Robert "Bob" Wallack, 63, who retired from a successful newspaper career to start another as owner and operator of the Olde Post Office Cafe in Mount Vernon, died Jan. 15, 2014, leaving a life cut too short, but rich in love of family, friends, food and music.
Bob understood that serving good food was as important to the soul as it was to the stomach. His talent in the kitchen was only surpassed by his ability to engage his customers in conversation. He cooked the way he did all things in life, with great skill, style and a desire to make the people around him happy.
His daughters, who were the center of his life, learned to cook at their father's hand as young women and would often call for advice when cooking for their own families.
His decision to own a cafe came after more than three decades in the newspaper business, where he ran award-winning newspapers and trained countless young women and men to be journalists. The transition was a natural one because in both professions he supported his community and helped mentor young people.
He was editor and associate publisher of the Amesbury News in Massachusetts, where he successfully worked to promote and revitalize the downtown. He went on to be editor of the twice-weekly Derry News in New Hampshire, and later served as executive director of the New England Newspaper Association, based in Boston.
Maine was always in his heart from his days as a camper and counselor at Camp Manitou in Oakland. He moved to the state permanently in 1998 to serve as publisher and editor of the York County Coast-Star and later served as the publisher of the Franklin Journal in Farmington.
Bob, who enjoyed doing things with flair, used his newspaper connections when he asked his now wife to be his bride, having the front page of the Sunday Morning Sentinel reprinted and the whole newspaper delivered to their home, with the lead headline reading, "Vicki, will you marry me?"
It was at Current Publishing in Southern Maine, where he served as general manager, that his foodie side went public when he launched a monthly food publication and his "In My Kitchen" column. His popover and barbecue recipes have become favorites and a taste of his writing can be seen on the Olde Post Office Café website: www.oldepostofficecafe.com.
Bob and Vicki moved to Mount Vernon in 2005, realizing one of Bob's dreams to own a gentleman's farm. He realized his second dream when they purchased the cafe in 2010, after Bob taught himself to cook for large groups by spending one summer in the kitchen at nearby Camp Laurel. He kept a connection to Camp Laurel for several summers when he helped them launch cooking classes for campers, which he did in his home, using his backyard garden to show students where food came from.
The Mount Vernon community embraced Bob and allowed him to realize another dream - to go back to playing his drums. He was the drummer in the Burnin' Vernon Band and counted his bandmates as some of his best friends. At Bob's request, they will play "When I Go Away," recorded by Levon Helm at Woodstock when he was in the late stages of cancer, at the celebration of Bob's life later this week. Bob had hoped to perform the song with his band, but simply ran out of time. His family played it for him in his hospital room as he passed. A link to the song is at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMXCM5TCrv8&feature=youtu.be.
What made him most proud were his daughters, whom he got to see blossom as mothers, wives and career women. His greatest regret when learning he had terminal cancer was that he would not be able to see his grandchildren grow up.
Bob leaves his wife, Victoria (Ogden) Wallack; his daughter Anna Wallack, her husband, Mike Bukhin, and grandson Nadav, of Brookline; daughter Elizabeth Wallack, her husband, Adam Katz, and grandson Solomon, of Petaluma, Calif.; his former wife and mother of his children, Barbara Wallack, of Newburyport, Mass.; his sister Nancy Marinick, of Belmont, Mass.; sister Constance Wallack, of St. Petersburg, Fla.; nephew Jeffrey Lerner, of Needham, Mass.; niece Rebecca Wallack; nephew Joshua Babbitt; his mother-in-law, Myram Ogden, of Sandusky, Ohio; sisters-in-law Lynn Ogden, of Columbus, Ohio, and Nancy Dellisanti of Huron, Ohio; nephew Michael Flanagan of Glen Arm, Maryland; niece Molly Flanagan of Providence, R.I.; and his beloved dog, Watson. He was preceded in death by his mother, Lillian (Sheff) Wallack, and father Zalmon Wallack.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Alfond Cancer Center in Augusta, Maine, in the hope that others will be helped on his behalf through the staff's excellent care.