Into each life some rain must fall.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Clowns bring joy and laughter to many, they are a magical being that will just always be there or so one may think.
Recently we had to say goodbye to a dear friend and great clown Patches aka Robert, who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 85. You may wonder why share a story of the loss of a friend instead of a makeup tutorial, instructions on being a better clown or some happy story of a clown event. The answer is simply that Bob’s story is that of happiness, instruction and helping make the lives of those he met a bit more special.
Bob served his country in the United States Navy, was a loving husband and father and was involved in numerous clubs and organizations. In his seventies Bob even joined the Civil Air Patrol lending his background of the military to continue to serve his country and community; even achieving the rank of Major. An active member of the Yankee Air force, an organization which restores and preserves vintage aircraft; also a leader of the Boy Scouts of America. Bob was there for his family and friends with their interests by attending events showing moral support. Without a doubt, Bob was an active community member and we have yet to discuss the clowning.
As a member of the Clown Alley in his area, Clowns Around Redford, the Mid West Clown Association, Bob would lend a hand as a performer, committee member or whatever shoes needed to be filled for the project at hand. Bob was on the organizing committee for local clown workshops and the Mid West Clown gatherings. Our readers here at Clown Antics have seen Patches featured in articles, the most recent being the Parade article just published last month.
Even after discovering he had cancer, Bob continued to clown up until a few months before his passing; as if clowning well into your golden years wasn’t impressive enough. When the circus came to town, Bob was able to contact the Ringmaster and make arrangements for his clown alley to be greeters at the gates. At the age of 80, he climbed atop an elephant on two different occasions for a ride and a photo opportunity.
He was a supporter of the Parade Company in Detroit, helping maintain and prepare the
floats for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. He would also appear as Patches the Clown at the
Hob Nobble Gobble, a fund raising party before the parade. Bob truly loved the circus and was inspired to create his Hobo clown character by Emmet Kelly himself. There may have been a little influence from Red Skelton thrown in the mix too. He attended the Red Skelton Clown Camp, held in Indiana, in the not so distant past. A magic enthusiast, Bob was also a member of the Ann Arbor magic club, and would often share a pocket trick over a meal with friends.
All of these things lead us to the final farewell and the gathering of people from various walks of life. The visitation at the funeral home featured his two clown costumes handsomely displayed along with countless photos of his life. He was honored with special ceremonies by the Civil Air Patrol, the United States Navy and both the Clown Alley and Magic club. Yes we clowns and magicians honor our friends in a special, way just as they themselves were special for bringing joy to others. Clowns have a ceremony called Bump a Nose and Magicians the Broken Wand ceremony. Both are a beautiful gesture signifying the end of an era as we say farewell to a fellow performer.
Although a sad day, the site of friends, family, military officers, magicians and even clowns in costume was a site to behold. This was truly a reflection of a man who had the heart of a clown and did so much to make the world around him a better place. Although he will be missed, Bob/ Patches will live forever in our hearts.
In loving memory of Robert W. Waite aka Patches.
January 23-1931 to June 25-2016
Thank you to my friend Dan “Tippy” Jones for collaborating with me to write this article.