Quote of the week – wisdom from Bob Phelan

I got an email from Diane Phelan, Bob Phelan’s daughter, summarizing last weeks funeral, which I’ll share below. One phrase though, really characterizes what Bob Phelan was about, and by extension, what WUWT is all about, and I make it quote of the week:

“To do what is popular is not always right. To do what is right is not always popular.” 

Let me once again give my sincerest thanks to everyone who has helped the Phelan family. – Anthony

Here’s the message from Diane:


Dear Friends,

On Thursday we laid my father Bob to his final rest. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful mass and we were surrounded by many dear family members and friends. The pall bearers all donned the famous patterned engineer caps he made and wore in tribute. My own dear friend Ali, a broadway singer, sang at the mass. I even managed to get up and sing the Ave Maria as my dad was my biggest fan and it’s what he would have wanted. The eulogies given by both my uncle Jim and my father’s close friend Frank were moving tributes to my father’s life. My uncle summed up my dad’s life philosophy well when he quoted him saying: ‎”To do what is popular is not always right. To do what is right is not always popular.” He closed with saying, “Bob didn’t make me a better person. Bob taught me how to be a better person.”

Nothing could have prepared me or anyone in our family to have to say goodbye to my father so soon, but with all the love, prayers, contributions, visits, hugs, thoughts, well-wishes, notes, letters, texts and calls- our family has been surrounded with so much love. Hearing from each one of you whom my father’s life had touched makes me extremely proud of the life he lived and strengthened my own resolve to continue living a life that my father would be proud of.

I want to say a special thank you to my dear friend Mayumi Ando for creating this fund.

I also wanted to give a special thank you to Anthony Watts and the WUWT community for your incredible support.

Thank you to each and every friend who has contributed; any funds collected in excess will go towards purchasing the headstone and helping my mother.

The fund date had originally been set up to close mid-September. I believe the page will stay open until then so the comments and the pictures will all still be up for people to see. I will actually be creating an online photobook, likely through Flickr, of all the photos from my dad’s life. I will post the link here so that anyone can go and visit or relive the wonderful memories of his life.

I’m wishing each of you all the love and happiness in life. Know that you have much gratitude from our family. We will never forget the love and generosity you have shown us.

Diane Phelan

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Joe Fone
August 20, 2012 6:26 pm

That is a very touching and moving letter! Thank you Anthony for sharing it. Although I’m an insignificant no one languishing at the bottom of the world, I still wish to extend my sincerest sympathy to Bob Phelan’s family for their sad loss. Also my sincere thanks to Bob himself for his pivotal contribution to the WUWT team, all of which has made a huge difference to me and many others who have learned so much from this fabulous site, a treasure trove of scientific delights and enlightenment! It’s people like Bob Phelan (and indeed Anthony Watts and others similar) who make the difference.
Joe Fone
New Zealand

August 20, 2012 6:40 pm

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, the awesome is strong in this young woman.

August 20, 2012 6:47 pm

And thank you, Diane, for sharing your Dad with us.

TC in the OC
August 20, 2012 6:49 pm

I wanted to express this earlier but did not want to come off as crass or unsensitive. My family has a history of heart problems so I have been going to a cardiologist on and off since my early 30’s.
Both my family doctor and my cardiologist have expressed that one of the major symptoms of heart disease is sudden death from a sudden heart attack. I have lost a few friends because they just took good health for granted. Please don’t let it sneak up on you too!

August 20, 2012 7:05 pm

Thank you for that, Diane, that must have been very difficult for you.
As part of your father’s legacy-let his last act be to remind each and every one of us how short, uncertain and precious life is.
P.S. I’ve contacted my ins co. and I have an appt. to update my insurance next week. Thanks for reminding us, Bob. & thanks for everything else. Sincerely, barbee

August 20, 2012 7:46 pm

I am truly touched.
I only knew Bob for a limited time and can certainly understand the positive impact on anyone who interacted with him.
We learn through wisdom from experience, and it makes us all better in the end.
May his family find comfort in his legacy for it was certainly a positive factor in many lives.
He shall be missed, but never forgotten. Good men are never forgotten. Their legacy will live on in all of us!

Anthony, REP had told me he forwarded some of my communications to you. I hope you saw them.
REPLY: Yes I did…Anthony

Crispin in Waterloo
August 20, 2012 8:26 pm

One good example is worth a thousand admonitions. Thanks Bob. You were one to me.
Thinking of you in Waterloo.

August 20, 2012 9:49 pm

Bob’s simple, elegant philosophy of life is the perfect antidote to the crass waffling of Schneider (paraphrasing, “sometimes you have to choose between being effective and telling the truth”).
I would hope that Bob’s life and philosophy (as well as Anthony’s and others’) might give pause to one or more Team members to consider “doing the right thing”
Surely, there must be a soul at NCDC, GISS, or NASA who is troubled by “doing the popular thing” with unsubstantiated “data adjustments” to the temperature record.
Artificially “cooling” past temp measurements is akin to redistributing fossils in a stratigraphic section. It just ain’t right. And it will eventually be rrevealed as fraud.

August 20, 2012 9:49 pm

I hope we can all take Bob’s quote to heart. Anthony, I hope you can take the strength in Bob’s words as I get the feeling there will be some tough challenges in the next few years.

Beth Cooper
August 20, 2012 10:15 pm

Losing a parent is always a great loss. But when that parent, like Bob, has lived a full and honorable life, bequeathing a proud legacy, then that must be a comfort to a family as they reflect on that legacy. Thank you Diane for your message.

Stephen Richards
August 21, 2012 1:34 am

It seems to me that Bob’s phrase is very apt for the top of this site. Why not put it there, Ant. It would be a great tribute and reminder of one of your early pioneers.

August 21, 2012 3:04 am

By making a small donation to Bob’s fund I feel I have become part of a much greater whole.

August 21, 2012 4:22 am

Stephen Richards @ 1:34 am:
I was thinking the same. It’s a wonderful quote.

August 21, 2012 5:58 am

What Stephen Richards said @ 1:34 a.m.

David Spurgeon
August 21, 2012 7:24 am

I have no words to add, except to concur with every word on this page including the comments.

Jim G
August 21, 2012 9:18 am

What a tremendous quote and what an impressive young lady! I would only add that the words “To agree with….” could also be substituted for the words “To do….” to assist real scientists in their search for truth.

August 21, 2012 12:22 pm

What a Top Letter regarding a Top Man from a Top Lady. All the best for the future.

Gunga Din
August 21, 2012 1:43 pm

Thank you for your “Thank You”. You didn’t have to do that.
I am still praying for your family as you all come to mind. And that is often.

August 21, 2012 2:01 pm

I am partiulary grateful that they have extended the closing of the fund. Some of us are rarely able to deal with such sudden and unexpected tragedies. While I was unable to assist with the funeral costs, I am heartened to know that my soon to be made donation might provide a little happiness to Mrs REP et al. I have always said that when I pass I won’t mind if they go cheap on my funeral as I wont be around to notice. But my survivors will be, and they will all need some serious professional help.

August 30, 2012 3:55 am

Diane: Paraphrasing your uncle – Bob didn’t make a better World – the World is better because he spent his years in it!

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