BULLETIN — Bobby Steeves died in hospital in Campbellton on February 3rd, 2021. Details of his passing are at the very end of this post … Author
Here’s an article I wrote about Bobby in 2016. It has been updated over the years.
He is one of Campbellton, New Brunswick’s best-known citizens — and it’s been like that for more than two-thirds of a century.
The man is probably the most talked-about in town. That’s somewhat odd because the fellow is never in the news, nor has he run for office or held a half-decent job. Perhaps any job.
He has never owned a car nor had a driver’s license. And get this: forget high school or junior high, he failed to get beyond grade school. There’s more. The man has committed no crimes — yet he has been punished far more than hardened criminals.
Who is this mystery man???? His name is Bobby Steeves. People in the community of 6,800 all know Bobby’s name — but they don’t know his story.
In some ways, it’s my story too. It’s everyone’s story.
Let’s Go Back … Way Back … To 1956.
I was just a kid when I first saw Bobby Steeves. It was late spring 1956 and I was walking down Duncan Street, in the West end of Campbellton, headed to my grade-one class at the Roseberry Street School.
It was a beautiful day.
Tucked away in my Roy Rogers packsack were some pencils, an eraser, a wooden ruler, a Hilroy scribbler [with treasured tiny, shiny stars from the teachers] — and my Dick and Jane reader.
Like most children, I didn’t have a care in the world. Life was fun. Duncan Street, where I lived, was ‘Easy Street.’
SEE BOBBY RUN
Suddenly, my heart began to pound. Something big was coming down …
Bobby Steeves, a lad a few years older than me, was being chased by a bully. The goon — whose nickname was ‘Baboon’ — caught up to his prey when Bobby tripped and fell, landing face down alongside a picket fence. The pursuit ended right there. Bobby had nowhere to go. He was trapped.
Towering over him, fists clenched, was Baboon. Bobby began to tremble; he knew what was coming. Without warning, Baboon kicked and punched his victim, who shrieked loudly and turtled to shield himself from the blows. The youngster pleaded for mercy. It didn’t help. The assault continued. Bam! Bam! Bam! Not only were the blows non-stop, so was the filthy diatribe. Every slam was laced with profanity.
I was only a youngster, I know, but I hadn’t seen or heard anything like that before. I was stunned … yet sort of fascinated by it all, like spectators at a hockey game when a fight breaks out.
I had no idea what Bobby Steeves had done to deserve such a beating. I now realize his crime was that he was different. Here’s a clue: he ran like a girl.
Although Bobby begged for the beating to stop, it continued until his tormentor was exhausted.
Mission accomplished, Mr. Tough Guy — beaming from ear to ear — proudly glanced in the direction of some children who’d taken in the whole thing.
I was one of those kids.
I felt for Bobby. I was hoping he’d get up and start swinging, delivering a knock-out punch, just like in the black and white westerns at the old Capitol Theater where the good guy — the handsome dude with the white hat — decked the bad guy.
But there would be no knock-out punch — not even an attempt. Bobby remained curled up on the ground, like a human cinnamon bun. I watched him lay there, crying and twitching. The youngster was very much alone. No one came to help. There was no intervention and, to be honest, no objection. Zip.
Sure, you could say we were kids and Baboon would have beaten the snot out of us too if we told him to stop. Maybe. But maybe not. Before I walked into class that day, I had learned a valuable lesson: How the silent majority behaves. I also found out who I was. The unprovoked assault on an innocent person left me feeling cheap. I am humbled to say that what I witnessed many years ago continues to gnaw at me.
I could see that decent people in Campbellton ducked the issue, which at first seemed to signal that the attacks were okay, but I don’t see it that way anymore. Deep down, they too must have felt terrible.
A HATE CRIME?
Bobby Steeves was guilty of the crime of being different. He was — what we jokingly referred to in the day — a queer. A homo. We could easily toss in another ten descriptors, including ‘easy target.’
There are moments when one’s life seems upside down when things are terribly messed up. We all have those days. For Bobby Steeves, his life was ALWAYS upside down. Chaos and fear are all he’s ever known.
Someone once found Bobby trembling in an overturned canoe, of all places, hiding from another predator who wanted to pound the living daylights out of him. Baboon wasn’t the only asshole in town.
Another thing, Bobby wasn’t bright. He was — in PC parlance — ‘mentally challenged’ which made his journey through life that much more hellish.
I suspect that every community has a Bobby Steeves or two. They may be a couple of crayons short of a rainbow, but deep down, they are kind and forgiving. They’re not ‘bad’ people.
When I turned 18, I pulled out of Campbellton with a suitcase of new clothes, a small Kodak Instamatic camera, and, some memories, mostly good ones.
The years would pass … but I could never delete from that hard drive on my shoulders the hammering young Bobby Steeves got that day. I thought about it now and then, trying to make sense of it. My brain and heart don’t always agree on things, but I’m telling you what my heart was feeling: Something was terribly wrong here.
