MEDIA — If Media was Everybody’s Hometown, Bob Dimond was Everybody’s Hometown’s favorite guy.
Dimond, the longtime borough tax collector and Democratic chair, as well as a former councilman and mayor in East Lansdowne, died this week at the age of 84.
”A life in three acts” is a reference to a theatrical form, as well as the stages of childhood, adulthood and old age. It also applies to Dimond, a man who loved the theater, and whose life was an overture, three acts and a whole lot of curtain calls.
That life ended this week, two days after he celebrated his 84th birthday, and years of illness he bore with incredible good humor. The sense of loss was felt not only for his family and friends, but for what seemed like thousands who knew him from one of many organizations, elected offices, performances and even as the borough’s tax collector.
How does one capture the impression of a man who touched so many? Visit a Rotary meeting, VFW, Swarthmore Players Club or spend any day on State Street and ask passers-by if they knew Bob, and what they remembered? It seemed a difficult, incomplete and endless task. It became clear almost immediately that getting “reaction” to Bob’s passing wouldn’t’ be hard at all. The same comments were made over and over.
Bob Dimond was one of the nicest guys one could ever hope to know.
Instead of casting the net far and wide, one could stay in the borough where Bob and Dale Dimond lived for two decades.
Interesting that the mayor of someplace else (East Lansdowne) moved to Media, observed Gail Whitaker, who was a political ally, but moreover a good friend. Dimond loved the borough, but his efforts were inclusive.
“He cared about ‘we the people’ and spent his whole life acting on our behalf,," Whitaker said. "You couldn’t ask too much of him. Anything anybody needed, he was there. Bob was a great guy, and that’s all there is to it,” said Whitaker. “He grew up knowing our better selves are revealed when we do for others.”
Growing up was a subject Bob could talk about quite a bit—not because he was self-centered, but because it was so damned interesting. He and Dale were certain it would be the start of a fascinating book – and someday it may be. Here’s the Act I teaser – he was born Robert Louis Kelly, the youngest of 11 children, facts of which he was unaware for two decades. He had lifelong friends from Southwest Philadelphia; an incredible commitment to veterans, forged by 15 months in the United States Army during the Korean War; and an overall sense of service that was the epitome of “walking the walk.”
“Bob had an ability to step into any situation and become an integral part of a group. He immersed himself with whatever and whoever needed him,” said Joan Hagan, part of the borough’s Democratic organization that Dimond headed for years. “When he had his political hat on, he was a dyed-in-the wool Democrat. But not everything was political. Everything and everyone he touched was better for his genuine caring.”
If veterans and public service were outcomes of Act II, his Act III foray onto the stage was merely the emergence of natural charm. After meeting Dale, who had been involved with community theater for years, Bob found acting was in his blood. It was probably because he found the world a stage, and he was comfortable on it.
Last Thursday night, Borough Council held its regularly scheduled work session.
“We learned Bob Dimond passed away yesterday. Bob was a great friend and neighbor, but first and foremost he was a great citizen,” said council President Brian Hall. “He also had a wonderful sense of humor, very dry, and you realized that as you got to know him.”
Hall turned to Mayor Bob McMahon, who would provide details on services and remembrance. For those who knew the relationship between “the Bobs,” as they were often known, this was not an easy transition.
McMahon and Dimond bonded as veterans, and shared a passion for that cause, but Dimond “took it to an extra level,” McMahon said. He believed Dimond’s military service (a choice a judge offered him at 17) was the signature event of his life.
The Bobs personalities ideally blended. Dimond loved a crowd; McMahon was self-effacing in the spotlight. They spoke daily, especially in the last few months.
“I talked to him last night, before 6 p.m.,” said McMahon, gently referencing Dimond’s health. “We talked about memories more than we had in conversations before. It was the first time he’d told me the doctors had given him three years when he was diagnosed – that was eight or nine years ago. I told him we had a Veterans Day Parade coming up, and I needed help. He was the best organizer. I’ll miss that,” he said, with a wistful tone.
And now a personal note. I first met the Dimonds when the family held a Christmas in July for son Joe, a Marine returning from Middle East deployment. I spend many parades, events and election nights with Bob and Dale. They were fun, generous, thoughtful, civic minded and much more. Lately I visited a few times in their Granite Farms home after they reluctantly moved from Media. Never a complaint or self-pity, Bob was still learning and often surprised about his personal story. No mystery however, he will be remembered as a great guy.