Our Moderator Robert Fowkes passed away last Friday, Sept 30, 2011

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Ronald Epstein, Oct 2, 2011.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Ronald Epstein

    Robert A Fowkes Jr, 1942 - 2011

    Home Theater Forum first-time member, long-term Moderator, everlasting friend.

    It is with great sadness that Home Theater Forum announces the passing of one of our own.

    Founding member and long-time moderator Dr. Robert A. Fowkes, Jr. died this past Friday at the age of 69 from pancreatic cancer.

    RAF was a beloved figure here at HTF: a regular presence at HTF meets and media expos, always on the cutting-edge of home electronics and the latest gadgets.

    His wit and friendly nature were pervasive as he reviewed the latest in technological gear, ran numerous member contests for such programs as American Idol and Survivor, and freely offered up his technical expertise to all of us with his posting and in-depth articles.

    RAF leaves behind a family of which he often spoke lovingly, and a forum membership which will be lesser in his absence. We will miss him and offer our condolences to his family.

    Here is a copy of the official obituary:

    Dr. Robert A. Fowkes, Jr., a resident of Ossining, died Friday, September 30, 2011 at his home.

    Bob was born in Yonkers on July 20, 1942 and was the son of the late Robert A., Sr. and Angela Vescio Fowkes. He was 69.

    Bob received his Bachelor of Science in June of 1964 and a Master of Arts in Education in June of 1965 from NYU. He received his Doctor of Education from Fordham University in 1990. Bob was a well-loved and admired Chemistry teacher at Yonkers High School for over 20 years and later the Coordinator of Computer Technology for the Yonkers Public Schools until his retirement. An early adopter of technology, Bob conducted research at Montana State University on computers beginning in the mid-1970's. He was instrumental in bringing computer technology into the classroom in the Yonkers Public Schools. A lifelong media enthusiast, Bob was most recently a moderator for the Home Theater Forum.

    Bob was predeceased by his wife, Therese, and is survived by his children, Elizabeth Santucci (John) and David (Rochelle), five grandchildren, Angela, Robert, and Daniel Fowkes, and Catherine and John Santucci, his longtime companion, Sandra Cuttitto, and his brothers Richard (Floran) and William, four nieces, Jillian and Sloane, and Laura and Julia Fowkes.

    Visiting hours will be held on Tuesday from 2-4 and 7-9 pm. Services will be held on Wednesday at 11:30am at Dorsey Funeral Home. The interment will follow at St. Augustine Cemetery, Ossining.

    In lieu of flowers, family and friends are making donations in Bob's name to VNA & Hospice Care Foundation of Hudson Valley, 540 White Plains Road, Suite 300, Tarrytown, NY, 10591. Dorsey Duneral Home, Inc.

    14 Emwilton Place

    Ossining, N Y 10562


  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Ronald Epstein
    I never considered myself very good at writing anything.
    So, I very much appreciate the efforts of the Moderators
    who really gave a lot of suggestions as to how the above
    post should be pictured and worded. I think everyone on
    this side of HTF wanted some part in what was conveyed
    to the membership.

    I want to add a few personal thoughts if I may....

    Before there was HTF...in fact, before there was an Internet,
    computers equipped with modems connected to online
    services like AOL, Compuserve and Prodigy. It was on one
    of these services, in a small chat area devoted to the discussion
    of laserdiscs, that I first came to know Robert Fowkes.

    You could never not notice his presence within the online
    community. He was never shy about giving advice. One
    could immediately see that here was a man who was highly
    educated and truly knew his subject matter. And, though his
    replies were often wordy, they were filled with immense enthusiasm.

    We instantly became friends.

    When Parker and I moved to the Internet and created
    Home Theater Forum, the obvious choice was to bring RAF
    aboard as a Moderator. He gladly accepted our invitation, and
    for the 14 years that followed, he gave an immense amount of
    his own personal time (and sometimes personal finances) to
    keep this forum running. I know all of it was done out of love
    for this special place that he believed in.

    When he broke the news to us last year that he had been
    diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer, our hearts dropped. But,
    RAF, in his usual manner, took his sickness on as a challenge.
    He made it a personal goal that he would join his fellow staff
    members at Cedia this year. I think it was that goal that gave
    him the will to continue living life to the fullest despite the odds.

    When Cedia arrived less than 4 weeks ago, it was apparent
    that RAF's health was in decline. He was forced to back out
    of the event.

