Bob Wonacott passed away March 8, 2002, at nine o'clock.
Everyone here knew him as Uncle Bob. He was born on November
20, 1928 in Fort Bragg.
His father was a photographer, and the
family had a small farm. Bob helped his mother on the farm
after school, and his sister would help his father develop
films. Just to give you an idea of what life was like in
those days, Bob told me that if you Wanted to visit
relatives in Santa Rosa, it would take a whole day to get
down from Fort Bragg to Ukiah or Santa Rosa. It took a long
time, and in the winter you couldn’t do it, because the
roads were in bad condition.
Bob was a veteran of the US. Army,
serving in the Korean War. He told me a lot about the
horrors of war, and I think one aspect that came out of his
experience in the army was his woods, cutting down and
trimming trees, and he worked in the silver mines in
Colorado. He got married and had three children.
Bob was introduced to the City of Ten
Thousand Buddhas by Ernie Waugh, in 1990. He was suffering
from a sickness called emphysema and had been given only
three months to live, and he was looking for some Work.
Ernie was working in the Department of Rehabilitation, and
arranged for Bob to come and work at the City. At that time,
he lived in Redwood Valley, and he would work on the grounds
of the City during the day and go home at night. After about
a year he asked for permission to live at the City.
He had a very small dog with him named
Wonder Dog, to whom he was very attached. It was getting old
like him and would just sit in his car. They were really
quite a pair together. The Venerable Master gave him
permission to live at the City with his dog. To do justice
to his memory, there is a side of Bob that I cannot omit,
and that was his humor. The trouble is, you couldn't tell if
he was joking or not. I heard from someone else that he
said, "If you ever think about getting married, buy a dog."
He had experience in this. He was an old pro.
It was not until 1998 that Bob took
refuge with the Buddha. He was given the Dharma name Chin
Hao. Over the years that I knew him, he became like a father
He could be very difficult, yet inside
him was a huge heart-a huge heart of caring. It didn't
matter if it was for the people or for the City. Even though
he hadn't yet taken refuge, he stayed at the City because of
this sense of caring. He was always working and checking
that everything was O.K.
Ever since I knew him, Bob was sick.
Especially toward the end of his life, he was always in
pain, but he would always try to face his difficulties. In
this way, he was speaking the Dharma. I learned other Dharma
lessons from Bob,too. He was extremely frugal, and very
careful with his tools and his vehicles. He really cherished
his blessings. His pick-ups were 25 years old and he had
some chain saws that were even older, and he looked after
them so well that they are still like new.
Right at the end, Bob spoke Dharma for
me, too. He was in the hospital for quite a long time. In
the last few days he lapsed in and out of consciousness, not
eating or drinking, and I knew he was going to die. This
reminded me that birth and death is the one truly important
matter, and what we usually take to be important, the
everyday matters, are really trivial. Being with him at
those last moments was a very humbling experience because I
realized how far I am from having any control over these
matters. Which one of us has solved the problem of birth and
All I was going to say is that I'm really
going to miss him. He was a big person and made his presence
felt. He contributed a lot to the City and I think his
spirit will live on here.
I want to mention one incident. Once, when I was driving on
the roads in Talmage, I was caught by the police for
speeding and they gave me a ticket. That night was my turn
to patrol at the mountain gate. Then Bob came and said, "Hi!
How are you?" "Oh, I had such bad luck! I got a ticket
today!" "What are you going to do about it?" "I might go to
the court.” “Why? Were you speeding?” “I think so, but I am
not so sure. I felt that I was.” “Well, if you were
speeding, why do you have to go to the court? You should
just pay the ticket!”
Later, he told me directly, “If you were
wrong, you should just pay the fine!” I saw that his words
made sense, so the next day; I paid the ticket. For me, Bob
was a righteous person. He taught me that we should not beat
around the bush.
I want to share Bob’s sense of humor with everyone. I
remember that the last I saw him was in his room. He was
sitting on a chair and there was light in his appearance.
Upon seeing me, he said, “Oh! Do you want to see a dead
person? He is right in front of you!”
Once during lunch he joked about himself,
“I had my pancreas removed from my body, so I will not have
pancreatic cancer again!”