1928 – 2007
One of life’s compensations is to be in the acquaintance of extraordinary men and women. Even though I did not know him as well as some others, I think all who knew him would agree that Bob Vance was one of the most outstanding.
I think I was drawn to Bob for several reasons. There was his joyous personality expressed in ready, infectious laughter and warm hugs. And, though possessing great gifts, here was a regular mortal who could laugh at himself and lose stuff (including his car in a parking lot). As an elder, his interest in the lives of his flock was genuine, caring and affectionate.
His 53 year marriage to his sweetheart, Doris, was obviously one of partnership and mutual respect. Their loving relationship serves as an example to all who commit to live life and face death together.
I was also drawn to Bob because of some parallels with my own life. We both began our higher education as music students: he as a pianist, me as a vocalist. Both of us began preaching as college students and felt called to share the gospel with others. We both had to make a decision whether or not to continue preparing for professional music careers. We both decided to pursue further education in Bible: he at ACC, me at Sunset School of Preaching. We both caught the “mission bug” and served in another culture: he in Germany and Austria, me in Australia.
Though our lives had some parallels, Bob was the true musician, performing with symphony orchestras. I was just a singer. He learned to speak German – I chose to speak Aussie English, the far easier path. Another difference: although I have questioned my decision to leave professional music many times, Bob never did. He was always confident that his decision to proclaim the Word was the right one.
Bob truly had the talent to become one of the great classical musicians. Instead he became, as Eddie Sharp reminded us at the memorial, “One of the truly great men of our time.” Here is why I think that is true:
- He was, as someone said, “A bringer of joy and laughter.”
- He did not quit playing the piano but he utilized his talent and gifts in service to his calling.
- As with all who serve the Lord and his church he had, as Eddie Sharp put it, “Opportunity to become bitter but chose to be sweet.” Bob’s life was characterized by such choices.
- He died well. He left this world at peace…refusing continual dependence upon a ventilator. He laughed at death and embraced eternity. His theme was Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
I left the memorial realizing that, even though we entertained and were entertained by Bob and Doris on a couple of occasions, I did not spend nearly enough time with him before his time ran out. I regret that. Let that be a lesson to us: cherish the time you spend with your friends. Among them you might find one of the truly great persons of our time.