Robert Barlow unexpectedly died May 29 at the age of 47.

Bob was many things, among them vice-chair of the public school board and president of the local Cal Ripken baseball league. He suffered a heart attack while on the baseball diamond.

Baseball was his real passion, he was passionate about politics, but baseball was a whole other level of passion that he hard to express in mere words.

I met Bob in 1997 during the Bill 160 debates. I don’t remember exactly where I met him, I do remember him inviting me to a municipal election night campaign party for Mark Morrow. Mark Morrow was the former MPP for Wentworth East. I can’t remember what Morrow was running for.

I do remember the campaign party was in the club house of the Stoney Creek little league park – a baseball connection.

This was my first partisan political event and I enjoyed it. Bob didn’t pressure me to join the NDP and encouraged me to think about what political party I would eventually join. I ended up going Liberal – I lived in Hamilton East, home of Sheila Copps and Dominic Agostino, both Liberal powerhouses.

Bob and I became friends in spite of my choice of a different party. In 2000, when I ran for public school board trustee, Bob was one of the first to offer me encouragement. When NDP steward Wayne Marston announced his candidacy in the same Ward as I was running, Bob was behind his friend – and ensured Wayne and I enjoyed good communications that made for a good campaign experience. Wayne won, both Bob and Wayne sent me quick congratulations on my campaign.

Over the years, Bob and I were at the same events. My journalism has been very critical of the School Board’s decisions the past few years. Bob and I had some lively discussions about this, but never did those conversations become negative.

For all the opportunities for Bob and I to become opponents, we never did. That is a testament to the man Robert Barlow was. I owe him for the example he gave me at age 15 of how to be a gentleman in politics.

Dear Readers: May I suggest taking a read of the moving insightful tribute given to Bob by his long-time friend Rene Gauthier posted on Gauthier’s blog on May 31. You won’t regret reading it.