Rapp: Remembering Bob Lansing, a no-nonsense lifelong friend who didn’t mince words
For Bob Lansing, most others were either friend or foe. Those who were neither mattered little to him.
I considered Bob among my lifelong friends. It was tragic to learn of his death on Sept. 1, the result of a vehicular accident. Bob went out in a dramatic fashion much as he lived his life.
Bob and I went to Christian Brothers High School together — the Class of 1967. He and I drove memorable vehicles at the time. I had a yellow 4-wheel-drive Ford pickup with natural oak sideboards. Bob had a black and white 1957 Chevy Bel Air Coupe with those classic fins. Sweet.
During our college years, we’d collaborate on some good times during summer months. (Best not to recount them now!)
As we moved along in life, I went into law and Bob – believe it or not – became a high school industrial arts teacher. For Bob, it wasn’t a direct path. He reminisced about flunking out of college, working as a bricklayer, finally graduating from then Quincy College in 1975 and then a brief stint as a social worker.
I can only imagine how some of those social worker sessions might have gone. “Young man … quit blaming someone else … quit feeling sorry for yourself … and get your ass out and find a job!”
Direct and no nonsense. That was Bob.
Bob also served in Vietnam as a combat medic. He’d sometimes talk a bit about this, but only if prompted and then at most briefly. He experienced a lot. He wasn’t a tearful guy, but as he’d see photos of that war, even Bob choked up. All our veterans deserve our thanks and respect, but those who saw action seldom wish to talk about it. Post-traumatic stress disorder — very real and serious for many — was not Bob’s thing. His nature was to move ahead. He did.
Reconnecting and Lansing Construction
Bob and I reconnected when he returned to Quincy from Galesburg in 1978, four years after I did. Bob had married Marcia Doht. He planned their future adventure, and Marcia had faith in Bob’s vision to become a preeminent home builder in the Quincy area. They were rightfully proud of the success Lansing Construction eventually achieved.
Home building was Bob’s ambition. He single-handedly moved the area’s builders from the usual ranch-style home to literal mansions. The homes being built today largely result from his vision that homes were more than just a one-story place to live.
Bob’s first project was the Lake Marian development – named after the fanciful Maid Marian. The land had been given to the Springfield Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. It sat wooded and overgrown for years, despite efforts by others to acquire the site. Somehow he persuaded the bishop to sell the land after other efforts failed. His development was unique and became a model for others. Some of our most noted builders and developers got their start with Bob at the time.
Other developments followed along with individual home and commercial projects. Nottingham, Sherwood, Cannonball, Frese Meadows, Robins Glen and Abbey Ridge are among them.
Bob expanded his horizons beyond construction. He acquired Merchants Wholesale (eventually acquired by AMCON Distributing Company), Kayser Lure Corp., and Riverland Expressions, Inc., among several other businesses. He was an owner of Herbal Remedies Dispensaries, LLC, which first brought medical marijuana and later recreational marijuana to the area, along with Herbal Remedies Craft Grow, Inc., which held a license as a marijuana grower. He accumulated various commercial properties and literally several thousand acres of land in Missouri, Colorado, Illinois and other locations.
A Success Story
Communities are quick – maybe too quick – to recognize and honor those whose wealth is derived from family inheritances and little or none from their individual efforts or ingenuity. We often overlook true entrepreneurs like Bob. He returned to Quincy with little other than an idea, the will to succeed, a supportive wife and his Irish setter dog. Bob’s is a true success story.
Those who knew Bob realize that he didn’t mince words or avoid “expletive deleteds.” Ass-kissing wasn’t his thing, believe me.
Bob and, at times, his family, paid the price for his bluntness. That was recalled in an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Quincyan James B. Stewart in Smart Money Magazine in December 1998. Stewart noted Bob wore his rejection by some self-proclaimed and bogus elites “as a badge of pride.”
Stewart’s article recalls the reaction of some when Bob sold several homes to affluent black families. I recall discussing this with Bob at the time. Among the black families was a highly regarded executive at a leading manufacturing plant and civic leader. A neighbor to the home, one considered to be among the supposed business elite, told Bob, “You had a good thing going here until this!”
Bob was not dissuaded by threats, even when that person moved from the neighborhood. Maybe the Robin Hood theme of Bob’s first development was especially appropriate as he showed a level of heroic integrity others didn’t. Despite Bob’s own flamboyant language at times, justice for him was more than talk.
Bob reached out and helped many less fortunate in ways largely unnoticed and mostly unknown. He enriched – quite literally – the lives of many. Bob was the sort of person who’d literally give you the shirt off his back. Try to take it from him? You had a fight on your hands. Those who tangled with Bob learned that lesson the hard way. (Again, believe me!)
Ever consider who’d you like to be with you in a dark alley or bar when folks are begging for a fight? For me, Bob would be among them.
Bob’s Effervescent Smile
What will I remember most about Bob?
Whatever the reason for our meetings and how heated things might become in dealings, Bob never failed to end our conversations with his boyish smile. That’s what I will miss most.
A memorial visitation is scheduled for Bob from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Duker & Haugh Funeral Home. A celebration of Bob’s life follows at the Twin Oaks Club.
Rather than flowers, the family fittingly asks that people share their favorite Bob story by email to email@example.com. Plans are to share these with his grandchildren at a proper age, so anything goes.
Bob started to insist in the last several months that we meet first thing in the mornings.
“I have plans to meet up with my grandkids to fish,” he would say.
Bob loved his family and looked forward to more time with them. I’m sorry for him and them he didn’t have more of those times. They would have learned of a great success story.
My prayers are for Bob and the family of a great friend.
Jim Rapp has been practicing law for nearly 50 years and has been published and speaks extensively on estate planning, business, education law, civil rights and other legal matters. He is a founding partner of Muddy River News LLC.
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