July 15, 2009

I received a call on June 30th that Rob Girdis had taken his own life.  I was stunned and thoughts raced through my head saying it couldn’t be so.  A few weeks earlier, I was with Rob in his workshop and he was talking gleefully of his upcomming Opera Cruise with friends in Italy.  He was upbeat and seemingly carefree.  I heard later, through an acquaintance, how he returned from the cruise with pictures and stories of his grand adventure.

I had worked with Rob a handful of times in his workshop where he gladly imparted wisdom and gave me constructive instruction on how to improve my skills, ease some tricky techniques, and showed me the value of having, maintaining, and using the right tools.  He preferred the hand tool vs. power tool option, and spent lots of his energy on unique jigs and fixtures for assembling guitars.  His shop was like a candy store.

Our conversations at the shop were both technical and personal.  He wasn’t shy to talk about things going on in his life other than building, and I got the sense that this was a person comfortable with the transitions he was experiencing, not a troubled soul who would choose ending his life.  On his website, www.girdisguitars.com, friends and colleagues have been leaving tribute messages, and it’s clear that no one around him knew he was prone to take the action he did.

“Genius is pain”, loosely attributed to John Lennon, but says to me that our troubled souls aren’t soothed by our outstanding qualities, but that they have a life and momentum independently.  “You are what you eat” also doesn’t stand.  I know some people are pissed, as his actions hurt those remaining, and it seems incredibly selfish.  But, perhaps Rob felt he could be a more content being devoid of life.

I will miss him, miss the opportunity to learn from him, and miss seeing more of his spectacular guitars get made.  I started building guitars because I looked at what I had accomplished in life and felt that I was missing tangible legacy; leaving something behind, a footprint of some sort.  Rob, even though he is no longer with us, left behind a beautiful and plentiful legacy.