The months and years would morph into a decade before I finally ‘worked out’ who Bobby was. He was gay. He wasn’t heterosexual, like me. Like most of us. Strike one. Bobby was also simple. Strike two. Boom.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Never heard of it.
The physical attacks and the harassment Bobby suffered were condoned by many. But not all. Remember, we’re talking 1950s and 1960s and back then, people weren’t always tolerant of those who were different. And, sure, ‘the world was a different place then,’ etc …
As Michael Landry puts it, Bobby Steeves was the bravest man to walk the streets of Campbellton.
I’m sure the good folk of my home town never thought of Bobby as a victim of a hate crime, but I believe he was.
I returned to Campbellton every so often, sometimes spotting Bobby doing his Forrest Gump thing, running here and there. He still walked like a girl.
And he was always by himself. Can’t say I ever saw him with a friend.
People drove by calling out his name. “Bobby!” they’d shout and lay on the horn. Like a trained seal, Bobby would turn, wave, and smile like the sun. A fun time for all. Perhaps Bobby liked all the attention, I couldn’t really tell.
Males, especially, seemed to enjoy teasing and taunting Bobby. Females did not. It wasn’t all jeers thrown his way. Some guys actually pitched baseball-size rocks at him.
Back then, mind you, that ‘small-town mentality’ was very much alive in places like Campbellton. I’m talking about views on sexuality, religion, old grudges, etc. I raise the point because it’s not purely an ‘age’ thing, but where one is brought up as well.
And what did I do about this crazy shit? Nothing. Sadly, I remained part of the problem. I made no effort to sit down and talk with Bobby Steeves, although as I got older I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hear him out. A feature story perhaps …
In late August 2016, I was back in Campbellton and I figured I’d get around and finally meet the man. Bobby wasn’t hard to find. He lived in a basement suite in what used to be his small family home at the West end of Lansdowne Street.
I knocked on a paint-blistered side door. No answer. I then put my ear to the door, hoping to hear someone inside. The only sound was a small dog barking.
FINALLY. WE MEET.
I returned a few days later and rapped on the door again. This time someone was home. A voice called out. “Who is it?”
I opened the door slightly, announced who I was, and said I was coming in. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, Bobby Steeves was standing to my right. The puzzled look on his face signaled he had no clue who I was, and why I was there.
We shook hands and I handed him my business card.
“I saw you a long time ago,” I remarked, hoping to get his attention, “… but it wasn’t nice. You were beaten up — by Baboon.”
“Remember him …?”
While Bobby studied my business card, I continued my drive down Memory Lane without waiting for an answer. “Do you recall that day, Bobby? … you were punched and kicked alongside a fence not far from here.”
“Yes,” came a near-whisper reply, Bobby’s eyes darting back and forth as he tried to work out where this was going …
He interrupted my story to reveal his attacker’s real name, adding he thought Baboon had moved away after police warned him. At this point, Bobby did his best impersonation of a tough cop. “They told him,” he said, “if he ever attacked me again, he’d go to jail!” Bobby became animated, driving the point home by wagging his finger at me.
“Whatever happened to that son-of-a-bitch?” I asked. “He moved away to Ontario and got married,” Bobby replied, nodding his head, adding, “… I think he had children.”
“I wonder if they turned out to be assholes too,” I countered. “I don’t know,” Bobby replied … his voice trailing, suggesting it was time to change the subject.
Sometimes Memory Lane has huge potholes.
Changing the subject, I asked, “What’s the name of your roommate?” … motioning to a small mutt that couldn’t sit still. “Pitou.” The dog looked our way. Bobby smiled. “He’s a nice puppy,” he said.
Pitou is a classic French name for a dog that roughly translates into ‘cute little puppy.’
New Brunswick has more than its share of Rhodes scholars but Bobby’s tormentor, Baboon, sure wasn’t one of them. The man could barely read and write — and according to ‘unconfirmed reports’ — he once got someone to prominently print ‘Hells Angels’ on the back of his proud possession, a black leather jacket.
Baboon was later stopped by police and asked why he was wearing something like that. He explained that he really wasn’t a member of the Hells Angels. “That’s not the problem,” said the officer, “why are you wearing a jacket that says ‘FUCK OFF’?”
Don’t know if that story is true, or if it’s another urban legend. No matter. It’s now part of the town’s folklore.
Bobby and his tormentor had one thing in common. They were both simple; one was harmless, the other hopeless.
About ten years ago, perhaps more, I got word that Bobby’s mother, Annie, had died. The woman loved her son dearly. That touched me, gotta say.
Someone shared that Bobby often visited his mother’s grave at the Campbellton Rural Cemetery, at the West end of town.
Bobby and I talked about this and so I asked, “Would you care to show me your mother’s grave?” He agreed. Bobby was pleasantly surprised I took an interest in someone dear to him.
