– all neatly labeled.
Bob owned a beautiful near-campus home on S. Fess Avenue in Bloomington. Neighbors and friends tell of his exacting eye and tireless effort in the maintenance and improvement of that house. One neighbor recalled how Bob jacked up the entire detached garage structure in order to not lose four inches of head height when he poured a new concrete floor. Another neighbor once spied Bob atop an extension ladder working on his gutters. When asked what specific task he was doing to his gutters, Bob replied that he was painting the INSIDE of the gutters as a rust-proofing, performance-enhancing measure!
The LWB family– crew, clients, and partners– will miss Bob immeasurably. It’s a loss for us that our young carpenters won’t learn under his tutelage, and it’s a loss for our future clients that won’t get to experience both his workmanship, cleverness and gentlemanly demeanor.
We will miss the work. But more than the product produced, we will miss Bob’s warmth and humor. For all of his dedication to perfection in the field, Bob’s personality was empathetic, accepting, and often hilarious. LWB will march forward and we will attempt to achieve the same level of craft that we have seen from Bob. To borrow one of the many memorable Bob Stright one-liners, any attempt to replicate Bob’s skill is sure to be “ a charming amateur effort.”
Enjoy this video of Bob: