By Larry Coffman

A celebration of life for Bob Walsh will be held Saturday, March 11 at the Impact Hub in downtown Seattle. Seating is limited. Click here for reservations. Walsh died on Jan. 23 in an Istanbul, Turkey, hospital from a respiratory illness. He was 76.

Walsh had traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia, to receive credentials as an Honorary Consul of the former Soviet satellite, which he had helped with numerous humanitarian efforts and real-estate development projects. He took ill there and was airlifted to Istanbul, where he was in the ICU for three days, before his passing.

On the wall of my office is a large framed copy of the story and photos that appeared in MARKETING when I was in a group of 12 who accompanied Bob on one of his many trips to the Republic of Georgia in the Fall of 1999. The headline reads, The Walsh MO—‘Dream It—Do It.’ Many of those dreams were realized, like the 1990 Goodwill Games and the 1984 Final Four and a dozen other major sporting events that his promotional prowess made possible.

During our stay in Tbilisi, the group was housed in the compound of then Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. At the time, Bob was working with the Georgian government to develop three prime properties, which he had been given in appreciation for his earlier humanitarian efforts in its behalf. Sadly, he subsequently lost rights to the properties that now are crown jewels of Tbilisi’s resurgence.

It was reported that the Goodwill Games, staged in partnership with TV mogul Ted Turner, brought more than 2,300 athletes from 57 countries to Seattle for the 17-day competition. But Bob was most proud of the arts and cultural component of the Games that brought families from many countries here during that period. In all, Walsh was responsible for bringing more than 90 national and international events to Seattle, according to the post on sportspressnw.com by Steve Rudman, who authored the definitive biography on Bob (see below).

Walsh was credited by the NCAA with coining the now-iconic “March Madness” moniker for the ’84 national collegiate basketball playoffs here and also is given credit for Seattle’s  “Emerald City” nickname—with help from his national TV buddies, like Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Walter Cronkite, who popularized the name in their broadcasts.

Other dreams were not realized, like several attempts to bring the Summer Olympics to Seattle and his One World Now! initiative to unite the Christian and Muslim worlds. Daughter, Melissa, was part of the One World effort and traveled with Bob to the Middle East and North Africa on several occasions.

But Bob never stopped dreaming, even as he traveled to Tbilisi to accept his well-deserved recognition. (He was especially excited to be getting license plates giving him diplomatic immunity, upon his return home.) As always, he had several projects in the works, including an exhibit in a Tacoma museum of memorabilia from his illustrious career, and entrepreneurial initiatives with the Georgian government.

Ralph Morton, executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission, called Walsh “one of the true legends in the Seattle sports and events industry. From the Goodwill Games, Final Fours, TV production, the Seattle SuperSonics and Olympics bids to many other opportunities, Bob’s dreams always centered around connecting Seattle with the world.”

I encourage all who want to learn more about this remarkable man to order of a copy of Rudman’s page-turning book, “Who the Hell Is Bob?” (I lobbied for the title “Goodwill Walsh”) in order to fully understand the unique scope of his incredible life. You also can read his bio and Commentary on the MARKETING IMMORTALS site.

Bob’s many friends are encouraged to comment on this post below. If you would like to donate to Bob’s Memorial fund please do so here: www.gofundme.com/bobwalshmemorialfund


BobWalshDear OneWorld Now! Community,

We are deeply saddened to share that OneWorld Now! founding board member Bob Walsh recently passed away unexpectedly. As an entrepreneur with a big heart, Bob pioneered major sporting events grounded in the power of citizen diplomacy, such as the Good Will Games in 1990, and he directed humanitarian efforts in the Soviet Union and later Republic of Georgia, both of which led to honorary awards.

Since the beginning of OneWorld Now! in the early 2000’s, Bob has been a steadfast supporter of our aspirations to cultivate the full leadership potential of today’s youth through international education.

“Bob Walsh inspired us all to go after our Vision – no matter how big and bold – and this influenced the origin of OneWorld Now!”

– OWN Founder Kristin Hayden

BobKristinBob remained a firm believer in the power of everyday people to exercise citizen diplomacy and to establish meaningful human connections across nations and borders. OneWorld Now! is proud to continue his legacy by fostering intercultural understanding both here in Seattle and internationally.

Later this year, we plan to launch the Bob Walsh Scholarship Fund to support underserved youth to study abroad and engage with peers around the world.

We will miss you dearly Bob, though your spirit will live on in our enduring mission to develop the next generation of global leaders.

Should you like to support Bob’s son and his forth coming Memorial then please visit the Bob Walsh Memorial on GoFundMe

With all our heart and sympathies,

OneWorld Now! Board and Staff

OneWorldNow!

8 COMMENTS

  1. I didn’t know Bob Walsh nearly as well as I wished. He was, after all, one of those rare humans whom everyone wanted to list among their closest acquaintances—in hopes that his remarkable connections, talents and vision could rub off. When the diminutive Bob walked into a room he wouldn’t be immediately obvious—or at all easy to see—especially in a room full of NBA players whose shortest members would still loom over him. Yet, Bob’s resume’ would exceed the height of nearly any other you might read—and that included his time as the general manager of the quite tall Seattle Supersonics.
    His life story can be better chronicled by others—and HAS been in Steve Rudman’s “Who the Hell is Bob?” It is a book so huge, you’d be well-advised to get help in trying to lift it. It is hernia-inducing heavy. Yet, even that hefty tome doesn’t tell the half of Bob Walsh’s amazing story.
    The last time I saw Bob in person—over coffee downtown—we met to discuss the possibility of my taking a swing at writing a screenplay about his life. Bob felt he had funding for such a film. But it didn’t take long to determine that the toughest part of such an assignment would be to figure out WHICH chapter of his life, indeed which PARAGRAPH of a chapter, to focus on. Ten screenplays might not have done it. Plus, Bob had a thought about who should play him in the movie. “I wonder if George Clooney has a hole in his schedule soon?,” said Bob grinning.
    Bob Walsh was driven, inspiring, creative, witty, kind and irrepressibly optimistic. I never took a gander at his business card, but it rightfully could have been: “BOB WALSH, doer.” Let’s hope there are more great doers—even nearly his equal—standing in the wings. Meanwhile, I don’t know if Bob was a religious man. But it would not surprise me to learn that—since his passing—he has been busy negotiating some sort of deal with Saint Peter. Not that Bob would need to prove his credentials for entering the pearly gates. More likely, Pete would say, “Hi there, Mr. Walsh. We’ve been expecting you.”

  2. In the late 70s I was fortunate enough to do design work for the Supersonics – fresh out of college, and the year they won the championship (good timing). Bob Walsh was a legend of a man from those days forward. His name is synonymous with Seattle Sports. He helped put Seattle on the global map. The contributions he made to our great city, in so many ways, are almost unbelievable. What a guy, what a life. We will miss you Bob, and surely you are in heaven arranging some type of big event for God. Thank you for giving us so much.

  3. We’ve lost a giant. It’s a shame that so many young people are unaware of the impact this visionary man had on the city for decades. He had all the traits of a hero and leader: Smart, energetic, creative, empathetic, idealistic, driven, focused, inclusive–and humble. I got to know Bob a little bit in the last few years. We had lunch a couple of times and I was enthralled by his history and his stories. I hope the community can find some sort of permanent way to honor his accomplishments and memory. Rest in peace, Bob.

    Jim Copacino

  4. Like anyone, a good story gets my attention. I had never met Bob Walsh but I certainly knew what he had done…or so I thought. A few years ago I found myself outside on the deck at Bell Harbor with Bob Walsh and Larry Coffman following a wonderful night at The Marketing Awards. I’m a videographer so Larry thought I should get some of Bob’s stories on video. That’s when the events of Bob’s life along with the wine started flowing. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I’m telling myself this has to be the Most Interesting Man in the World.
    The past 6 months Bob and I were developing a video that would showcase Bob and many of his life experiences…his radio career, The Goodwill Games, Bob’s time as assistant GM of the Sonics, The Final Four, wife #2 – a KGB spy, his love and relations with Russia and the Republic of Georgia…on and on with so much detail and unbelievable circumstance to each story.
    I had shot two stories and had them in the can, but nothing with Bob. We were just about to start shooting… but I guess timing is everything.
    Bob, your were a great friend in the short time I knew you. In my research and prep for the video I found many people you worked with or touched who put you in the highest regard.
    Thank you Bob for all you have helped, the things you did for “The Emerald City” and countries around the world. You will be missed but never forgotten.

  5. I met Bob more than 30 years ago. He had an opening at his company, and I wanted to learn and work with a legend in sports marketing. Nice interview – but I didn’t get the job. I was crushed. Years later over a glass of wine with Bob I related my early encounter. He just shrugged and said “bad timing.” And we both laughed. I wish I could have worked with him. But I’m glad I got to know him – even just a little. He will be missed.

  6. Larry,

    I just knew you would have a tribute to Bob as you were such a good friend and supporter. You stirred personal memories of mine and I will share a few.

    Though I did not know Bob as closely as you and many others did, I knew him for a long time. The first thing that comes to mind is just how many friends he had, acquaintances that he made friends all across the spectrum. I met him when I was at Museum of Flight and we did a few deals. My wife Peggy met him independently through another friend and this brought us into a cluster of his constellation. Over time, we found that other friends, including you, were friends of Bob. What I am getting at is that Bob had so many friends and he had them because he worked at it.

    Also, I cannot help but recall working in support of Goodwill Games, fast-moving and risky and ultimately very accomplished times. We at the museum had solid contacts with the Soviet Cosmonaut Corps and so we easily merged into the goodwill of those games. A number of the social and cultural events were held at the museum and board, staff, and volunteers pitched in to support his efforts, hosting receptions, providing a venue for events, and housing visitors and delegates.

    Bob remembered the museum and in 1992 he pulled off the Resurs capsule caper, with the Russian launching into the Pacific and retrieval at sea and visit to Seattle. After days of celebration and parties, the capsule was delivered to the museum where it resides, a valuable artifact and iconic story of goodwill and friendship between countries.

    Recently working on the history of the Museum of Flight, we remembered some of these stories from Goodwill Games to Resurs for the book. Book sponsor Bruce McCaw, yes another good friend of Bob’s, shared a fascinating story of the Goodwill Games return flight he survived with Bob, local dignitaries, Cosmonaut Igor Volk, and what was a memorable Russian airborne party. That story is in the Rudman biography you mention.

    Peggy and I last saw Bob at a party last June. We agreed that we must get together to catch up for years of not seeing one another. It was just like old times, talking to him for just those few minutes. How we regret that we did not have that get-together. My guess is that many of his friends are now feeling the same way.

    Howard

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