We set a time and a date. The man kept his word; he was waiting when I dropped by his house one morning and announced, “Let’s go to the graveyard.” Campbellton being Campbellton, the cemetery was just minutes away.
Once our seat-belts went ‘click,’ I did a U-turn on Lansdowne and we were off to the races. “Nice car,” Bobby remarked, checking out the dash. “It’s a rental,” I explained. “They’re always nice.”
The grave of Annie [Flannagan] Steeves [1910-2003], in a far corner of the cemetery, was adorned with flowers. Like wow! No other plot in the entire cemetery had nearly as many.
The flowers were synthetic. Fake. However, Bobby’s love for the woman who’d faithfully stood by him was anything but fake.
We walked up to his mother’s grave, just Bobby and me. “Was it you who got these beautiful flowers?” I asked. “Yes,” Bobby replied, glancing my way. “Did the flowers, by chance, come from other graves …?”
Perhaps it was out of place to ask, but I did anyway. In any case, Bobby ducked the question. He rubbed his chin and said, “My, she was wonderful! … just wonderful!”
That she was, Mr. Steeves. I can’t begin to fathom the stress and sorrow that poor lady went through. Her life must have been hell too.
“She loved you dearly, didn’t she?” Bobby nodded again, his eyes fixed on a grey-speckled tombstone. At this point, I figured he might open up and say something. But no, not a word. I understood. People can still say plenty when they say nothing.
Bobby leaned over and used his hand to brush grass clippings off the base of the tombstone. A simple grave in a far corner of the cemetery had been transformed into a private shrine, and I sensed that Bobby wanted things to be just so.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
We then headed off for breakfast …
We drove to the sleepy village of Tide Head, just west of Campbellton, pulling up at one of my favourite dining spots — the Sanfar Restaurant.
It’s here where owner and friend Dave Richards, with two plasticized menus in hand, escorted Bobby and me to a table in the corner of a back room. It was a quiet spot. Private. Bobby and I could talk …
“HE’S HARMLESS …”
Bobby Steeves was mentally challenged, but he sure had excellent table manners. He also knew to say ‘thank you.’
The man ate everything on his plate — and that’s something because, at Sanfar, huge helpings are served. I got a few things off my plate as well. I had a few questions, but one made Bobby uncomfortable. “You’re gay, aren’t you?” He stopped eating, looked up, waited a few seconds, and announced, quite definitively, “Yes.”
Bobby’s eyes never left mine, a clear signal his sexual orientation was none of my business.
For a while, no one said a word.
I broke the silence.
Getting back to the 1950s attack by Baboon, I asked, “… What did your Mom say about those who beat you up?” “She said not to pay them any mind.”
It must have broken Mrs. Steeves’ heart to see her son in tears, bloodied and bruised when he hadn’t done anything wrong. She must have thought, what’s going on here? Where’s the justice? Where’s God?
I wondered too about how other family members handled the ‘situation.’ They must have struggled as well.
Don’t let anyone tell you the 1950s were always Happy Days.
However, a lot has changed in half a century — including our views on people who don’t fit in. Bobby Steeves is no longer hunted down like an animal or turned into a human punching bag.
For the most part, the catcalls have also ended.
Today the people of Campbellton not only accept Bobby — now an aging senior — they also treat him well … dare I say with respect. They greet Bobby with a smile, share a coffee with him and if the weather is bad — even if it’s not — they’ll give him a lift.
The community has now rallied behind him. “He’s harmless,” my cousin pointed out. Another resident described him as kind and friendly, having a good heart.
I can see that now.
I’m not around Campbellton much [I live in Alberta], so I don’t see Bobby a lot, but I gotta say, he is sometimes on my mind.
Over the years, I have come across situations where people have been wronged, and I’ve had a chance to put the truth out there — as in ‘do the right thing.’ Shine a light, etc. Sometimes my mind will replay that attack on Bobby, him on the ground squirming, the blows landing in slow motion — and a little voice in my head says, Stand up, for Christ’s sake! Don’t let this be another ‘Bobby Steeves moment’ where you did nothing.’
‘Baboon’s’ assault on Bobby Steeves is more than a bad memory. It’s a curse. In a strange twist, it has made me a better person, indeed a better reporter, and I don’t mind sharing that.
ANGELS: THEY’RE EVERYWHERE
In 2016, during civic election night in New Brunswick, one of the candidates running for office in Campbellton spotted Bobby Steeves milling about her election office. She gave him a lift home.
The side trip meant a little less time with her family on this, the biggest day of her career, but so be it. It was essential to her that Bobby got home safe.
That night, Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin became Campbellton’s first female mayor.
THE KNOCK-OUT PUNCH!
I believe a number of angels — both in Campbellton and in that ‘Better Place’ — have been looking out for Bobby, and I suspect they’ve logged some serious overtime.
I shared with Bobby the terrible things that happened to him a long time ago have always bothered me. I pointed out that he had been persecuted for no reason other than being different.
