There were many events that shaped the world in 1976. In California, Apple Computer Inc., a new electronics company, came onto the market to sell personal computers. In the United Kingdom and France, the Concorde, an airplane that could fly twice the speed of sound, first entered into passenger service. And in Langley, an elementary school teacher, Rob Ross, became a “Big Brother.”
Although in a global context, it may not seem like a large event, to the family members and volunteers Ross has helped through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley (BBBS) over the last 40 years, he has been life-changing.
“I cannot state strongly enough how much our community has benefited from his commitment,” said Barb Scott, former manager of administrative services at BBBS, during an appreciation dinner on May 10.
“He projects a warm and caring attitude everywhere he goes.”
The organization, which provides mentorship programs for youth, presented several gifts to Ross, including a scrapbook of photos and gold watch, as a thank you for his service.
Surrounded by seven of his 13 Littles, many who now tower over him, there were an endless supply of stories from those Ross has worked with over the years through the local, provincial and national boards for BBBS.
Scott has known Ross for 30 years, both through work and as a friend.
They first met when Ross was transferred to her daughter’s elementary school, much to her daughter’s dismay, as Ross replaced the Grade 7 teacher she had been waiting for years to have.
Scott also recounted the time Ross convinced her to ride the school bus on a field trip to the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver. The bus broke down on the way, they had to wait an hour for a bus transfer and they missed half the production. That was the last time she ever rode a school bus, she said.
Then there was also the first and last time she ever went skiing — thanks to Ross — and the time Ross accidentally hit her daughter in the face with a football at Grade 7 camp.
But even through all of that, she laughed, it was Ross that inspired Scott to join BBBS in 1984.
“I was always aware of Rob’s steadfast commitment to Big Brothers Big Sisters,” she said.
“It was astonishing how he could make a difference in the lives of children.”
Tim Lounsbury, a board member with BBBS since 1990, recalled how all he ever wanted was to be “a Rob Ross.”
“To me, this is a man that every person — not just men — should look up to. He isn’t someone we are going to see for a long time.”
This sentiment was reflected by Janice Busby, the mother of one of Ross’ Littles, who couldn’t help but get emotional while addressing the crowd at the celebration.
Her son was a student at Douglas Park Elementary when Ross was principal there. She said her son was “dumbfounded” when the man in the suit from school showed up at their house wearing jeans.
“You became a constant and regular friend in his life — something he didn’t have,” she said.
Ross always included her daughter in their activities as well, even though she was matched with her own big sister.
“But she wanted a Rob,” Busby said.
And on a personal level, Ross was a mentor for Busby, offering words of encouragement during a time when she struggled to work and feed her children.
“I cannot thank you enough for what you have been in (our) lives.”
Ross said he was “just beyond belief” at all of the kind words spoken on his behalf. He thanked the many volunteers and sponsors he has worked with, as well as his wife and children for their support.
“Being a Big Brother has been an incredible experience for me,” he said.
“I’m glad you got something out of the relationships, but boy I got more.
“These guys have made a real difference in my life.”