You know that famous artist fella, Robert Indiana, who did the Love stamp so many years ago? Well, he lives here on this island – has lived here quite a while now – to the benefit and beauty of the town.

A lot of stories have been written about Robert Indiana, his life and work, and published far and wide. However, they don’t really touch on the man we know. How could they? Their authors don’t live here. I do, and I’ve concluded I’ve really got to give him credit where credit is due. So, here’s what I know about “Old Bob.”

I first got to know Bob Indiana back when we had Sands Cove Clambake. He used to love to come there on a summer night with his dog under the picnic table, at his feet, and lobsters on the top of the table on his plate. He’d bring a bottle of wine and a few cigars and stay there all evening, meditating or socializing as the case may be. He liked it even better in the dead of winter – the rare times when we opened up – with the woodstove going so he could toast his bread. Never mind it was so cold he had to keep his coat on, or that he was wrapped up to his eyebrows in a muffler.

Bob, to me, is just an ordinary (but very talented) old fella, a little on the eccentric side – a famous-artist trait, I’m sure. He’s very polite when you meet him at the post office, or the store, or on his sidewalk with a broom.

Bob’s house is a wonderful old relic. He did this whole town a great favor when he bought it and moved in, saving it. It being the old Odd Fellows Hall, the Star of Hope, a three-story mansard built at the turn of the last century when the island was a boom granite town. There were two more such stately buildings, side by side on Main Street, that got torn down – a crying shame, a waste of beautiful historic architecture (whose dumb idea was that?). But Bob saw what a work of art that building really was and it suited him to a T. So, thanks to him, we still have it and it’s now a historic landmark of the town.

We might not see Bob around much from time to time, and comment among ourselves that he must have gone to New York, or Paris, or wherever he goes for his art shows. Pigeon droppings start accumulating on his front sidewalk – the more droppings, the longer he’s gone. The first thing he does when he gets back is get out the hose and broom and clean the mess up, so we know Bob’s home. The pigeons love his house – it’s 130 years old and has many eaves where they live and congregate. He can work in his studio to the pleasant sound of them billing and cooing outside his windows.

Old Bob (I can call him that now because he’s getting old and gray, like me, the old lady) loves the birds. Out back, he made a lovely rock garden on the shore of the pond beside a little beach. He throws out seeds and corn, attracting all kinds of birds – pigeons, sparrows, blue jays, mallards, Canada geese, white geese, mourning doves, seagulls and whatever other species happen to fly by.

Old Bob likes big old timbers. He makes art out of them. One year at the Sands, a nice big timber, 14 by 16 inches, about 15 feet long, washed up on the grout bank out front. It must have been from a wharf somewhere, broken apart and washed here by a storm. It had been the ocean for a while, floating around, a dangerous “tidewalker” to boats, so I’m glad we got it. We were using it for a garden edge by the path to the restaurant. He saw that timber, all sea-worn, and he wanted it. Offered to trade a signed print of our choice for that old log – imagine it! It didn’t take us long to agree to that. We got a corking piece of art – The Tribes of Men – which we have had in our restaurants ever since. We love it.

And last, but not least, Bob gave our town a memorial of Nine-Eleven. On the Main Street level of Bob’s house there are four huge windows, two on each side of the main door. These are boarded over and on each one he painted a wavy Stars and Stripes, Bob-style. He loves New York and expressed his feelings this way as a poignant reminder to all of us – “lest we forget.”

On the widow’s walk at the very top of his house, overlooking all the harbor and out to sea, Bob put up six American flags, fastened to the ornate wrought iron railing around it. These flags became more than a memorial – they quickly had a practical purpose for us. They are a great wind indicator to the fishermen, plain to see from quite far away. They’re also a handy wind signal for the rest of us – we know where the lee is downstreet.

So, now you know a little more about that famous artist fella, Robert Indiana, and his island home.

Thanks, Bob, for saving the Star of Hope, for the beautification of downstreet, and for the wind flags!