Quintessential People

Honoring a Father and Daughter: The Best of Us

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by Mary klest | Photo: thomas balsamo

While robins play, a barefoot Bob Lee is relaxed in his backyard gazebo in Fox Point. The sweet scent of peony reminds him, “Life is good.” Flint Creek runs through the east end of the property. His garden and a glimpse of Lake Louise confirm summer is here. A gentle breeze twirls the arms of a lawn sculpture he bought at the time of his first bicycle ride across the country to raise funds for charities he cares about. He named the sculpture Wind Beneath My Wings. It is the same phrase he uses to describe his wife, Anne. The couple has been married for 52 years. They walk as many miles each month in celebration of their time together.

Laura Horak is their daughter. She and her brother Scott were raised under a marriage that she describes as “A loving, beautiful friendship between two people who complement each other.”

The family moved seven times in 14 years when Bob worked in the Agriculture Division of International Harvester. He shakes his head at the thought. And then he smiles broadly when daughter Laura, wearing a red sundress, joins him. She returns his smile and sits down in the comfort of the gazebo. “It was Laura who helped us find this house,” Bob says. At the time, Laura was in the sixth grade and Bob had accepted a job at company headquarters in Chicago.

“We were living in Columbus, Ohio, and my dad was in Chicago for a meeting,” Laura explains. “Mom put me on a plane by myself so I could help dad scout for houses.” She became a seventh-grader at Station Middle School. Scott entered elementary school at Lines. Bob later accepted a new job in Baltimore, but the family stayed in Barrington. He commuted back and forth weekly for 13 years. “That’s a testament to how much we love it here,” Bob said.

At one time in her life, Laura wanted to explore life outside of the Midwest. She attended Duke University in North Carolina and spent a year in Costa Rica teaching English. She returned to Chicago, obtained a masters degree from Loyola University in Social Work, and met her husband, Tom, in a health club swimming pool in the city. They decided to raise their four children in Fox Point in Barrington. She laughs at the thought of seeing her old locker, B47, when she volunteers at Station Middle School. When people learn she is the daughter of Bob and Anne Lee, the question she most often gets is: “Are they for real?” She answers in the affirmative. “Yes, they are genuine.”

The same can be said for what drives Bob and Laura in their volunteer work. They bring knowledge, strategic planning, and positive energy to several local not-for-profit boards and committees. “You have to care, before you can commit,” Laura says.

Father and daughter use what they enjoy as tools for generosity. They like physical challenge. They’ve participated in several triathlons together. Bob’s “Ride For 3 Reasons” fundraising events took him bicycling over 12,200 miles of terrain. His last Ride was completed in 2012 at the age of 70. In total he raised $1,366,000 in donations that he gave to the Les Turner ALS Foundation, JourneyCare, and American Cancer Society.

An avid runner, Laura started a running club at Lines Elementary school when her children were students there. “No one thought kids would get up early and attend a running club before school, but they did.” With the commitment of a P.E. teacher Kevin Kienzle, the club continues. “It’s about more than running,” she says. “They learn teamwork and how to achieve their goals.” Helping kids make healthy lifestyle choices is her focus. It’s why she volunteers with Barrington Committed, an organization that encourages students to make healthy lifestyle choices in all aspects of their lives.

Bob’s other joy is photography. He uses his camera to connect with many people as he documents important events for charities and volunteer efforts. “His photo page on Flickr of the eighth-grade dance got 1,000 views in the first 24 hours,” Laura exclaims. It was a goal of Bob’s to use his camera to support others.

The father and daughter team describe their volunteer work as a “journey,” one in which the act of giving enriches their lives. While it took Bob many years to come to the “joy of giving,” he sees in his daughter and grandchildren a much earlier awareness. Bob and Laura cite the many opportunities for multi-generations to volunteer together. These are some where grandparents, parents, and children from their own family enjoy participating: Relay for Life, Barrington Giving Day, JourneyCare Duck Race, Barrington Brat Tent, Hopes In, and ALS Tag Days.

Generations influence each other. Bob’s father was a public relations professional who did pro-bono work for the Les Turner ALS Foundation. His mother volunteered in civil defense during the Cold War. Of his father Bob says, “He knew how to tell a story. It’s important to tell a story about why your organization or event is important.”

Laura says, “Volunteering is a way to model expectations. Rather than telling my kids to be good and kind, as volunteers they can feel the rewards of generosity.” Two of her children will be providing community service in Guatemala this summer.

Bob and Laura are at ease, sitting side-by-side on a bright summer day at the house where Bob’s garden has taken root. The bounty is shared with joy and gratitude. Father and daughter watch the yard sculpture swirl its arms, confidant there will always be enough wind for volunteers in Barrington to spread their wings.

