Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bob Petrillose

It is touching to see the many fond tributes to Bob Petrillose in the Ithaca Times of January 14.

The Times reported Bob's death last month of Parkinson's disease.

For decades, Bob was an Ithaca icon as proprietor of the Hot Truck on Stewart Avenue, a nighttime oasis for hungry Cornellians.

As an undergraduate, I knew Bob from my tenure as a dishwasher at his family's restaurant, Johnny's Big Red. Bob cooked for the restaurant as well as working the truck.

My most vivid memory of Bob is from Tuesday, 9 December 1980.

John Lennon had been killed the night before.

I was a long-haired kid and a very big fan of Lennon's since early childhood. I was having trouble keeping my composure the day after, and considered calling in sick for my shift at Johnny's, but didn't.

When I walked into the kitchen, I was alone. That was good. I put on an apron and started work. I tried to keep my head clear of the irrevocable event. But I couldn't, and all of a sudden bust out crying.

At that moment, Bob walked in. I turned away, but he saw me.

He didn't say anything as he started work himself. After a while, though, he said, without looking up from his work, "A great musician is taken from us."

That surprised me because I didn't think of Bob as a guy who would particularly know or care much about John Lennon. I figured it was for my benefit, and I appreciated it.

Then he said, with a shake of his head, "There's no rhyme or reason to that bullshit," which I thought was the best possible thing anyone could say. The rough sentiment, the gentle obscenity, made me feel better at a time when I would have bet a million dollars nothing could make me feel better. He looked at me, and I nodded, and neither of us said another word all night.

Bob was a great family man, a great community man, a hard-working man, and a no-bullshit guy. I know Bob's family and I know they won't mind that last accolade. It's true.

My deep condolences to the Petrillose family, for my old boss, a greatly admired man.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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