Bob Gold brought energy and sense of fair play to Nanaimo sports

Prior to Christmas, the Nanaimo sports community lost a very good friend.

Robert James Gold passed away on Nov. 29, very shortly after being diagnosed with a liver cancer. Until just days before his death, he had been his normal active self, working and involved in numerous community activities. Then suddenly he was gone. To anyone who knew him, it was simply unbelievable.

Any death comes as a shock.  But the reality is even harder to accept when so totally unexpected, and when the person is as energetic full of life as Bob was.

And very definitely that was Bob Gold: outgoing and friendly, open and unpretentious, generous and giving. Always eager to get things done; always ready to laugh; always willing to help others. So full of life and energy that he seemed much younger than his 60 years. He seemed to know everybody in Nanaimo, and the hundreds who attended his celebration of life gave an indication of how much he was liked and respected.

Bob Gold was a third-generation Nanaimoite, and was always very proud of his family's deep roots in this city. Over the years his contributions to people and sports in Nanaimo were incredible, reflecting decades of commitment as a talented athlete, coach, and organizer. He was a good athlete, playing minor lacrosse, soccer, and baseball as he grew up. He especially loved hockey, and played all throughout his life from minor hockey to old-timers. When he was 16, Bob was named as captain of the original Nanaimo Buckaneers junior B team. He was a strong and tough defenceman who played hard and was known for protecting his teammates.

As an adult, Bob was a loving husband to wife Linda, and devoted father to daughter Jamie and stepson Erik. Beyond family life, he spent most of his time giving back to the community he loved, and was involved with many sports groups. I was privileged to know Bob well, and to witness first-hand his many contributions to the Nanaimo sports scene.

He coached soccer, softball, and minor baseball, and was excellent at teaching skills and building teamwork. He volunteered time to improve Robins Park, and actively helped to build Serauxmen Stadium. Bob became president of Nanaimo Minor Baseball and during the 1980s and '90s he transformed that organization. He took Nanaimo out of American Babe Ruth, and instead affiliated with the Canadian Bambino system. He organized and hosted major tournaments here. He organized trips to take busloads of kids and parents to Vancouver Canadians games at Nat Bailey Stadium. And most importantly, he introduced a fair play philosophy to baseball, wanting every child to have a chance to play and to be treated fairly.

Seeing a need for officials, Bob got into umpiring. He founded the Nanaimo Baseball Umpiresí Association, and organized clinics and training for local young officials. His own umpiring reflected his personality: he was decisive and he was fair. He called it as he saw it, and he didn't take any guff. Yet though he seemed strict, Bob was usually smiling behind the mask.

Later, Bob organized old-timer hockey teams. He became a hockey official, and served as referee in chief of the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association. In 2001 when there was a serious problem with young officials being harassed, Bob made national headlines by standing up for the referees and demanding that the problem be addressed.

More recently, after his daughter became interested in swimming, Bob volunteered there as well. He served on the board and became president of the Nanaimo Riptides, and was a director on the board of Swim B.C. at the time of his death.

Bob Gold had definite opinions. But he got things done, and he was always willing to listen if someone had a better idea. Bob lived life with a boundless enthusiasm and open friendliness with which he energized all around him. He had that special ability to carry others along, give them confidence, and empower them. Bob went through life with an extra vitality, a happy confidence in himself, and a natural capacity for affection. He was kind and generous, and unafraid, and he was someone you could always depend on for support. He made a huge positive impact on the sports community of our city.

Two years ago, Bob's father Jim Gold was posthumously inducted into the Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame in the builder category. It would seem fitting to me that at some point in the future Bob be honoured in the same way. In the meantime, he will be sorely missed, and he will be remembered with love and respect.

Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to – as Bob Gold did – play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.

Ian Thorpe writes about sports Thursdays.

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