Bob Kephart was a friend and hero to many people. Although his name is little known, he made innumerable contributions to the world around him, great and small, especially in organizing, encouraging, and supporting people who worked for human dignity and freedom.
On June 8, 2004, Bob passed away peacefully in the company of his family and best friend. No funeral services are planned. Rather than sending flowers, his wife suggests that those who want to honor Bob's memory send a donation to the prostate cancer research organization that he worked closely with over the past three years.
Prostate Cancer Research Institute
To share personal remembrances of Bob, click here.
THE TRANSIT OF VENUS
This tribute entitled "THE TRANSIT OF VENUS" was written by Bill Bonner for The Daily Reckoning.
An old friend died...
We had called him a few weeks ago; we just wanted to say goodbye.
We should have said thanks too. Because Bob Kephart was practically the founder of our entire industry. In the 1970s he began a financial newsletter called the Inflation Survival Letter. He warned against the double-digit inflation of the period-before-Volcker and showed readers how to cope with it. Later, when inflation rates headed down, the letter became "Personal Finance," which continues to this day.
At one time or other, almost everyone in the business worked for Bob or with him. He was a demanding man who drove himself and everyone around him to do better, to think clearer, to work harder. But he had a sentimental side, too. He couldn't resist trying to help people he knew - even when they were beyond help. He was the person people turned to when they needed to be bailed out of jail, rescued from a hopeless business deal, or restored after a broken heart. He always had the courage to help people - even those who had been disgraced, dissipated themselves, and been abandoned by their friends.
Then, when the objects of his charity sometimes disappointed him, he would send a letter: "I thought you were my friend," he would write. Bob took it all personally and was profoundly disappointed when others failed to measure up to the help he had given them.
Bob was a scrapper. Attacked by cancer, for three long years he studied his enemy and tried to find his weakness. He read all he could find on the subject, and talked to experts wherever he could find them. Cancer was a problem; he would do all he could to find a solution.
He had been to clinics all over the country, as well as in Buenos Aires. In a last-ditch effort, he went to Mexico for an experimental, do or die procedure. The experiment didn't work.
Bob said he had never seen evidence of God. But God could not have missed Bob. He used his heart and brain fully... working so hard he must have worn them out. He never backed down from an idea, never abandoned a friend, and never surrendered. If God was going to take him, He would have to fight for him.
On Tuesday, it was over. Bob's transit through this life ended about the same time Venus made her rare promenade between the sun and the earth.
Bob's death put us in a reflective mood. Why, we wondered.
It was a big 'Why' we had in mind.
"Seratonin," was the answer we got.
"It's why the transit of Venus makes a difference to stock prices," said the editor of England's Moneyweek Magazine,' Merryn Somerset-Webb.
"It's a proven fact," Merryn went on, "that the sun, the moon and other heavenly bodies affect the amount of seratonin in your brain. Seratonin affects your mood. That's why astrology really is a useful tool for predicting stock market trends."
Some people are eternal optimists. Others see clouds wrapped around every silver lining. Some will hold losing positions to the bitter end. Others will always give up without a fight and move on. But most people are open to suggestion. They can be swayed by the news, the weather, the stars... even campaign advertising.
"The Transit of Venus across the sun on Tuesday," Merryn explained, "is a very bad omen. I read it in Barron's."
"Henry Weingarten has one of the best forecasting records on Wall Street. He runs something called the "Astrologer's Fund." I guess he bases his selections on the stars. Whatever he is doing, it must work. Because he's famous for being very, very right. He forecast, almost to the day, not only the collapse of the Nikkei after the bubble of the 1980s, but also the Hong Kong crash in 1997 and the bursting of the technology bubble in 2000."
"Weingarten says the position of the planets at the moment raise 'the specter of violence.'"
Merryn had answered the 'how' question, not the 'why' question. It reminded us of the conversation we had with Bob before he died. He had explained how the cancer was killing him. We had wondered why.
We might as well have asked Venus to explain herself.
A Russian billionaire was quoted on the subject in the London papers:
"I was very happy with my first wife, very happy with my second, and now very happy with my third. The simple truth is that each time I fell out of love. Love becomes habit after you have babies. Your wife becomes not just your sexual object, but also your friend. But then one day, you feel she is just a friend; you're no longer in love. I follow my obligation to look after my children and ex-wives financially, but not an obligation to stay in love. It's not possible for me to have a sexual act when I'm no longer in love."
Oh Venus... where are you leading us!
Even after all the studies of hormones and evolutionary biology, the heart's secrets are as well hidden as ever. The 'why' is always out of reach.
On June 8 also, a shriveled little heart, in a crystal jar, also finally ended its long transit. A chunk of it had been cut out and subjected to the latest DNA testing. Using a strand of Marie-Antoinette's hair, scientists found that the heart was truly that of Louis XVII, the "lost dauphin," who died in a rank prison cell at the age of 10, after his father and mother had had their heads chopped off.
Again, science has enlightened us. We know more of the how... but still not the why. The poor little boy was innocent. He had not lived long enough to make a fool of himself. Why would anyone want him to die? In his final months, he sat in his cell, wheezing from tuberculosis... staring blank-eyed and shuffling a deck of cards. History tells us he died in the arms of the one and only guard who had the heart to comfort him, for he was the son of a hated king.
We do not know anything about the guard. But we have a feeling, unless the hope of heaven is an empty promise, Bob will find him.
"What is the meaning of it all," Bob had wondered on his deathbed. "I don't know. I've spent a lot of time thinking about it as I've been fighting this thing. And now the fight is over...
"I hope to see you on the other side... we'll meet again in a great assembly of the saints... a lot of platitudes... I don't know what's coming. But, I'm ready for it... "
The fight was over. But Bob could not surrender. Now, drugged and weak, he gave a report, sounding more and more liked a German general informing headquarters from the Eastern Front:
"The cancer is advancing along the liver line," he told us. "Pockets have been found in the lungs. The incursions into the brain and backbone are growing larger. We have ceased all treatment."
With that, he blew up the ammunition and spiked the cannon. God had his man.
P.S. 'Rest in Peace' does not seem the appropriate send-off for a man like Bob. He never sought peace or comfort. What he wanted was engagement; he wanted to set things right and was willing to work as hard as he could to get the job done.
He is probably in heaven now, trying to get the place to shape up. Go to it, Bob. May God be with you.
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