Unlike other homosexuals in Campbellton, Bobby didn’t have the smarts to conceal who he was, nor did his family have the resources to keep his secret a secret.
“What do you have to say about those who mercilessly targetted and humiliated you?” I asked. I was now allowing Bobby — a true survivor — to unload on the Baboons and others who’d made his life a living hell.
Here was his chance to tell them how he really felt.
Bobby paused. I waited. Then came his answer, and what he had to say made me teary-eyed. “These are nice people,” he said, a reference to the men and women of Campbellton. “Nice people,” adding, in a near whisper, “I have lots of friends …”
Finally. That knock-out punch.
FLOWERS FOR BOBBY
Carolyn Price of Halifax and an anonymous friend in Campbellton teamed up to have a ‘Flowers for Bobby’ box at the Customer Service counter at the Sobeys grocery store in Campbellton.
People made donations on a gift card so that Bobby could buy his own flowers, natural or otherwise. Hundreds of dollars were collected.
The Bobby Steeves story is much more than a yarn about bullying and being different, both timely topics on their own. It’s also a story of love, forgiveness, understanding … and redemption.
Makes me want to say that the Big Guy Upstairs works in mysterious ways.
A CLASS ACT
In June 2017, at a small, red-bricked school in Tide Head, a kindergarten/grade one teacher decided to go beyond the textbooks and give her students a real lesson about life.
Donna Doucet-Savoie talked to the young ones about Bobby Steeves and the difficult times he’d been through.
The students then crafted birthday cards for Bobby …
The act of kindness, posted on several Facebook sites, led to a corporate pat on the back for Doucet-Savoie.
Beth Stymiest, Superintendent of the Anglophone North School District, fired off a kudos letter to the innovative instructor, naming her as a Starfish Award recipient for her “extraordinary act of kindness that made a difference in someone’s life.”
Thanks to Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin and an outpouring of public support, the City of Campbellton honoured Bobby Steeves at the Civic Centre on Sunday, 2 July 2017, with two certificates of recognition for his contribution to the community.
After Bobby received his certificates, he wandered off to a side room where he broke down and wept.
Thank you, Ms. Mayor, for making things right.
I was around to Bobby’s house shortly after he got his award. Check out his smile …
I asked Bobby to show me the birthday cards that arrived in the mail. There was a pile! Wow! I set up some of them on the kitchen table and snapped a photo [above]. Many of the birthday cards — all of which had heartfelt messages — arrived with cash cards from Tim Horton’s. Bobby proudly announced he’d been using them to get free coffee.
One birthday card was from far away. “Look, here’s one from Australia!” I exclaimed. Bobby asked, “What’s that?” and so, I explained, “Australia is a country on the other side of the World.” “Oh my,” he said.
A few days later, I spotted Bobby at a Mcdonald’s on Roseberry Street. He was alone at a table, nursing a cup of coffee. I sat down beside him, and we chatted. “When are you leaving?” he asked. I told him that I’d be back in Alberta within a week.
Before I left, Bobby stood up and shook my hand. “Have a safe trip,” he said.
It would never occur to Bobby that his story [this blog piece] would get more than 25,000 views … readers not just from across North America but from the world: 150 countries and counting. Take that, Mr. Steeves.
THE RADIO MAN COMES CALLING
In the 1930s, and 1940s — right up until the 70s — one of the biggest thrills was to be on the local radio station or to meet one of its announcers. Bobby grew up in a time when radio was king, and in Campbellton, the King was CKNB, ‘950 on the dial.’
Bobby couldn’t believe his ears the day former CKNB DJ Steve Bujold called to do a feature phone interview for his podcast, Down Home Corner. You can imagine how special the man felt. Here’s that interview:
Bobby was seen all over town — but one place where he hadn’t been spotted was at the local hospital. All that changed in the fall of 2020 when one of Campbellton’s best-known was confined to a hospital bed for several weeks for tests and treatment.
The news wasn’t good … Bobby had leukemia, a deadly blood cancer.
Bobby never understood the seriousness of the disease, and perhaps that’s just as well. “There’s something wrong with my stomach,” he told friends.
Until late 2020, Bobby was being treated at home. The doctors knew where this was going, and they were buying him time. Despite his illness, Bobby continued to meet people and take his pup, Pitou, for walks. He also made his daily trip to the cemetery to pay his respects to his mother.
Following a fall at home, low blood pressure, and weakness, in early 2021 found Bobby back at the hospital in Campbellton — in the intensive care unit. Because of Covid protocols, Bobby was only allowed one [family] visitor at a time.
Toward the end, the man had lost 50 pounds.
Bobby seemed to know his time was up. Even though he was bed-ridden, he talked about getting around to see his mother’s grave. And to his sister-in-law, Claudine, Bobby pointed to the ceiling of his hospital room one day and remarked that only one person knew when he would die.
