Robert Starkey

Robert Starkey is a well-loved neighbor in my retirement community. Why loved? He does little things that affect our spirits. Example: He dedicated a picnic table in a local park to our beloved dogs and pets who have passed: people paint stones of commemoration; the table has become a colorful mosaic of devotion. Also, nature springs eternal in our community, and Robert captures all things we might not have noticed, magical moments of beauty, through the lens of his camera, and then posts these photos for all to breathe in. He greets with a smile, a heart, a poem, and pours out great writings of philosophy and life. The first day I met him, he threw himself down on the lawn in front of his rented home so that my little dog could jump on his chest and his face and lick him, tail wagging a mile a minute. I guess he wasn’t a stranger anymore, to either me or my dog. Then Robert  said, “Oh yeah, I have to get up.” Another friend later explained why that was hard for him to do.

In the spring of 2014, Robert came down with a serious illness that lasted two entire years. It completely depleted his life’s savings, due to medical expenses and his inability to work. He became very thin and weak. As a result of the illness and an adverse medication reaction, Robert (“Bob”) is now dealing with chronic back pain, weakening of the bones, and general illness, but most people will only notice his happy face.

He has struggled month to month for the past year and a half, trying to get back on his feet, holding garage sales, taking care of a few friends’ dogs, and selling a photo here and there, but all the while suffering from fatigue and pain and barely making the rent. In August 2017, Bob said he was finally pulling himself away from the financial abyss and starting to get ahead. But then the October firestorm here in Santa Rosa, and a series of other unforeseen events, brought him once again to the tip of his financial edge.

After returning from our forced evacuations, photographing the aftermath of our Sonoma County fires was Bob’s healing. He told me how incredibly difficult it is to heal under constant stress, but said that his healing was aided by spending 8 to 10-hour days photographing the fire aftermath, and that, “Documenting this historic event was not an option, it was a necessity.” He said it gave him a sense of purpose, while also allowing him to understand the event in a way that healed the trauma of experiencing it. Bob said, “By documenting the aftermath of the fires, I have developed a more intimate relationship with Santa Rosa and Sonoma County than I have ever had in the rest of my life, with any other place.” I worry that some of his health struggles in the past month have been due to smoke and ash inhalation, but he is still committed to seeking and capturing the emerging beauty in the renewal of nature, and in the people here, in order to help everyone find hope and healing after these historically tragic fires.

Other than paying extra for items at Bob’s garage sales, some of his neighbors felt the need to do more, hence the GoFundMe idea arose. I asked Bob what we could do to help, and he, having a hard time accepting money from people, said, “It is my real hope to someday be able to get financially stable enough to have a show of my photography work on canvas, or to publish a collection of my photos in book form.” That cannot happen when Robert is struggling from day to day and month to month since these goals and dreams require funds to get started. But if we help him now, we may provide the funds needed for Bob to begin again: to buy the canvases on which to put his astounding photos so he can show and sell them, and the funds to begin the process of contacting publishers for a book. Please help this huge-hearted man who flops down regardless of pain to snuggle with the new puppy in the neighborhood. Please offer a hand to help pull him up, “back onto his feet.”

Donations (71)

  • Anonymous
    • $100 
    • 5 yrs

Organizer and beneficiary

Margaret Babin
Santa Rosa, CA
Robert Starkey

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