Remembering Mr. Bob Ayers

By JOHN M. DERBY
Times Publisher
April 4, 2019

The late Bob Ayers was a friend and a mentor of mine as I grew to be a mature journalist in the city and county of Merced.
That meant a lot because Bob had his finger in about every pie that existed. He along with Dwayne Andrews, Elmer Lorenzi, and Don Ohlinger had more information about Merced than one could fit into an Air Force duffel bag. In the case of Bob, who came to Merced when he was stationed at Castle, that meant a whole lot of info.
Bob also could take a joke and tell one, and behind that sneaking little smile of his, one never could be quite sure what he was thinking.
I was lucky enough to be invited into his private office at TransCounty Title, a company that grew to become the largest title company in the Merced-area.
One thing few people know is that when the housing market dropped out of sight, Bob kept many of his longtime staff members while running the business at a loss.
I always thought I was on the right side of Bob no matter what was in the week's editorial. He never encouraged me to slant my editorial one way or another.
He had a super team there at TransCounty Title including Dawn Kinney, his daughter Peg, and many others who left their mark in Merced. I loved them all, and specially his lovely wife Yvonne. They never missed a charity function, and gave thousands of dollars away for worthy causes.
Bob was one of those old timers who worked until the day he died. And even now, if one sees a light come on at the wee hours of the morning, it will be Bob just making his rounds.
Bob, like I, loved wood boats and Lake Yosemite, and he had a beautiful handmade wood boat which he decided one day to take out for a row. Fortunately, he had his inflatable life vest on because he neglected to realize, until it was too late, that new wood boats need to swell up when first put in the lake.
As the water flooded his row boat, it hit the life vest, and one can visualize Bob seated in his row boat with the blown-up life vest taking up all the room. I heard that from then on Bob kept the row boat in his swimming pool.
I liked Bob because he always had time for you. Whatever he was doing he would put it aside and invite you to sit down. And when you were talking, he gave you 100 percent of his attention.
He literally went out the way he came in: full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.


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