In Memorium – Robert Fields

Donna UrlaubBlog

Robert P. Fields, 87, passed away on March 2, 2011.

Bob taught court reporting at Chicago College of Commerce for 53 years, touching the lives and making a difference for all who had the good fortune of learning from him.

He was awarded the Illinois Court Reporters Association Award of Excellence in 2003, for outstanding educator.

Although Bob was never my teacher in the formal sense, he was my mentor and dear friend, my supporter and cheerleader, authority on all things English/grammar/punctuation; he was pivotal to my becoming the reporter that I am today.

As a nervous 19-year-old graduate of the certificate program at Bryant & Stratton Business School I walked through the doors of Sullivan Reporting Company in 1969; little did I know that Bob would be a constant in my life for the next 42 years.

Without my realizing it at the time, Bob was always there, quietly guiding, mentoring, drying my tears when I returned from a horrible job; he always had my back.

Bob and I were together at Sullivan’s for 15 years, where, before the advent of computer transcription, we traveled and worked as a team covering labor conventions. They were 14-plus-hour days, with a crew of reporters and typists, some more even-keeled than others; but Bob was the glue that held it all together.

After an ill-advised attempt at retirement to Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bob soon realized that an urban and urbane person such as himself did not do well away from the big city, after which he returned to Chicago, joined my fledgling firm by day, and resumed teaching at night.

Which started a whole new chapter in his life and mine. This lovely and elegant man, who never married, morphed into a father figure to me, Uncle Bob to my children, a member of my family. As anyone who is in this business knows, reporting can be all consuming; but with Bob at the helm, calm and serenity reigned supreme. There’s an old saying, find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life. Bob was the personification of this.

He scoped my work, answered the phone, scheduled assignments, proofread for and was the go-to person for the whole office, maintained an amazing filing system, all the while teaching nights and weekends. He loved every aspect of reporting, and never passed up a chance to help grade the RPR/RMR/CRR tests, the Illinois and National speed contests. He had a deep and abiding need to be in the thick of it all, rubbing elbows with reporters and educators. I always felt a great deal of pride in being able to say that Bob Fields was on our team, to have someone of his caliber working with us. One of his saddest moments was the demise of Chicago College of Commerce and the door closing on his teaching career. But once a teacher, always a teacher; he continued to share his knowledge with every reporter on our staff, dispensing writing tips, analyzing notes, being the final word and expert on anything to do with punctuation and grammar, dictating to and grading papers for reporting students who worked at the office.

Until this past year, Bob came to the office seven days a week, dressed in a three-piece suit, wearing a tie pin, shoes polished, the picture of sartorial splendor. His work ethic was second to none. For a man who was born in a time when the typewriter was king, he adapted to computer-aided transcription, first DOS, then, when I was convinced that this man who was in his late 70s would never be able to learn Windows, he did. Bob was almost giddy with delight over Google, and became quite a fan of email, especially the jokes.

About a year ago, spinal stenosis in his back began to affect Bob’s ability to walk. First he went to a cane, then a walker, and I feared he was headed for a wheelchair. Although he was in great pain and it was difficult for him to perform the daily tasks that we all take for granted, he came to work every day, yes, in his three-piece suit, never complaining, the epitome of stoicism, while never failing to ask after everyone else’s needs, health, family, or to bestow a compliment on someone’s attire.

So I guess it was only fitting that, although he died five days after surgery for a subdural hematoma, his last day was spent doing what he cherished most and being where he wanted to be: at his desk, in his office, surrounded by his memorabilia, his pictures, his books, and those who loved him.

Robert P. Fields: gentleman, gentle man, learned, thoughtful, intelligent, sartorial, friend, icon.