Rest in Peace Robert Brassey Hay

It was with deep sadness that I learned this week of the passing of Bob Hay, a close friend of nearly fifty years, a man who delighted me with his whimsical art and poetry and who, through our many discussions of life’s big questions, shaped my world view and my personal philosophy.

To those who knew him slightly, Bob seemed to assume a dour, almost puritanical attitude, and even with my heart overflowing with love, I have to say that he would rather propound furiously on some subject he knew next to nothing about than discuss the subjects he knew plenty about, and was, indeed, a fount of fascinating information.

That was the trick: to get him going on a subject dear to his heart.  It was no trick, of course, for my cousin Jenny, with whom he was besotted. She was charmed, she told me, when they walked on the beach, by his description of the tides and the cycles of the moon,

I remember him showing me a cast iron hook from colonial times with a tiny blade at the tip — something I had seen quite often at New England barn sales. Bob  explained how the tiny blade was used to gut a game bird, and the other side was used to hang the bird on a spit in the walk-in fireplaces of the time.

Bob was a great connoisseur of antigues, having grown up in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, at a time when many old farms and homesteads were being auctioned off. He made it his business in the later years of his life. He would always drop by unannounced on his way to some flea market somewhere.

Or if I wasn’t home, I might find a drawing he had made while waiting on my front porch.

What I found most lovable about Bob was his whimsical side — his poetry and his art. He had a whole set of collages he showed me once that were images of supreme court justices and lingerie models. Utterly, totally brilliant!

And as for his poetry, I have only this one poem that I learned by heart. I call it the stockholder’s poem.

I have my General Motors

And occasional IBM

But I’d be non-plussed

If my kids were bussed

Along with the rest of them.


We worked like clocks

To mortgage this box

Our marriage is all made of leather.

My wife has her shark

Which glows in the dark.

Her bras and my shoes go together.


My name is Boo Hoo.

I’m a liberal, too.

And you know, the bourgeois is my game.

To see the flag fly

Brings a tear to my eye,

If you should ask why,

You’ll be lame.


God rest you and keep you, Bob, and grant you a safe lodging and a holy rest and peace at the last.