In Memoriam Bob Fleck
ILAB is deeply saddened to inform its affiliates that Bob Fleck passed away on the 22nd September, following a short but very aggressive illness. Our thoughts and prayers accompany his family, and in particular his beloved wife Millie and his son Rob.
I first met Bob Fleck in 1998 in Vienna during an ILAB Congress. My husband was then a member of ILAB’s internet sub-committee chaired by Bob. He gave me the impression of a jovial man, yet with a head for serious matters, always keeping in mind long term goals and finding ways to achieve them.
In a previous life, Bob had been a chemical engineer. In 1976 however, his love of books soon had him abandon a very promising career to follow the path of bookselling. Alongside his wife Millie, “For better or worse”, he started a successful business, Oak Knoll, dealing mostly in books about books and fine printing alongside a publishing venture, settling in New Castle, Delaware, a most beautiful and historical 18th Century town. To this day, Oak Knoll has published and distributed over a thousand titles. The American Printing History Association Institutional Award for Distinguished Achievement in Printing History was awarded in 2007 to Oak Knoll, in the person of Bob Fleck, for his valuable contribution to book printing history by making such a quantity of new and old books available to historians, printers, binders, etc.
Bob organized in October of each year - then every two years - the Oak Knoll Fest in New Castle, with lectures and panel discussions on various topics such as book selling, book illustration, fine printing, publishing, etc., providing a great opportunity for enthusiasts in the field to get together, socialize and do business.
He quickly got involved in the running of the ABAA, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. He first served on its board in 1982, became Chair of its finance committee in 1989, Treasurer in 1990, and President in 1996. This was when he began attending ILAB Annual Meetings as the ABAA delegate where his qualities were quickly recognized. He was elected as ILAB Vice-President in 2000, and ILAB President in 2002, being re-elected in 2004 for another two-year term. In Paris in 2007, he was elected as ILAB President of Honour for the invaluable services he had rendered.
During his ILAB term of office, Bob worked relentlessly to promote ILAB and establish its presence on the Internet. His favourite words during ILAB Meetings? “Promote”, “Promotion”, “PR”, and what better way than the Internet to achieve this goal? He oversaw the establishment of three ILAB websites, each one more efficient than its predecessor, always keeping in mind the interests of the ILAB affiliates. He never stopped his efforts on behalf of all of ILAB.
As if this was not enough, Bob worked hard into saving the future of the ILAB Prize for Bibliography, through donations from affiliates and an agreement with the Breslauer Foundation with an important donation: the Prize would thus become self-sufficient in terms of capital, the interests generated over four years paying for the award.
A few years ago ILAB needed a Treasurer capable of taking its accounting system into the 21st Century and turned once more to Bob Fleck to take on this difficult and not so enchanting job, which he took on in April 2014. He worked relentlessly during a year and a half, until the Seville Presidents’ Meeting in October 2015, to put all the accounts in order and once the job was brilliantly done … he resigned, having been asked to be more involved in New Castle’s Historical Society.
Alas, he was not given enough time to finish that task.
It is during the Budapest Congress that he was not able to attend that we learnt of his sad demise.
May he rest in peace.
Nevine Marchiset, L'Intersigne Livre anciens
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