Remembering Robert Ewing, Memorial Planned for Sunday

By Matt Cantor
Friday January 18, 2008

Last month, Berkeley lost one of the individuals who make Berkeley Berkeley. Robert “Bob” (to some) Kinzie Ewing passed on to the great atheistic beyond. He was 75. A Berkeley resident since 1957, Robert spent a quarter century among the “old men” at Peet’s on Vine and on “The Bench” at Fat Apples debating the Constitution, the press and human rights.  

Robert carried the banner of social democracy all his life, whether he referred to it as Marxist, Socialist, or even the Democratic Party. His politics were rooted in his personal history. Born in Hope, Ark. in 1932 and orphaned as an infant, Robert was raised in Jackson, Tenn. by his grandmother and his maternal aunt. At college in Knoxville, Tenn., a philosophy class inspired him to leave his Methodist upbringing in favor of more radical politics. He moved to California and never looked back.  

In true Socialist style, he dropped out of Boalt Hall School of Law and labored as an EBMUD meter reader for 27 years, and was a strong voice for the union. For Robert, politics were personal, and inadequately understood by most of his fellow humans. He felt we all paid too much attention to labels and not enough to content. A tall spitfire of a man, he was instantly recognized also by the duct tape obscuring any brand name or logo on his clothing, hat or belongings.  

Robert’s charm was empathy and keen observation of the human condition, and it transcended all social barriers. He connected with people of every race, class, age and occupation. He cared enormously about family—his own four children, and yours, too. He remembered names, personal stories and life issues, and held personal struggle in high regard. Everyone was important. No one can know how much of this was his Tennessee upbringing or simply his personality, but he certainly had more than his share of what might be called “Southern Charm.” He was tall and handsome and could be quite a flirt (as well as the recipient of same). 

Robert was a powerful presence. We who had the privilege of his company give thanks for having known him. 

A memorial will be held this Sunday at the Live Oak Park community center, at 1 p.m. for those who wish to share stories of Robert.  


Several of Robert’s family members contributed to this article.