Thursday, September 10, 2015

Remembering Bob Dornan

We recently lost a good friend, a national treasure, and a local celebrity.  Bob Dornan died in Moose, Wyoming on September 3, 2015 at the age of 86.

Bob Dornan was larger than life, even though, or maybe because, he lived most of his life in Moose, Wyoming, at the entrance to the Grand Teton National Park.

DORNANS, as any of  you who have visited us will know, was a Grand Teton National Park, family owned in-holding.  Nestled beside the Snake River, in the shadow of the Grand, it was a special place with rustic cabins, a camp store for supplies, a world class wine shoppe, a bar with a magnificent view, great pizza and soups, and a Chuck Wagon in the summertime where the buffalo burgers and Cowboy stew ruled.  Monday night Hootenanny's in the summer were foot stomping, jam packed, musical happenings that we all loved.

A favorite pastime for us Walkers, was sipping a bloody at the bar and watching for eagles out fishing on the snake river.

Ron and I spent many a happy lunch with old Bob, solving the problems of the world and the National Parks.  He was well informed, profane, irreverent, and funny.  We loved him.  Everyone loved him.  He held court every day, sipping wine and keeping an eye on the business.  He was an astute business man, significant in the way it always turned out that his guests bought lunch and the wine that everyone drank.  Bob knew what he was doing.

The Dornan family homesteaded in 1922.  His father and mother, John P. and Ellen, were the first couple married in the Chapel of the Transfiguration, the same little chapel where our daughter Lynne and her husband, Barry McNees were married.

Bob's father was so good to Ron when he was the 8th Director of the National Park.  He was his friend, his counsel and a great adviser.  Bob never forgot that his Dad and Ron shared such a special bond.  His face would light up with delight whenever we walked in to Dornans.  Happy to see us no matter how busy he was.  What a special greeting he always had for us.  Until this summer . . . . when the first words out of his mouth were, "Ron I'm dying."  That was in mid-July when he had just a few weeks to live.  When his sister-in-law, Tricia hugged me, she whispered, "We are just dealing with this one day at a time."

We had a birthday party for Ron's 70th at the Chuck Wagon.  I was so pleased to see that Richard and Maude Ferry were having dinner with Pat and Bob Dornan.  Here was one of the founders of  the world's largest executive search firm, Korn/Ferry International,  and a guy who'd spent most of his life in little, tiny Moose, enjoying each others company.

                                           Dick Ferry and Bob Dornan at Ron's 70th.

A few weeks ago there was an article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide about Bob giving a wine lecture in Napa Valley, California.  As he walked up to make his presentation, several of the local super sophisticates were tittering softly about the rumpled, round man, wearing a cowboy hat, and sporting a gigantic wad of keys on a belt loop, who was going to talk about fine wines.  Really?  This ought to be good, they thought.  Then the man from Moose started with his words about wines . . . and very soon, the tittering had stopped and the audience was caught up in the interesting and knowledgeable words about the wines of the world.  Dennis Johnson, the long-time manager of the Wine Shoppe at Dornans, often said that he learned all he knows about wines from his friend Bob, and that is a vast amount of knowledge, indeed.

That knowledge, and the often referred to Dornan's Wine Shoppe as the "Best in the West," speaks to just one aspect of Bob Dornan.  He was a pioneer of the recycling efforts in Jackson Hole, personally taking many loads of bottles, cans, and of course, wine bottles, to the recycling center.  He also loved to dance.  He and his wife, Pat, were life long square dancers and recently Bob hosted "Dancing with the Stars" parties.

As news of his illness spread, his many friends came from all over to see him.  Not wanting to miss anyone, and to accommodate them, he put a sign on his front door, "Don't knock.  Just come in, Bob"

Gabrielle Cruz, the darling and very effective Food and Beverage Manager at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis, also happens to be the special lady in the life of Bob Dornan's grandson.  She choked up when we talked about Bob and said she didn't know how they were going to be able to handle his being sick and dying.  She told us that she never knew her grandfathers, and Bob had been like a grandfather to her for five years.  Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathy are with Dennis, Gabby and all the Dornan family during this very difficult time.

The man from Moose, who made his mark, will be remembered in so many ways.

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