    It's hard to imagine that my friend is gone. I only spoke to
    him on the phone a little over two weeks ago, and he was full
    of his usual vigor that turns a 5-minute call into one that lasts
    60 minutes. As was always the case, RAF had a lot on his
    mind that he was excited about. He never really let any of
    us on about how ill he might have been. He never complained.
    In fact, all he did was talk about the future.

    For those members who never may have been fortunate enough
    to meet Robert Fowkes, I can simply tell you that he was a
    remarkable man. A formidable presence. He would sit at an
    HTF event and just take over the room. He was never short
    on words. He was never short of friends.

    Rest in peace my friend!
  3. marsnkc

    marsnkc Supporting Actor

    Dec 22, 2006
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    Very sad, but a beautiful tribute, Ron, from you and your moderators. Mr. Fowkes was obviously very lucky in your friendship with him, and his for you.
  4. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member

    Jun 27, 2007
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    Charles Smith
    What a shock. Not because I knew the man, though his name is a familiar one.

    RIP, sir.
  5. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator

    Oct 30, 1997
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    Aberdeen, MD & Navesink, NJ
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    Sam Posten
    Devastating, I miss him already.
    RAF was a light in the fog for so many of our questions, a good friend, and a lover of all life had to offer. All I can hope is that we each continue in the way he showed: with gusto, a smile and paying it forward.
  6. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

    Dec 28, 1998
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    Very saddened to hear of Robert's passing. Robert was a wonderful presence on the HTF and was always friendly and a true gentleman. He will be missed.
    My condolences to his family, friends and associates.
    - Walter.
  7. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

    May 9, 2001
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    North Texas
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    I mainly remember him for starting the American Idol Challenge every year, and for his love for Oblivion. Our interests didn't overlap enough that I interacted with him too often, but I could tell he was a nice guy from the times I did see his posts. Rest in peace.
    I know it's not a conversation you're interested in having right now, Ron, but there is nothing wrong with your writing style. The obituary you had help with is perfectly fine, and your own personal tribute is even nicer.
  8. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

    Feb 14, 2002
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    I never had the pleasure of meeting Robert, but like many here, I knew him through his outstanding, passionate, and enlightening posts on the HTF. It was evident that this was a remarkable man, not just on an intellectual level, but also a personal one.
    Indirectly, I owe RAF my love for HT, and the enjoyment it has given me all these years. His HT was the first modern theater I ever saw when I joined this forum, and it made me realize just how much was possible in this beautiful hobby of ours. For a while, his HT was actually my computer wallpaper, as it was what I aspired to build for myself one day. I also hoped to one day shake his hand and thank him for unwittingly giving me the HT bug.
    It's hard to think of him as "gone". 69 is too early, especially in the times we live in. And when it comes to people like RAF, any age feels too early. I will miss this friend I never met dearly indeed.
    Rest in peace, sir, and thank you.
  9. dmiller68

    dmiller68 Supporting Actor

    Sep 29, 2009
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    David Miller
    Rest in Peace, My prayers go out to his family and friends.
  10. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer

    Oct 5, 2005
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    Lee Summit, Missouri
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    He will definitely be missed; his love of the hobby may have brought a lot of us together, but his demeanor, words, and open candor about what he thought made people remember him. Cancer is a real bear; I am hoping that in his passing he found some peace.
  11. Raul Marquez

    Raul Marquez Supporting Actor

    Apr 2, 2002
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    San Juan, Puerto Rico (USA)
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    Raul H. Marquez, MD
    I first became aware of RAF during my early online computing days on CompuServe using a Coleco ADAM computer system and a 300 baud Dial-up modem . We spent many hours "texting" online; remember you had to type in a line and then wait several minutes for the message to go through and then several more to get a reply. These were the early days of computing and home video (the VHS vs Beta war had just ended), and laserdiscs were just starting out. Several years passed by (I had moved on to a Compaq aero laptop), and I recall RAF trying to convince me to adopt this new format called DVD. After having made a large investment into what used to be the videophile choice (laserdisc) I was not easily convinced, but RAF did it.
    Time passed and we lost touch with each other. Then one day around 15 -20 years later while surfing the net I ran into this so called "HomeTheater Forum", it had everything I needed to know about my favorite hobby and the people there seemed to follow my interests and beliefs. And RAF was there!!
    I decided to go to the HTF/EMA Las Vegas meet around 5 years ago and I finally got to meet RAF in person. He was everything I imagined him to be, a true gentleman, extremely intelligent, and the kind of person you want as one of those rare friends you can count with the fingers of one hand and still have fingers left. We saw each other again at the last HTF Hollywood meet and made plans to meet in New York last year, but I was not able to. As a funny story, it turns out both of our girlfriends are named Sandy, so we had to specify Sandy from New York or Sandy from San Juan whenever we spoke. I was looking forward to getting together next year in the next big HTF meet and then Ron sent me the news of his passing yesterday.
    To those of us who had the privilege of sharing some time with RAF, the biggest compliment we can give him is to try to be a little like him, and to spread the joy of this wonderful hobby we have (home theater) to those around us.
  12. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