Bobby Steeves’ death certificate will indicate that he took his last breath around 12:40 PM on Wednesday, 3 February 2021.
The news was a blow to Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin. In an email she shared, “Bobby deserved nothing but respect. I am glad I got to make it right for our community. I was very proud to be his friend.”
“He deserves peace,” his dear friend Peggy O’Connell added, “I will miss him.”
Deanna Taylor Holdershaw penned this thoughtful tribute …
Once Covid passes, Bobby Steeve’s family plans to have a special memorial service for him.
‘GO REST HIGH ON THAT MOUNTAIN’
The song by US country artist Vince Gill symbolizes the difficult times Bobby had … and his passing.
I couldn’t download the original tune [through iTunes] because the file wasn’t permitted. However — courtesy of YouTube, here is a video of that legendary song performed by Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, and Ricky Skaggs. The tune begins at the 1:10 mark.
HONOURING BOBBY STEEVES …
In early September 2021, a ‘good-news’ story appeared in The [Campbellton] Tribune: A bench would be made to honour Bobby Steeves. The bench was installed the following summer.
The inscription reads: “In Loving Memory Of A Gentle Soul.”
[Hat tip: Campbellton Locals, Ivan Benwell and Susan Hemy]
I plan to be back in Campbellton in mid-September . I’ll make my way to the bench and reflect on a man’s unique contribution to a city.
Bobby Steeves’ funeral service was held on Friday, September 10, 2021. There was a celebration of Bobby’s life at the St. Louis Lane Seniors Club at 1 St. Louis Lane in Campbellton.
It’s come full circle.
From a blog item in 2016 to resting on “Bobby’s Bench” in 2022 … the Author enjoys a sense of peace that something very positive came from the story.
Photo by Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin, former Mayor of Campbellton.
Thank you for your article … nicely written!!
I am so happy you took the time to share Bobby’s story with everyone.
I hope more people do like you and make an effort to treat him with respect and kindness if they do happen to cross his path. Sometimes a free coffee, free meal, a Walmart gift card … or even just a ride somewhere makes a huge difference in someone’s life.
I feel inspired by your article and I will take the time this year to start working on a Christmas basket for him.I will keep it in my car until I spot him in town and I encourage everyone to do the same.
Imagine what would happen if everyone started this as a new trend!!??
Together, we can make this Christmas for him a magical one.
Thanks for sharing his life journey. Cheers!!
Very heartwarming! When I was a teenager, Bobby and his family moved in the side apartment in the house we lived in on SugarLoaf Street. My mother and father had great respect for Bobby … and especially my father Pat O’Connell would get very upset if he saw anyone being mean or calling Bobby names. My Mother — known as Tubby — was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to leave her job. My mother would often sit on our front porch chatting with Bobby. Mom liked his stories.
I remember going home when my sister Darlene passed away and with my mother-in-law and her sister Francis Firth we went to MacDonalds for something to eat and Bobby was there. I went up and said hello, he remembered me as I had moved away in 1980 to Edmonton. He looked up and said you dyed your hair! I know you O’Connell girl, you are a red head!! He remembered my hair and my name.
I asked him if I could sit and have a picture with him, at first he said no pictures, I joked with him and he agreed. I still have them and now he tells my mother-in-law, when he sees her, how is my girlfriend doing? Bless him.
I never knew that story about the bad beating but I do remember there was Tasty Freeze across from our house and I remember seeing older guys, the ones who thought they were cool spitting in his hands and calling him names. I was young and never really knew what was happening, but I remember it well.
Yes, he is a legend who would never hurt a soul.
Reading this has brought tears to my eyes because I have to say when I was a young girl I never understood why he would wear dangling earrings and had a pair of pantyhose hung over his arm standing on the corner of SugarLoaf Street saying he was waiting for Roger to come and pick him up, as they were going to Montreal to get married! That made me laugh and yes I teased him, but if my mother or father ever heard me they would get upset, as they should have. So, yes, I am guilty of teasing him. I am sorry for that.
Bobby is the hearts of many of us from Campbellton. I hope he lives to be 100 and that this Baboon has karma come his way — if it has not already, as it always comes back.
Bobby is a legend in our small place called Campbellton. I am glad I had a chance to have my picture taken with him.
Love your story!!
There are moments in life when time is interrupted. A stillness overpowers one and only memories surface of what was and could have been. The Bobby story is one of those moments, as I recall seeing Bobby and hearing of the “queer” he was.
I too was born just outside Campbellton, and like Bobby knew I was different (gay), but unlike Bobby, fate would have it that I was brought up in a very sheltered environment, and so at the age of 13 was schooled far away from Campbellton so I did not risk the brutalities of a “Baboon”.
However, the time I did spend in Campbellton as an adolescent was filled with fearful memories of encountering the same fate as Bobby. But for the grace of God there go I.
The loneliness of it all is perhaps far worse that the physical and emotional blows. Thank you or sharing your well-written story, so that one’s life is never lived in vain.
