The following letter was written by former president Bill Clinton to the family of Bob Armstrong after his death on March 1, 2015. Bob's wife, Linda Aaker, read the letter at the memorial service and has provided us with the text to share with our e-newsletter readers.
Linda, Martha Louise, Shannon, Landis, and Will,
Hillary and I so wish we could be with you and all Bob's friends to celebrate his life and the joy he brought into all of our lives.
Like many of you, I've spent the last couple of days reliving my life with Bob Armstrong. When I first met him in 1972, he already felt like an old friend. He agreed to co-chair the state McGovern Campaign, a really smart career move for an up-and-coming politician in Texas. And he did it with good humor, gusto, and the hands-on leadership he brought to every job. Nothing rattled him or got him down, even when just before the election, Sargent Shriver's plane was more than two hours late to Texarkana because a Mexican pilot in a single-engine craft kept circling our airport in South Texas because no one in air traffic control spoke Spanish well enough to talk him down. By the time we arrived, about a hundred diehards had left the rally site and come to the airport to cheer us on. Bob was so upbeat that afterward we went to the Texarkana Howard Johnson's and stayed up all night as he picked his guitar and told his stories. A couple of days later we lost Texas two to one. Bob kept us smiling. I remember thinking it's a good thing we didn't win; then Bob would have been so high we would have had to give him tranquilizers.
For more than forty years, from Texas to Washington and back, on golf courses and in his Austin haunts, I loved every minute of the ride. Roy Spence said Bob's law of life seemed to be: Be Happy and Do Good.
We can never forget how much good he did in Texas as Land Commissioner and on the Parks and Wildlife Commission, and across the country as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, where he led the efforts to establish the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and to save Yellowstone Park by acquiring a massive mining operation nearby before it could do any harm. And he always did it the right way—he never treated any of his opponents as enemies, and they wound up respecting and liking him. Every President should be so lucky to be represented by someone like Bob.
After Bob came to Washington, we enjoyed a lot of golf, even though Linda laughed at us when Will beat us both badly and often. We also exchanged several letters. His were better than mine. Here's a portion of one of my favorites:
"I know you have the best and smartest advisers in the world any time you need them. But I want to offer another kind of deal:
If you ever need someone to laugh with, or cry with, or someone to scream at to keep from going 'plumb off' or to tell a new joke to or hear a new joke from, or someone with whom you can just put your mind in neutral and just be plain you for a while, remember that most of the time I'm just three blocks away. This service is called 'Dial a Bro.' I know you have lots of new friends. But you sure do have one proud old one named Bob."
That was Bob in a nutshell. He was the ultimate Be Happy Do Good Guy. He made those of us he touched happier and want to do better. We'll miss you Bob. We'll always love you, always remember, and always with a smile.