By Tom Quiner
[Bob Weast was the recipient of IFL’s Life Award for 2020 for his unwavering support of the pro-life cause generally, and Iowans for LIFE specifically. He died a week after receiving his plaque, at the age of 91. IFL Board president, Tom Quiner reflects on his friendship with Bob, adapted from a toast he made on Bob’s 90th birthday.]
I did a little calculation. Using higher mathematics, I discovered I have spent a little more than a thousand hours of my life discussing God with Bob Weast. That something like 43 days of non-stop talking.
I have learned much from Bob on a variety of subjects, but especially when it comes to faith and music subjects.
Let’s start with faith. I don’t know if anyone has ever noticed, but Bob sometimes latches onto a subject and won’t let go of it for five or ten years.
One of his favorite themes at our Catechism & Coffee group regards the nature of evil generally, and specifically why God allows natural disasters.
Has anyone ever heard Bob ask,
“Well, what about tsunamis?”
I’ll let the theologians reading this wrestle with the vexing implications of the question. In the meantime, I’m rather struck that Bob is something of a tsunami in his own right.
After all, a tsunami is a force of nature. Can anyone deny that Bob is a force of nature?
And after all, tsunamis reach tremendous heights, as has Bob Weast. His accomplishments in the world of music are obvious, culminating in his election to the Iowa Jazz Hall of Fame.
The power and beauty of his trumpet playing is a transformative force that makes people feel better about life, and more importantly, draws us deeper into prayer when it is enjoyed at Mass.
Despite the impact that his music has had on me and the tens of thousands of people it has touched over the years, I think it is Bob’s robust, childlike faith in God and His creation that has made an even bigger impact on those lucky enough to spend 43 days of their life discussing faith matters with Bob Weast.
His love of the Eucharist and the Catholic Mass is contagious. His ardent support of the pro-life movement was unwavering. I thank Bob for being such a great mentor to me and so many others, whether the subject is Mozart or Mass, God or Gershwin, or transubstantiation or transposition.
Let me leave you with a Bob story from, where else, but Mass!
I was on piano and Bob was on trumpet, of course, in what turned out to be one of the last Masses he played with me. To be clear, I am a fairly functional piano player, without the spit and polish of, let’s say, a Janice Weast, Bob’s virtuosic late wife. I always loved it when Bob played with me at Mass because he always made me sound better than I am.
Anyway, my fingers were racing over the keyboard as the congregation sang “The Gloria.” You could practically hear the choir of angels joining in!
Bob’s cue was imminent.
I glanced out of the side of my eye and noticed Bob sitting on his chair with his eyes closed.
“Hmmm,” I said to myself. “I wonder if he’s praying?”
Ten seconds to his cue. Several measures pass.
I glanced again over at Bob. Eyes still closed.
“Hmmm, I wonder if he’s sleeping?”
Five seconds to his cue. A few more measures pass.
I take another glance. Eyes STILL closed.
“O my God, I wonder if he’s dead!” I screamed to myself.
His cue is NOW!!!!!
Like clockwork, Bob whipped his trumpet into position and produced the loviest of sounds with his magical horn … exactly … on … cue.
Ye of little faith.
Bob was a consummate professional at the distinguished age of 90, as I was once again reminded.
One other time at Mass, I had written a trumpet part for Bob and forgotten to transpose it. Bob could transpose on the fly with the best of them, but this time, I was thrusting him into a key with something like 47 sharps. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it was a lot.
Bob said, “You know, Tom, this might take me a minute.”
I said, “That’s all the time you’ve got, Mass is starting in twelve seconds.
Needless to say, he played the transposition flawlessly, with his usual eloquence and lilt.
I could go on.
Bob was such a good man. I’ll never forget his infectious laugh and his passionate commitment to the pro-life cause.
I’ll never forget his peerless trumpet prowess.
I’ll never forget the support and mentoring he provided me, an untrained musician and composer.
I’ll never forget his kindness, or his wonderful family, from wife to daughters, to grandkids, to son-in-laws.
But ultimately, it is his childlike devotion to his Catholic faith that will stick with me the longest. That is the supreme compliment I can pay to Robert Weast.
[Do you have a loved one you’d like to remember with a pro-life memorial? Visit our Memorials Page for details. A memorial is a beautiful way to support Iowans for LIFE’s pro-life educational outreach.]