A tribute to Bob


The first time I heard Bob’s voice I sat on the back stoop of my sister’s house in Atlanta, cell phone pressed to my ear. I hoped a kid or two didn’t bust through the door and interrupt my interview with the news director at a TV station on an island named Saipan I had only googled for the first time a few weeks prior.

Bob was easy-going and inquisitive. Soon the call felt more like a conversation with a friend than a formal job interview. Eager to land the position I told him I could report on anything—even sports (which I really knew little about.)

“I cover sports,” he said a bit dryly.

And so he did, for many years before I came to sit next to him at the KSPN studio and for many years after.

Although it was technically work, I knew Bob loved what he did. He talked about the players with insight and compassion that came from watching many of them grow from little league to varsity.

He was proud of the CNMI in general and of CNMI sports in particular. Bob always had an extra pep in his step when he got to take his mark in front of the camera and announce a new win or tournament placement abroad for a CNMI team.

As a news director Bob took efforts to be fair. He never assigned stories based on a personal agenda or a quest to make someone look bad. He agonized over the hard stories, sincerely caring if we got it right.

“Why do I need a cellphone? I’m either at home, a game, or Winchell’s,” he said jokingly when I asked why he didn’t have one.

Bob Coldeen and Lannie Walker briefly pose for a picture on election night in November 2009 at the KSPN studio in Susupe. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

It was a few days after I arrived on island in the fall of 2007, and it seemed to me a news director should have a cellphone.

Reluctantly Bob fired up his work-issued flip-top cell phone and soon mastered the skill of texting.

With one or two snags.

“I got your message this weekend,” he told me one Monday morning.

“Oh really? I didn’t text you though,” I said.

I looked at his phone. The text had come from the then-governors then-press secretary. The message invited him to cover an event at the governor’s conference room that morning.

Bob, thinking it was me, had replied, “Yes, ma’am.”

The press secretary at the time was a man.

This was just one of the many times Bob and I shared a good laugh. Though he was serious about work Bob always brought a bit of levity to the newsroom and a lot of knowledge.

Having been on Saipan, according to him since dirt, Bob knew just about everybody and a great deal of CNMI history. Oftentimes if was easier to lean over and ask Bob who had been governor in a certain year or when a certain CNMI personality had passed than look it up online.

Many reporters came through the doors while Bob served as news director/the Sports Department. He always helped new reporters learn the ropes of the island and he diligently drew many a map to guide us to countless assignments.

In just a few months I had a stack of Bob’s maps that I joked we could turn into a book and sell to tourists.

But as much as Bob enjoyed the news and sports, I knew nothing compared to his greatest love: his family.

During commercial breaks, downtime in the newsroom, beach barbecues, and croquet tournaments at his house, I learned a lot about Bob’s life and family.

I learned about how he had a lifelong passion for sport and music (mostly rock), and how he had moved to the region as a young man in the Peace Corps.

I learned about how he met his wife in Chuuk (Truk) started a family and later moved to Rota (Luta) then Saipan.

His wife and kids, and later grandkids were always his priority and greatest joy.

The CNMI was lucky to have Bob document decades of sports history on the island and his family is now lucky to have more time to spend with him.

Enjoy your next adventure Bob, you got this.

Lannie Walker is a former CNMI journalist who held the position of news director, anchor and reporter at KSPN2 News. Lannie also reported on Guam for KUAM and The Guam Daily Post. She now lives in Miami, FL with her family, including her daughter Ocean who was born on Saipan.


Editor’s Note: Edited on Nov. 15, 2021, at 2:15pm to correct a minor typographical error.


Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.