Wow, so heart-wrenching and touching.
I did not know Mr. Steeves, but no one should ever have to go through what he did.
With children of my own I cannot imagine the hurt his mom felt for her boy that had to endure this abusive treatment on a daily basis.
My heart is broken for them both!
Very interesting story about a quiet person that I always said hello to when I lived there.
I am glad he is ok.
All of us who grew up in Campbellton remember Bobby … a harmless person who was a victim of an unnecessary hate-crime.
We are now in Ontario. I read the story word-for-word to my two children. Kids see the world differently these days.
Thank you for sharing this amazing teaching opportunity.😊
OMG, this is beautiful. I’m glad that someone cares.
I was 11 years old in 1957 and imagine you or Bobby are about my age. I too went to Roseberry Street School, then to Lord Beaverbrook.
I sort of recall your name and Bobby’s from back then.
I don’t recall the incident you describe of Bobby getting bullied, but I did have a friend who around that age was always criticized for being gay. He was the same age as me and had died this past summer. He had gotten married and had a child. I always wondered how he managed to hide what he was like at that early age later on in his life.
Do you recall me? Full name is Colin Robert Mann. I lived on Duncan Street up by Day’s store. I wonder how close you guys lived from myself.
I was quite intrigued by your write-up.
Bobby’s mother is in the same graveyard as my father. At that time, I chummed around with guys such as Kenny Day, Dennis Aucoin, David Dobson and Doug Sharp.
Thank you, Mr. Byron Christopher. Thank you very much for sharing and mostly for having taken the time to give Bobby the honours that he so deserves.
The story brought up good memories of Campbellton back in 1976. I was 11 years old when I first talked to Bobby.
I used to live on Victoria Street, not far from his home, and in the summer me and my younger sister got to see him often. He was very nice with us and always showed a big smile.
I never saw anybody being abusive toward him but I remember feeling pity for him. Because he was different and alone, I guess. Now that I look back, he didn’t seem to be unhappy at all.
And I’m sure glad that his differences made him famous.
What I’m learning from your story is that we should never be ashamed of who we are no matter how obvious our differences are. Bobby is Bobby and this is how we should all be, ourselves.
A great lesson of acceptance. Thanks again and thanks to Bobby Steeves.
I grew up in Campbellton and knew Bobby Steeves since I was a child because he was a good friend of the family.
I was told that he was a “queer” but it wasn’t a big thing. He was kind to everyone, treated everyone respectful and always had kind words.
He never looked at life as hardship but always looked for the good in everything … and I am so very happy for him and proud to have him as my friend.
Thank you Bobby for being my friend.
I regret the number of times I drove by Bobby when it was raining and I did not pick him up. I’m embarrased to say that and I regret it.
I didn’t know he had so many friends.
Your article woke me up.
I was deeply touched by this story.
I was unaware that Bobby was still alive. Although I knew about him, I knew nothing of him.
Being gay and living in Dalhousie, I know how it feels to be different and to being put aside by people one’s own age.
Luckily I was never bullied to the extent that Bobby experienced. Nice to know that he made it through these difficult times.
Thanks to the author for sharing this painful memory.
I too remember Bobby from growing up in Campbellton in the Sixties and Seventies.
I was always ashamed and felt bad for the way Bobby was treated — but i was also ashamed for the way I never stepped forward and tried to stop it.
I hope he understands how many did really care.
Thanks for a good story that brought back good and bad memories.
I too was bullied as a child by a neighbourhood kid. He even knocked out my bottom teeth (permanent teeth) when I was 8 or 9 years old.
He also pelted snowballs containing rocks at my head when I walked to catch the school bus, etc.
Fortunately, my mom rushed me to the dentist who happened to be in his office doing paperwork (it was a Saturday afternoon) and Dentist Vautour (RIP) in Dalhousie replanted my four knocked out teeth and told me to eat soup and only soft food for a week or two until these teeth were ready for chewing real food.
All but one tooth re-rooted and re-established a blood supply!
I have never forgot the feeling of this assault/terror and those feelings came flooding back when I read about Bobby’s ordeal with Baboon the bully who beat and bloodied him while he innocently walked to school.
I cried for Bobby and I guess for me too as these feelings
/memories came flooding back like it happened yesterday! It has been 50 years since I was assaulted!
I am so glad for reporters like you who bring these stories to life!
My bully (KG) was never held accountable — and it was wrong on so many levels that he got away with this reprehensible act just the same as Baboon.
Perhaps a book or movie could be made about Bobby’s life … as a lesson to bullies and silent bystanders everywhere.
I lived and worked in Campbellton at the Soldiers’ Memorial and the Campbellton Regional Hospital from June 1978 to July 1997 and knew of Bobby Steeves but did not know how he had been bullied.
Such a sad and heartbreaking story indeed.
Thanks for sharing Bobby’s story.
