COOPERSTOWN – A few hours short of his 82nd birthday on Monday, April 10, 2017, Robert “Bob” Benedict Reisman passed peacefully on in the midst of an afternoon nap at the Marchand Manor home in Sharon Springs. On Thursday, Sept. 7, his life was remembered and celebrated at his family’s graveyard plot in Richfield Springs.
The only child and son of Vivian E. (Johnson) Reisman and Benedict Reisman, Bob was born at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown. His parents, the owner-operators of a laundry and dry cleaning establishment in Cooperstown maintained their home on Elm Street in the heart of the village. Bob’s father was also noted for Reisman’s Novelty Five, a popular jazz era dance band. Vivian Reisman, a native of Richfield Springs, was an active and devoted member of The First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown. Vivian Reisman deceased in 1969 and Benedict Reisman followed in 1971.
Bob was educated in the Cooperstown School District and played a season of football for legendary Cooperstown coach Lester “Red” Bursey in the early 1950s. However, Bob’s education was limited by learning disabilities that were not recognized or remedied in his generation. Bob boarded out for his last year of high school in Hoosick Falls at the Hoosac School for boys, but left to return home before completing his senior year.
As a youth Bob was a devoted patron of Smalley’s Theatre. Bob regularly attended weekend matinee screenings of Hollywood films. Bob’s fascination with motion pictures lasted for a lifetime and he left behind an extensive collection of DVD reprints of his childhood favorites for the benefit of his housemates at the Marchand Manor.
In October 1953, Bob enlisted in the Air Force. However, after months of training for supply and logistics work he received a general discharge after a year of honorable service. This setback was an outcome of Bob’s inability to read Air Force service manuals and apply mathematical equations.
The highlight of Bob’s working life was his 22 years as a night watchman, gardener, and groundskeeper at Iroquois Farm, the estate of Frederick Ambrose Clark. There on a Saturday afternoon, as Bob often recalled, his employer’s young niece, Jane Forbes Clark, occasionally spent time in the barn with him shelling peas from the garden for evening banquets at the Clark summer mansion residence across the road. To the end of his life Bob was proud that he had been an employee of Frederick Ambrose Clark.
He continued to live independently for a few more years in a small apartment at 5 West Beaver. Bob’s living space there was piled high with coffee table picture books acquired at public library sales. Later in life, Bob’s once deficient reading skills improved measurably through constant practice. He never missed an edition of The Freeman’s Journal.
In 1979, Bob received public recognition from the American National Red Cross for service to the Northern Otsego County Chapter and its blood program as a 10-gallon donor. In 1987, Opportunities for Otsego, Inc. recognized Robert Reisman as a volunteer in their “Emergency Food Program.”
The eventual passing of Frederick Ambrose Clark brought an end to Bob’s employment. Following his time at Iroquois Farm, Bob was employed by the Village of Cooperstown Public Works Department, the First Presbyterian Church as Sexton, and Otsego County’s Green Thumb program where he was trained and worked as a Microfilm technician in the Otsego County Department of Social Services.
Failing health forced Bob’s retirement from active employment in the mid-1990s. He left his apartment at 5 West Beaver in Cooperstown and thereafter resided in a succession of assisted living group homes in Richfield Springs, in north central New York, and in recent years at the Kirkside Home in Roxbury, New York. When the Kirkside Home closed this past March, Robert was transferred to the Marchand Manor in Sharon Springs.
Bob flourished in the company of other elderly adults in the various group homes. He delighted in the work of assembling complex table top jigsaw puzzles and viewing DVD copies of the Hollywood hits of the 1940s and 1950s. After an early morning breakfast, Bob’s daily routine was a walk to a nearby convenience store to purchase a newspaper and read it over a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Work on a jigsaw puzzle before and after lunch followed and then an afternoon nap before supper. Bob’s evenings were reserved for the movies.
Bob will be missed by his friend Tom Heitz, the author of this remembrance, and by many others who had the pleasure of knowing this friendly, gentle, quiet and unpretentious man.