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Bob Shaw remembered for his strong arm and sweet voice

'He was a person with a smile all the time, a hand out helping, and just enjoyed every day he possibly could'

FERGUS – Those who knew Fergus resident Bob Shaw know his life was composed of love for three things: sports, singing and his family.  

"The conversation would never be about him, it was always about his boys," said Kelly Shaw, Bob's oldest son.

Born in 1939, Robert Chester Shaw, who went by Bob, was raised on a family farm in Arthur Township. Growing up, he became known for his athleticism, especially with fastball.

"He played a lot of fastball, and back in those days, depending on who you talked to, fastball was more popular than baseball,” said Kelly. 

Bob became a fastball pitcher in the Ontario inter-city league for Guelph, and then Rockwood. While playing for Rockwood, Kelly said Bob was known to dominate diamonds in Rockwood and Fergus, earning the nickname "Buck" for the way he would lift his front leg to put power behind his throw.

“That's where he got his big arm, because he could throw so hard, you didn't have time to react,” said Kelly, adding his father would cut the sleeves of his undershirt in order to make them fit. "He was fast, and he could make it move too."

For a couple of years during his fastball career, Kelly adds Bob had six no-hitters and one perfect game. 

"There was a point where men's fastball wanted to move into the professional world, where they would pay players to come in, and dad was one of those guys where a number of teams were chasing after him. He didn't have the time."

Besides sports, another important thread in Bob’s life was his family. After marrying his high school sweetheart, Pauline Eccles, the couple moved to Sudbury where Bob began working for Bell Canada as a cable repairman, and then moved back to Guelph in 1960. They went on to raise three boys in Guelph/Eramosa Township.

Growing up, Larry Shaw, Bob’s second son, said their parents' house in the country was equipped with a pool, ping pong tables and horse shoe pitches, becoming the spot to hang out with friends.

"Mom and dad set the place up to be fun and active and all of our friends used to come out there and actually called it the 'Shaw Family Fun Centre,'" said Larry. "We'd have great times in the backyard and have lots of competitions in the backyard."

“We seemed to be the household where people would come and join and we would cook huge pots of spaghetti for everyone,” said Craig Shaw, Bob’s third son.

At home, Bob would coach his sons in the backyard, and then coached Larry and Craig on a local baseball team. Craig recalls his dad often formed a "pick up train" to drive other kids on the team whose own parents couldn't get them to practices and games. 

“That kind of example was incredible to see, because it was not just about us as a family, but you know, kids as a whole and getting them participating in athletics,” said Craig.

"Sports for them didn't make us a whole person. They really taught values, and there was a real importance of education as well," adds Larry.

Later in life, Bob re-discovered another passion: singing. Singing in high school plays, Bob went on to join a quartet called Area Code 519 and joined the Hilltop Singers in Fergus and was the lead singer in the Royal City Ambassadors. In 1995, Bob also became a part of a gospel quartet called The Journeymen. 

Bob performed on local stages, including Guelph's River Run Centre, and for special ceremonies, nursing homes and funerals. Larry said his fondest memories of his father involve him singing.

“He was really good at it too. He was a good singer, and people noticed it,” said Larry. "One of the fond memories we have as a family is my dad renovating a camper van, and driving it across the country, and I remember that he sang, he sang all the time in the camper van.”

While Bob had no formal training, Kelly mentions Bob shifted from physical pursuits to singing after experiencing a heart attack at the age of 48 and undergoing a quadruple bypass surgery.

“He kind of discovered his voice after he got sick, and that was probably the best thing that ever happened to him," said Kelly. "He was the healthiest, I think, after he had his heart attack because he was singing.

“He had a tremendous voice. It was pretty silky, if I do say so myself.”

While he no longer played fastball, Bob could often be found cheering on his sons in different arenas at AAA hockey games, Ontario Junior Hockey League games and university games.

“Mom and dad would follow us to the rinks as much as they could,” said Kelly. “The influence of sports was very much a part of his life as much as it was ours.”

After retiring from Bell, Bob and Pauline moved to Fergus and became active grandparents to their six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The family would also gather together on a property located near Foleyet, Ontario, nicknamed 'Camp Buck.' Part of a nature reserve, Bob enjoyed spending time there.

“That became a bit of a family legacy," Larry said of Camp Buck. "That was a really special spot for him and it was important for him to have family come together, and that is a part of his life that is special."

Near the end of his life, Bob remained independent until he experienced a heart attack in 2021, and later moved into Heritage River Retirement Residence. All three sons were able to see Bob before he passed away on Feb 6.

The family held a celebration of life, where pre-recorded clips of Bob singing played at the gathering.

"We selected a number of songs to play at the actual celebration of life, and that made it extra special because it felt like he was around," said Larry.

Craig mentions many songs had a lot of meaning for Bob in relation to his family. One song Bob enjoyed was What A Wonderful World, because he believed everyday was one.

“You didn’t hear negativity from Dad, you heard positive, and I don’t know if him and mother decided to keep all that negative talk away from his kids, but he was a person with a smile all the time, a hand out helping, and just enjoyed every day he possibly could. He was always like that.”