A Walk & a Talk: Honoring Mr. Bob

by | Jan 19, 2024

Above: After the walk Jan. 15, 2024, walkers gathered in Swift Community Center to share remembrances of Bob Houghtaling. 

It seems East Greenwich has taken some of Bob Houghtaling’s lessons to heart, with the most recent example “A Walk to Remember,” on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Organizing by the town that employed Bob for 40 years, the event was meant to give people a chance to connect and talk about Bob, first during a walk around the downtown neighborhood and then, back at Swift Community Center, where people were invited to have a pastry, some coffee and, if motivated, say a few words about Bob. 

Around a dozen people did get up to talk about Bob, their relationship to him and what he meant to them. (Bob died unexpectedly Dec. 8 after an illness turned into sepsis, a deadly blood infection.) 

Town Manager Andy Nota started off by explaining their somewhat unlikely friendship. Bob was able to introduce Andy around when Andy was hired in Sept. 2019. Andy was able to provide more municipal support than Bob was used to. And their personality differences (organized Andy, less-organized Bob, for instance) became a source of chiding between them. 

Resident Dan Morsilli said he thought of Bob as the mayor of East Greenwich. 

Another speaker talked about how Bob had a “huge knack” for finding the students who had the least and in helping them, he taught them how to help others. 

Eden, a current EGHS student, talked about how important Bob was when she transferred to the school her sophomore year. “If you met Bob just once, you were a friend forever,” she said. 

“It’s so hard to speak but it was so easy to talk to Bob,” Abby White (EGHS Class of 2019) shared. She recalled that when the choral teacher was cut from the high school, he volunteered to be the adult liaison so Abby could start a choral club.

Miguel Figueroa, who graduated in 2021, told everyone how Bob would make new members of the high school philosophy club take an oath, and in that spirit, he asked us all to take an oath on there at Swift that morning:

Raise your right hand.
Raise your left foot.
And repeat after me.
I,
State your name,
Do solemnly swear and affirm
That I will do my very best
To uphold
Espouse
And promulgate
The values and beliefs
That guided Mr. Bob Houghtaling
From this life to the next,
That I will always bear in mind
The enormous responsibility
That comes with seeking
To better my community,
And that in his memory,
I will do everything in my power
To leave this world
A better place than I found it.

Two speakers mentioned ways to help continue Bob’s work. Sulina Mohanty, who worked with Bob, said the Academy Foundation, which was founded in the 1980s, has provided a lot of the funding to be able to buy clothes for students in need, or pizza, or tickets to a movie or concert. You can learn more about the Academy Foundation and how to support it HERE.

The East Greenwich Rotary Club is raising money for a college scholarship fund – they will match up to $10,000 in donations. You can donate by sending a check to East Greenwich Rotary Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 222, East Greenwich, RI  02818. If you have questions, contact John Wolcott at 401-742-8693.

Miguel Figueroa leads the group in a Bob Houghtaling oath, “To leave this world a better place than I found it.”

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Ron Winde
Ron Winde
January 20, 2024 7:15 am

A special morning honoring a very special man!

Joannie
Joannie
January 20, 2024 9:51 am

Such a lovely event in memory of wonderful Bob. So much heartbreak and positivity knitted together in one space. I especially appreciated the pledge. Thx, all.

Bruce Mastracchio
Bruce Mastracchio
January 22, 2024 7:23 am

Bob will be missed. He was a tremendous asset for me with ther Wall of Honor, and we enjoyed many a meeting at Twisted’s. He particularly liked the big salad with shrimp for $19. Happy that so many turned out to honor him and will continue his work.
I know he and his Father are together already.
Semper Fi to both.

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