Growing up, he was my mother's oldest brother, my Uncle Bobby (not to be confused with his cousins who were also named "Bobby" - it's a family thing). We didn't see much of his family because he was a sociolinguist whose work took them to Addis Ababa (we didn't visit, but I do - somewhere in my parent's house - have a zebra-skin covered drum!), Palo Alto (where we did visit) and Jerusalem (another visit). There were several fleeting visits to the United States, but most of my memories are of staying with them in Jerusalem or on vacation in Zurich or Scotland.
About 15 years ago my aunt and uncle decided to buy an apartment in Brooklyn, so I got to see more of them. And somewhere in there I learned that "Uncle" was unnecessary. So Bobby it was. Then, a year or so ago, he said "I prefer 'Robert'" No problem - Robert's my uncle, but not Uncle Robert.
Robert had a great sense of humor - puns being a particular specialty. He loved ice cream (after one dinner we had, he kept pressing me to "eat my 'vegetables'", which to anyone else looked remarkably like ice cream, but to him were broccoli and carrots). He wrote books, including two I have on my shelves, Language Planning and Social Change and Around the World with Mark Twain. Despite his regular attendance in shul and study of Musar, he was an atheist. Shabbat dinners at his house were occasions for much discussion (and not a little wine!). It was truly wonderful having the opportunity to get to know Robert, the man, in addition to knowing Uncle Bobby.
He started a blog about his journey into old age but rarely gave in to the whining "organ recital"; his comments about his health were almost always linked to philosophical musings about age, change, death and life. Each post is inspiration to the rest of us to not whine but to find the deeper meaning in our lives. Recently he ended his blog journey - his health deteriorated to the extent that he couldn't keep up the work.
Today his life ended - Robert, my uncle, this pint's for you.