Friends bid farewell, praise Bob Janes’ legacy
A standing room only crowd of more than 500 gathered at the Harborside Event Center in downtown Fort Myers on Monday afternoon to pay their respects to Robert P. “Bob” Janes, the Lee County District 1 Commissioner, who passed away on March 10.
One by one, as each of Janes’ fellow commissioners, colleagues and close friends took to the podium to offer their memories and favorite moments shared with the former Sanibel mayor, businessman, volunteer and public servant, their stories evoked a wide range of emotion.
However, the common thread in all of their experiences was Janes’ humble and honest dedication to the community – and the people – he served.
“Bob always shared a heartfelt concern for the environment and his fellow man,” offered District 2 Commissioner Brian Bigelow. “Our lives have been deeply enriched for having known him.”
The 90-minute service, which ended with a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps” across the street at Centennial Park, began with the singing of “The Lord’s Prayer” (performed by Karen L. Maguire) and the presentation of colors by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Honor Guard 8463. Janes served as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Army.
“He had a wonderful and unique quality that, from the first time you met him, he made you feel like you were a very special friend to him,” said Ray Judah, Commissioner from District 3. “He cast a big shadow. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to work alongside him.”
Fellow Commissioner Frank Mann, representing District 5, noted just how down to earth Janes remained through all of his years in public service.
“If Bob Janes had an ego, it was virtually invisible,” he said. “The reason he did things wasn’t to get his name on the six o’clock news or to gain notoriety. He did things because it was right. He was always doing things because he thought it was right.”
Mann added, “The words ‘role model’ were created for men like Bob Janes.”
Prior to the memorial, former Sanibel Mayor Carla Brooks Johnston recalled working with Janes on several issues during her tenure, after the longtime island resident had already served his own neighbors as Planning Commissioner and Mayor.
“If it weren’t for Bob, I don’t think we could’ve gotten the financing to help build the Recreation Center,” she said. “He was always a man who cared about the environment and providing human services. He will be missed, especially by the people of Sanibel and Cape Coral. Bob always worked so hard for his people.”
During his invocation, Pastor Steven J. Hess of Zion Lutheran Church lauded Janes for his “can-do approach that made a community a better place.”
Tammy Hall, Lee County Commissioner and Chairwoman from District 4, emceed the service. During her remarks, she thanked Janes for both his friendship and support during their years working together.
“I am so appreciative of his mentorship and his guidance,” said Hall. “He was a man of true integrity and pure character.”
Hall also read letters sent by Florida Rep. Connie Mack, Sen. David Aronberg and the Lee Memorial Health System, who announced that it would name one of their latest buildings in Janes’ honor.
In addition, Hall announced that a scholarship established in Janes’ name at Hodges University will be awarded to a returning soldier.
Mayor Mick Denham read a proclamation from the City of Sanibel honoring Janes for his years of service to his fellow islanders. Also attending the memorial was Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane, Councilman Marty Harrity, City Manager Judie Zimomra and Chief of Police Bill Tomlinson.
“Rotary International’s motto is ‘Service Above Self,’ and that motto perfectly describes Bob’s public, personal and political lives,” said Lee Almas, a Sanibel resident who was one of Janes’ closest friends at the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club.
Former Sanibel City Attorney Bob Pritt delivered a sentimental and poignant eulogy, at some points drawing laughter, at others tears. One of the stories he shared was of Janes in the days following Hurricane Charley back in 2004.
“Bob was the first one to unload water at a decimated trailer park, at age 73, in the middle of a hot August day,” Pritt recalled. “A truck pulled up and it had all of this water that needed to be unloaded. And he was the first one to start taking cases of water off the truck. He was the leader… and others followed.”
Pritt concluded his remarks with, “Bob Janes, may God keep you in his loving care until we meet again.”