A Shared Life: Remembering Bobby Verran (1948-2019)
After knowing Bobby Verran for a little over a year I was offered an invitation: to get a slice of pie with him at Baker Square. He had offered this invitation to others in the past, and now it was my turn. In the past four years, we went out on occasion, sometimes for pie, sometimes for ice cream, sometimes just for magazines and other treats from the Walgreens or Jewel-Osco. When the invitation was first offered, I felt a sudden access to an exclusive group. The more I got to know Bobby, the more I saw this invitation was just one of many, to share life with Bobby as others had before and after. He shared different things with different people, and together, all those memories and shared experiences leave behind a luminous vision of who he was.
Bobby took great joy in life; in experiences as mundane as a morning cup of coffee or big magazines. These things could bring a broad grin to his face. Bobby’s favorite things served as a lasting tie to his mother, Mabel. A walk on Chicago Avenue or a ride by the lake or a visit to the Jewel Osco on Montrose all reminded him of her. They were a way to keep her memory close and to pass on the joy they’d shared together.
Bobby was typically pretty quiet, but he knew how to speak up when it was needed. In some of his earliest experiences at the studio, he became known as a fierce advocate for himself and others. His perseverance helped to shape the values of the studio. Denise Fisher, who helped found and develop the studio, remembered him this way. “Bobby was such a gentle presence, but if he wanted to do something, you just had to get out of his way. He taught us about honesty and sticking to your word.”
He was a man of habits and layers that developed over time, just like his paintings. In his artwork, Bobby collected pieces of daily life, things brought to him by friends, things he discovered, and sealed them together with passes of color. He developed this style early on and stayed true to it even to his last piece. A fellow artist, Alex Scott, recognized Bobby’s commitment to artwork, showing up to make day after day, year after year. “Bobby was a great artist. He had great creativity…He worked on the canvases with the dried paint. He dedicated his life to art.”
In his 16 years at Arts of Life, Bobby was regularly described as a pillar of the community. As he got older, Bobby opened up more aspects of his life to others, and deepened his impact. Studio Coordinator, Christea Parent, reflected on the impact of their relationship. “Bobby was one of the first people I got to know. He was such a charming man, and many of his sayings have made their way into my life. He was a reliable, strong and steady-going guy. He was patient and generous with his time and energy. Bobby was a huge part of my life here.” Many artists, including Christianne Msall, echoed this sentiment. “He was a good role model for a lot of people. He was a wonderful friend.”
One of Bobby’s final gifts was to bring together all those different people who shared life with him. During his final weeks in the hospital and in hospice, Bobby was joined by family and friends. And much of this time was spent sharing stories, and connecting dots. Of everyone, artist Dave Krueger said it best. “I’ve known Bobby from a long time ago, at the old studio on Grand… I want to say he has spirit! He brought family, friends, and artists together. Thank you God! If Bobby was here, he’d say thank you to everyone.”
Bobby worked at Arts of Life from 2002 to 2019. Now he is gone, but in his absence, we celebrate the growth of our community and hold on to the deep ways he touched each of our lives.