I read your article about Bobby and found it so uplifting. It made me think that there are still good people in the area.
I was happy to read people take the time out of their day to talk with Bobby or buy him a coffee. I know how much that means to him when someone does just a little thing like saying ‘hi.’
I worked at Kmart for years and I knew a lot of people but as life went on, I developed a decease called MS. I have slowly been withdrawing from society … but when I get out and someone comes up to me and says, “Hi how are you? … I haven’t seen you in awhile.” That makes my day because people actually remember me.
So I am sure what is going to happen to Bobby in the next while is going to do wonders for his soul … and it is because of you getting the ball rolling with the article. I thank you for that.
I am a very good friend of Bobby Steeves.
I now live in Cabo, Mexico in the winter and in Sylvan Lake, Alberta in the summer but for the last two summers I have been in Campbellton and hoping to spend more time with my family, the Savoie’s.
I love Bobby and he will always be my friend and always welcome to my house.
I had a few beers with him this summer past. I saw him almost every day walking by Yvon and Brenda’s House on Duncan Street and we would invite him in for a drink and had a talk. I always enjoyed talking with him. He made me smile all day long.
He was our sitter when we were in school and he would cook for us all and clean our house cause Mom and Dad were working so he was our Mom and Dad. Everyday he was there when we got home from school. When I say Mom and Dad I mean Marcel and Mommy Savoie.
I am sure that everyone that knows Bobby knows my parents which we miss sooooo very much.
This story moved me so much I am crying and I can’t stop. I defended Bobby always and I know of many that did the same. God Bless you. I know lots of people love him the way I do.
So thank you very much for this beautiful story. I am printing it so I can read it when I am missing home and Bobby.
God bless you all.
This story made me cry. I remember Bobby well. I often gave money to him and told him to spend it on himself, not to give it away. I went after those who hit and teased him. That was so wrong, so wrong.
I remember him well. I was born on June 11th, 1944 so that makes us about the same age.
Have not heard anything about Bobby in a long long time so thank you very much for the story. Been away from Campbellton now for over 20 years but great to hear about people and things like this …
Was talking to bobby today at Sobeys and I asked him if he had gotten some gift cards for Christmas in his mailbox. He got very excited [was bouncing with joy]; he also told me about the money raised for him.
Some late happiness for the poor guy.
I remember people being cruel to him, and it being totally acceptable to everyone [well, almost]. I also recall people chasing him with cars. Bad stuff.
Too bad so many have to get old to develop some passion for the less fortunate. Ironically, Bobby Steeves was a doormat for many people’s inadequacies … all to boost their own self-esteem.
Bobby’s hands are badly mangled now, but it doesn’t slow him down. Chirpy like a puppy, he was.
Everyone remembers Bobby … but how many will remember us?
It is difficult to imagine a time and place where it was socially acceptable to openly display such prejudices. But I too remember.
Thanks for a well-written story! And for sharing Bobby’s true essence of being.
I remember Bobby … always made me feel sad inside when people made fun of him.
I’m very glad you shared he’s life story. Thank you.
I remember bobby well. I also remember the teasing by the teenage boys. He would get mad and tell them off.
I have been away for many years and I appreciate you doing a story on him. God bless Bobby and the city of Campbellton for being so kind to him now.
Ignorance and bullying were a big part of his life.
I knew Bobby all my life. He was harmless and so kind … he would not hurt anyone.
I often saw men chase him but I was just a young child and I couldn’t understand why they would do that … but as I grew, I understood why he was so different. The men who tormented him didn’t know Bobby as a very kind soul.
Bobby would never say a bad word to anyone — and he dearly loved his mother. She was a very poor woman, but such a loving person. She took in all the unwanted children and cared for them.
I want to thank you so much for doing this article. People can now see Bobby as one of the kindest people around.
The older generation in my family always referred to Mr Steeves with negative remarks. I was very young at the time but it never sat well with me.
As time passed and I matured into adulthood it was only then I began to realize the negativity was based solely on their ignorance.
I look back at those times as a sad reminder that in some ways the men we looked up to for strength and guidance were actually the weakest of all.
It just goes to prove that there are still some great people in the world. Just a great story … too bad it hadn’t come out much sooner.
God Bless you, Bobby.
Reblogged this on Cathy Lynn Brooks and commented:
Great article on childhood bullying and the impact it has on everyone.
Such an extraordinary thing you have done. Atonement, to the extent it is due, is best when coming from within, and with no outward prompting.
Love this story. Thank you for honoring this man who endured so much pain and abuse for just being different. Bobby is one of the people who always puts a smile on my face because he is always happy and kind.
Thank you for all these kind words for Bobby , he’s a sweet and kind man.
Wishing you all the best Bobby🙏
Bobby, I am praying for you my friend. I sure hope you can go back home to see your dog 🐕 … he loves you lots.
And so do I.
