Bob Lovett was a tree-hugger in the purest sense of the word. He loved pine trees, but he loved his wife and his family so much more. He loved life, in fact. Unfortunately, the Ozark Society lost a lifetime member and the world lost a cherished citizen in April of this year. Bob is survived by his beautiful wife, Priya, his sister, Susan, five children and ten grandchildren. A poem by Tyler Gregson displayed at his memorial service perfectly suited him. It read, in part; “Let the hours fill with adventure, and my legs ache from the wandering; I was built for this, and I’ve no use for staying so still.” A wanderer, an adventurer, an intrepid backpacker, a trekker, a family man and good friend—he was all these, but so much more.
Friends called Bob “a friend to man,” and it’s true. He loved to bring people together. He was never critical of others, but really listened to them, patiently, and was interested to hear what they had to say. In conversation, it was never about him; but about you. He had a magical way of bringing out the best in others. His friends noted that he was “genuinely funny,” a “phenomenal story teller” and “savored life; enjoyed it, and always saw the humor in it.” Bob loved the idea of new discovery. He was interested in and enthusiastic about nearly everything, especially a new adventure. When he went with friends to Hawaii, and was told by the rental car agency places where they couldn’t take the vehicle—no surprise; that was the first place he headed.
His intellect was astounding, and he was a superb naturalist. His curiosity knew no bounds. Bob would come back from worldwide treks and make presentations containing the scientific names of every wildflower he had encountered. He was also a meticulous scientist, perhaps relating to his twenty-five years as a pathologist at Cox Medical Center. He brought that same level of scientific scrutiny to any subject that interested him, from pine trees to springs to wildflowers to fishing tackle. His dad was a doctor in Scottsbluff, where he grew up, and was quite a fisherman. Bob inherited his dad’s tackle collection but years later decided to give it away. But when he presented it to a friend, every lure he picked up, every bit of tackle, provoked another fascinating story about its origins or history.
Perhaps best of all, he was a kind-hearted humanitarian. When he went on an adventure, a vacation, backpack or trek, he talked to everyone he met, no matter how rich or poor they were. His friends were always looking for him because he had wandered off to talk to someone. On one trip to India, he befriended a young girl with a handicap, then actually assisted her in getting a college degree. He even amazed a friend by resuscitating his dog that had nearly drowned in an overturned canoe. During his long life, he touched so many other lives that his wife, Priya, lost track of them. Now she’s receiving hundreds of letters from people whose lives he touched “in ways that I never knew about.” That’s a legacy to admire.
In 1970, Bob began planting pine trees on fourteen acres he owned on Pearson Creek, a beautiful spring-fed stream east of Springfield. That enterprise grew into the Lovett Pinetum Charitable Foundation in 1997, which now administers the 108-acre pinetum on Pearson Creek along with a smaller one in Angelina County in southeastern Texas. Today, the collection has over 4,000 trees of more than 100 species. For more information about his life’s work, visit https://lovettpinetum.org. His fabulous pines, along with the rest of us, will surely miss him.