    Dec 19, 1998
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    RIP, Mr. Fowkes. You were always a gentleman.
  13. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator

    Oct 9, 2001
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    Rensselaer, NY
    I never met RAF. But our paths crossed many, many times over the years on the HTF (in, among other places, some of those Survivor contests that he moderated so dearly!).

    But his zest and enthusiasm for the hobby--and for life--was always apparent. His affection for people and willingness to help with his expansive knowledge were always on display.

    And as Ron noted above, while he kept the moderating staff up-to-date on his fight with the cancer, he always kept an extremely positive outlook.

    One of the first things I did as an HTF member after we switched forum software a couple years ago was have the mod team put in place that wonderful essay which Sam linked-to in his prior post:

    While the essay wasn't written by RAF, the introduction is and it is one of those special essays which everyone HT enthusiast should read--especially when grasping for an answer as to why we do what we do.

    His family will be in my prayers. We WILL miss him greatly.
  14. Adam Gregorich


    Nov 20, 1999
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    The Other Washington
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    RAF owned the room....any room he walked into. For those who don't know him, it was because of his willingness to engage anyone on their level, his ability to recall and address people by name, his knowledge of just about any topic and the fact that he was so very genuine. He had a love for movies and ANY type of gadget. If you were to look up "early adopter" in the dictionary you would see his picture. I met him about ten years ago in LA at a Home Theater Forum meet. He had driven out in his Chevy Impala from New York. He is the one who recommended me to Ron and Parker as a moderator candidate a few years later, which meant a great deal to me.

    A few memories in no particular order:

    • He was a damn good pianist. I remember Sam Runco recruiting him to play at the parties he would host on the Home Theater Cruise.

    • Enjoying the "double double protein-style" at In-N-Out Burger on some of our Hollywood visits

    • The two of us finding our way to Atlantis on Paradise Island with Sandy & Annette during a stop on an HTF cruise, riding the waterslide through the shark tank

    • RAF introducing my toddler twins to the fascination of the Nintendo DS during a visit to see us on the West Coast

    • We tried to avoid talking on the phone. A "quick question" easily turned into 90 minutes. I remember one time when my wife and I took two cars someplace, RAF called and when I got too close to her at a light the phone call automatically transferred via Blue tooth to the car she was driving. It took her several minutes to be able to get him to stop talking so she could tell him that I was no longer part of the conversation! I blammed his "chattiness" for the length of the calls, and he blamed mine. The truth was somewhere in the middle.

    • He was smart, and knew something about everything, but never acted like a know-it-all. There was an HTF cruise where there were three or four HTF members in a sea of AVS members. Sam Runco played a clip from a movie and said whoever could tell him the movie would get the projector. After just a few minutes, RAF came up with the correct tile: The Projectionist. He reveled not in winning a projector but in having an HTF member in a sea of AVSers win the projector!

    • He was the luckiest bastard (used affectionately) that I have every met! If there was a contest, he won. Guaranteed. He would occasionally hit the casinos during a cruise and always walked off the ship not just ahead, but withn his cruise paid for and moneyl left in his pocket. He and I didn't make it out to CEDIA two years ago. Ron did and won something from a drawing that LG had. When he let RAF and I know, the first words out of his mouth to us were: "Thank God you weren't here RAF, otherwise you would have won!". It wasn't just "material luck"...I heard him talk many times about his loving family and the grandkids he doted on. Every year we would get a picture of him with them on his Christmas card. They even had their own seats in his theater:


    He loved learning new things and would often share his thoughts about them with HTF members:
    Turning a PC into a Cable TV DVR
    DLP Still a great option if you have room for a "big butt" TV
    H-Pas Speaker Technology
    There were other articles he wrote that he posted on his page that are well worth reading.

    RAF was the person that we all aspire to be. His passing is a great loss not to just HTF, but to me and my family. I know we'll think of him often in the years to come.

