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Community celebration planned to honor Bob Cederwall

Howie Paine holds up a heart made in Bob Cederwall’s memory. It now hangs in the center of a blue star lit at the end of Winslow Way, near Winslow Green. For years, Cederwall hung the stars and scrolls with Paine and a possy of old friends in time for the winter holidays. - Cecilia Garza | Bainbridge Island Review
Howie Paine holds up a heart made in Bob Cederwall’s memory. It now hangs in the center of a blue star lit at the end of Winslow Way, near Winslow Green. For years, Cederwall hung the stars and scrolls with Paine and a possy of old friends in time for the winter holidays.
— image credit: Cecilia Garza | Bainbridge Island Review

Those who knew Bob Cederwall could say they knew part of Bainbridge Island.

They could also say they knew someone who had hugs, smiles and time for everyone.

“I would always wonder how he ever got anything done, because he was always out and about in the community,” said his wife, Denise Harris.

Cederwall died suddenly Monday, Nov. 18. He was 68.

Community member for more than 60 years, tree climber by day and actor by night, Cederwall’s connections to the island spanned to an extent that even family and close friends have trouble describing the magnitude at which he touched Bainbridge.

Cederwall was born in Seattle, Oct. 25, 1945. After summering for several years on the island, the Cederwall family moved to their Agate Point residence permanently in 1955.

After graduating Bainbridge High School he served as a Special Forces medic for the Army and several more years working in landscape maintenance in Denver, Colo. before he returned to Bainbridge in 1979. That was the last time he left the island.

“He was a pillar in the community,” said Howie Paine, a good friend and owner of Island Floors.

“There’s not one person on this whole island who would say a bad thing about Bob. They don’t make them like that anymore,” Paine said.

Cederwall operated an island tree service, handling post-windstorm trees. If it wasn’t through his tree service or his many years living on the island that he met so much of the community, it was likely through theatre.

Theatre was his true place of play and also where he met his wife in 1981.

“If you asked Bob what he did, he would say, ‘I’m an actor, and, oh, by the way, I cut trees,’” said his brother, Ric Cederwall.

Cederwall was a longtime member of the Bainbridge Performing Arts Board of Trustees up until his passing. He had roles in more than 25 productions, including the recent musical, “Shrek.”

Not to mention, he was the self-appointed groundskeeper for BPA. When it rained, he was known to make a trip out to the building to make sure the gutters were clean.

It was not unlike Cederwall, for those who knew him, as he also often took it upon himself to hang holiday lights and banners downtown in sync with the seasons.

“He might be out in the car and see one of the banners crooked,” Harris said. “He would get out and fix it. He was very aware of community, is what it came down to.”

It’s no wonder he was fondly called, “Bainbridge Bob.”

“The name Cederwall instantly invoked Bob,” said Ric Cederwall. “When we came back, Bob being my brother, he instantly got us connected again.”

It was difficult for Bob Cederwall to walk through Winslow without stopping to say hello or give someone a hug.

“I’m not going to say he was the glue, but he’s part of the fabric. He can tell you when that building was an auto dealership,” said Sandy White, a good friend who goes back to the summers spent on Agate Point with Cederwall.

“The reality is he touched so many parts of the community that we don’t even have a clue about,” White added.

With his passing, Bainbridge Island lost a personality that is definitive of the community’s charm.

“He really lived life to the fullest,” said Ric Cederwall. “He never really got weighed down by lots of worries. He was extremely available to people and very present when he was with you.”

The BPA will be hosting a celebration of Bob Cederwall’s life at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11. The Cederwall family asks that donations to the BPA be made in his memory.

Community Events, April 2014

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