Robert Gengo departed this life on June 17, 2021, with merciful speed and dignity in his own home. Born on April 11, 1947 to Ralph and Veronica Gengo in Brooklyn, N.Y., Bob was raised in Middlebury, Conn. This may come as a surprise to those familiar with his accent—a melodic, sauntering drawl, which he dubbed “affected Southern.”
In his youth, Bob could not be contained by a single place for very long. He yearned to suck the marrow from life. He worked as a tobacco and fruit picker, short order cook, and finally, carpenter. He made his home where he found his friends: from San Francisco’s Russian Hill, to Kansas City, to a one-room schoolhouse in Back Valley, W.Va. He eventually fell in love with Botetourt County, a woman named Karen, and her son Adam.
Bob was proud to be a friend to anyone; he believed in the humanity and equality of all people, no matter how different. He loved the community of Fincastle and was proud of his role in town, despite his “disreputable character” (again, his words). Bob served on Town Council and then as Mayor of the Town of Fincastle from 2000-2006, winning office as a write-in candidate three times in a row, all the while claiming that he never wanted the job. He was a hippie, but was known for his pragmatic and common-sense approach to the role of government in town. As a public servant, he could communicate with anyone and everyone.
Bob was not Southern by birth, but he perfected the Southern art of storytelling and never let the truth get in the way of a good story. He studied English at Western Connecticut University and loved the English language and acquiring arcane vocabulary. He loved the Grateful Dead, his front porch, a good bourbon, and the pace of a small town. He believed that a quiet, small place is all one needs when one is surrounded by dear friends and loved ones.
Bob found his life’s contentment in the hand crafting of objects both beautiful and functional. At any given event he could be found holding court with a well-timed joke or story. He indulged his wanderlust by traveling “the blue routes,” where he sought out wild places from the Florida Keys to Alaska. He used to say, “There’s a lot of America out there.”
Bob is survived by his three beloved children, Adam, Erin, and Morgan; and three grandchildren, Sebastian, Leila, and Adela, whom he adored. Also surviving are his devoted sister, Mary Gengo-Bock; mother to his children, Karen Thompson; and his favorite nephew and niece, Jonathan and Rebecca Bock. With loving gratitude, he leaves behind the town and people of Fincastle, his chosen home and chosen family of nearly four decades.
His legacy is one of service, humor, and storytelling. In some universe he is surely reunited with those friends long departed, telling lies and drinking whiskey. The family will have a public memorial at Fincastle Presbyterian Church Monday, September 6 at 3 p.m., followed by a wake and celebration of his life at the Kyle House. Please email email@example.com for an invitation.