Hugs and kisses 😘
What a story! I was glued to your words. Bobby is like a “fixture” in Campbellton. I grew up there but didn’t know Bobby well but I would say ‘hi’ when I saw him.
I work with people with developmental challenges, mental health issues, and those who are gay. I sadly believe that people back then were just so damn cruel. So glad things aren’t as bad today however, the haters are still out there.
Thank God Bobby had people by his side, caring about him.
So sad to hear that he is in palliative care. God bless you for such a wonderful story and for befriending Bobby.
Thank you for such a wonderful piece. Brought back so many memories of years gone by. I stick to the verse, “judge not lest he be judged’
Rev. Dr. Diane Kierstead Juckes, Miramichi
A great & true story. Rest easy Bobby …
I first became aware of Bobby Steves in 1997 at my mother’s funeral. Bobby was there. Everyone knew him, and they knew that he attended most funerals and sang his heart out whether or not he knew the words.
He felt it was something he could do, and I can honestly say that his offering of presence was accepted by all there for the act of kindness it was.
Thank you so much for this wonderful story of a Good Man.
I was born and raised in Campbellton. I lived at 23 Sugarloaf Street, from the time I was born in 1957 until I left in 1979.
I remember seeing Bobby a lot when I was a young boy. He was always smiling and waving at people. Many people told me to stay away from him because he was dangerous. As I got older, I realized that he was not dangerous at all. He was only different.
I was fortunate because I never saw anybody beat him up like what you witnessed. It would have bothered me also if I did.
I LEARNED ALOT about Mr. Steeves thanks to you. Great job, great story of a Good Man. You made me cry. You can also print my name.
Bobby was my grandmother’s sister’s son. He is a dear man who used to spoil me as a child. Thank you for writing this about him and taking the time to get to know him.
He was a Gentle Man who liked everyone he met and was without judgment.
My grandmother’s maiden name was Marietta Steeves … she married Louis Bourque (both have passed away).
I will share this article with my family. Again, thank you.
A heart-wrenching story.
Growing up in Campbellton exposed me to Bobby on just a few occasions. When those instances arose I genuinely felt sorry for him because I knew he was different and seemed starved for attention.
I didn’t understand the term “gay” at the time but simply felt sorry for him. Interesting reading your story and quite a coincidence that Bobby received treatment on January 22nd, my birthday.
Knowing his time with us is coming to an end is indeed sad. We all hope and pray that his final days are comfortable and as pain-free as possible.
If only all of us who crossed paths with him could turn back the clock and give Bobby the life he deserved — full of joy and understanding.
Thanks again for writing about Bobby. All of us who read the article have a much better understanding of what he went through and offer a sincere apology to Bobby for not stepping to the front of the line for him.
What a touching story. Thank you so much for sharing. We need more people like you in our world.
Thank you for keeping us updated on Bobby … and for caring!
I hope when Bobby is laid to rest with his beloved Mom, folks will from time to time drop some flowers off for both of them.
Thanks to you, Carolyn, people will remember his love for his mom, and flowers.
There are lots of Bobby’s in many small towns. I grew up in Chatham, just a hundred or so miles south and I am sure there were gay people in that community. There certainly were people with mental challenges.
Your story is a wonderful depiction of this very brave man. Thanks for sharing this story and I hope it brings light and awareness to the plight of people like Bobby wherever they may be.
I grew up in the Campbellton area. My mother would always tell us that Bobby was different, and she would say he’s a sweetheart.
As I grew up and became an adult I always talked to Bobby. He was so full of love. He enjoyed every conversation and every hello.
You have done such an amazing job in recapturing some of our great history, especially since it is about such an amazing individual.
God bless you Bobby.
Wow! I’m sharing this because I feel Bobby’s story deserves to be told. My heart read every word, every line and to say I cried is an understatement.
There are truly wonderful people out there who recognized Bobby for who he was.
My brother came out two years ago at 44 (yes I said 44) so we still have ignorance and dislike in this world.
I will keep you in my prayers Bobby and I know your Mom will be waiting patiently for you on the Other Side. Soar Bobby!
Thank God for people like you who write about real people like Bobby who have suffered real harm at the hands bullies that are prevalent in every community.
Thank you for sharing Bobby’s story as I am certain it will nurture compassion in many individuals as it has in Bobby’s community.
May Bobby be granted a peaceful end and be rewarded in Heaven as he joins his dearly-loved mother!
Thinking of you Bobby. The lady with the little boy with white hair says hello.
Thank you for sharing the story of Bobby Steves. He deserves proper recognition for all he went through.
Thank you Mr. Christopher — and the community of Campbellton — for making a difference in someone’s life.
God bless you Bobby.
My Mother’s words to my brother’s reactions to a challenged person made both him and I respect all people.
I always react to people being mean and insensitive to others. I’m an intervener with special needs adults and children. I will stand up for them.
Go rest high on that mountain, Bobby, you are finally Home with your mom!
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