    The Dude abides.
  15. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Some of my best times I spent out in California with RAF. He was a fine man and good friend. I will miss our discussions about our beloved Yankees or some obscured classic film. He will be missed greatly by all of us that came to know him over the years. His passing is a sad day for the HTF as we cherish the memories of his contributions to this forum and his friendship to so many of us here. May he R.I.P.

  16. Bob Cashill

    Bob Cashill Producer

    Aug 15, 2001
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    Awful news for the HTF community (my longest online affiliation). My condolences.
  17. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator

    Jul 31, 1997
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    Cees Alons
    It was impossible not to "meet" RAF from the first day you visited even the very first version of this Home Theater Forum. I did this back in 1997, when the first Warner DVDs started to hit selected areas of the US (and as a European you could only order them from an Internet retailer residing in those areas - and play them on an imported DVD-player). Questions anyone posted on the forum were answered by a few: and one of those few certainly was Robert Fowkes.

    And it was impossible not to notice his vast knowledge, great insight and extreme willingness to explain the difficult matters one asked about. And also explain the ones one didn't ask about: RAF was a born teacher and could inform you about almost anything while staying interesting, funny and often so very original.

    Soon his love for the forum itself then became very evident as well. He was extremely proud of the growing institution Ron and Parker were creating, he would give advice, tease Ron a bit, make serious contributions and next to all that he'd visit almost all of the meets and expo-type occasions where the forum had some presence of any kind.

    It was on one of those occasions - the HTF 2000 meet in LA - that we (my wife Josephine and myself) had the privilege to meet RAF for the first time. It wasn't the last time fortunately. When we met him there, he was standing quietly a bit aside in a VHS- and DVD-factory we visited. He appeared to be almost exactly as one imagined from his contributions to the forum: intelligent, witty, quiet, rather modest but in a way very present.
    After I became a moderator on this forum, it was almost impossible not to become a friend of "the Demented Video Dude". But believe me: there never was anything "demented" about Robert Fowkes at all!

    His interests and expertise and skills were very broad. Not just media, electronics and movies alone. I have seen him win more than $3000 on a Black Jack table, quietly sitting a bit aside, scratching the table with his hand of cards like a pro. Somehow I got the strong impression he didn't even play a game like that very often at all. And I was there when he won an expensive state-of-the art projector in a movie contest - amidst many other AV professionals. When he was announced the winner he loudly credited the forum and a fellow moderator (Robert Crawford) by their explicit names.

    As a fellow moderator and friend it was always evident how versatile his mind was. He could be a bit naughty, always within taste, he could be rather verbose, always with real and interesting content. He proved to be a great father, a loving husband and was proud of his brother, his children and, some time after his wife died, Sandy. He was almost always funny (I don't even dare to word this as "he was always fun"!). In discussions he often offered an opinion that most participants of the discussion recognized as the final answer.

    Meeting Robert Fowkes and Sandy (unfortunately, I only met his first wife very shortly and somewhat formally, before she passed away too young) was a great pleasure. A pleasant companion, a great and nice presence "at the diner table", funny with words, often surprising, he would do anything with a little twitch - and this is a mild inside joke I'm sure he would appreciate. You never left any meeting with Robert Fowkes with any bitter feeling in hindsight, and more often with a smile on your face and every intention to meet him again soon in the future.

    That intention is now no longer feasible. Our most sincere condolences go to Sandy as well as Robert's close relatives and many friends, it is from far we utter this, but we feel very close at the moment.

    To my surprise, I had to go back in this text several times to change "is" to "was", a rude and very final change of 'present' to 'past'. Let me end in RAF's style by changing this notion to the way I feel about it: the universe gave us a precious present in RAF's wit, knowledge and friendship, and an attitude that now can only humbly be passed.

    Robert ("Bob"): rest in peace!

  18. Jason_V

    Jason_V Producer

    May 7, 2001
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    Bothell, WA
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    Over the years, I didn't have the chance to run in the same circles as Robert. However, as a longtime member of the HTF, I recognize the name and I'll miss the joy, knowledge and friendship he gave to so many people. May the stories and memories carry his legacy for a long, long time.
  19. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

    Nov 15, 2004
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    The basement of the FBI building
    Like a few others, Robert and I didn't have many similar interests but I was certainly familiar with the name. My condolences to his family and friends.
  20. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter

    Nov 14, 2000
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    So sorry to read this news. I didn't know him personally, but he has been a huge part of the HTF the entire time I've been a member. His friends and family are in my thoughts.

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