Here are words that others have shared about Bob Lee and Laura Horak

Jean Capellos, Friend, Teacher

Laura was a freshman in my World Cultures class. I was invited to meet Bob’s mother over a family dinner. Thinking back on it, conversation sailed in every direction. Mrs. Lee was a lifelong learner and traveler. Bob grew up in such an environment, married a woman who shared these passions, and Laura skated from Station to Barrington to Duke, and circled back to Barrington. Love of life begat three generations at work to design a plan, draw up the details, and execute the challenge. On the road walking, playing, or cycling across America for humanity’s sake, the Lee’s bump into people, stop, and listen to them. Age is of no consequence, as people have a story to tell, and the Lee’s want to hear it.

Kim Duchossois, Friend

First, I give an important nod, not only to this Quintessential father-daughter wonder, but to his wife and her mother, Anne Lee, the spiritual connector and director of all things meaningful, good, just, and valued in their family’s lives, and in the lives of countless others. Anne is a rock and the wind beneath their wings. 

This father-daughter example could not be the remarkable yet quiet, humble force we all witness if not for their family’s support and incredible spirit. Wherever anything of import in our community is happening (which truly seems daily) Bob or Laura are present. If not shooting wonderful photos to help celebrate and promote, they have then likely spearheaded, organized, or tirelessly rallied and raised funds with ideas, energy, resourcefulness, and sincere connection to the cause. Bob and Laura are such gifts and at the top of the class. To know the Lees and the Horaks has been a genuine blessing and treasure. Most heartfelt congratulations to two true Quintessentials!”

Kelly Henry, Friend

Laura has been a long-time friend and partner in community and school volunteer projects. Bob is a friend and a mentor. I’m so blessed to have both Bob and Laura (and Anne) in my life. They’ve not only guided some of the directions I have taken, but also helped me to grow as an individual. I have had the pleasure of knowing Laura through our volunteer activities and it grew into a true friendship. Upon hearing her father speak about his charity, Ride for 3 Reasons, I was blown away by his commitment and spirit. He inspired me to give my time and learn more about the charities it benefitted. I have never ceased to be impressed by his charitable heart and boundless energy. There doesn’t seem to be a community event he isn’t at, snapping pictures and shaking hands. He is a lifelong learner and has taught me the power of being connected to each other. I see these same amazing qualities in Laura: endless energy, selflessly caring for others, and a desire to make the world a better place. Having her as a friend and a confidant is a true gift. They are a beautiful model of family, friendship, and charity. All they have to do is ask, and I am along for the ride.

Maggie Horak, Daughter, Granddaughter

I am the daughter of Laura Horak and the granddaughter of Bob Lee, both of whom are incredibly special people. What makes them special is their purely selfless desire to help those around them. I have never truly experienced pure intentions until I saw my mom and grandpa at work. The way people gravitate towards them and the remarkable, memorable impressions they leave on people after the very first conversation is a special skill. I am so proud to be my mom’s daughter and my grandpa’s granddaughter; simply knowing them will make you a better person.

Kevin Kienzle, PE Teacher, Arnett C. Lines Elementary 

I’ve known Laura for over 10 years and she has had a tremendous impact in the Barrington community; more specifically the children and students of Barrington School District 220. When I think of Laura, I think of a someone who is passionate about having a positive impact on the lives of others. Her passion and enthusiasm is infectious and she is able rally the community in support of many meaningful programs. Laura was one of the driving forces in many wellness initiatives within Barrington schools. She helped start and grow the first District running club at Lines Elementary School. The running program offers students the opportunity to exercise before school and the program has spread to every elementary school in the district. She was instrumental in the design and implementation of the partnership between Elementary Schools and the Broncos Committed program. This program partners high school students with fifth-grade students to cover wellness topics. Laura is an amazing person and Barrington is lucky to have her family in the community. 

Jim Langdon, Friend

I live in Thornton, Colorado. I first met Bob when I worked for a company in Omaha that was his supplier for his window fashions business. I had heard he was planning his big ride in 2007 to raise money for three great charities and called Bob to offer my support in building a website, creating promotional materials, or whatever else he needed help with.

Working with Bob is always interesting as he is so full of ideas and energy. Laura once told me he doesn’t believe anything can’t be done. I met Laura at a kickoff event a few days before the 2007 Ride For 3 Reasons began.

Once Bob set off on this incredible ride, he started sending me a summary of where he had been, whom he had met, and what he had seen and, best of all, photos from the day’s ride all to post to his blog site. It was thrilling for me to be the first person to see all of this. Along with the photos, Bob stopped and took a photo at every roadside memorial of someone who died in an accident at that spot as a tribute to that person. He used such photos to remind us that today could be the final day for any of us. His faith in the goodness of people has changed my life, as I try to take that view, as well.

Bob has helped me and my family in personal ways, as well. I tell my children this is the kind of person we all need to be. When I encounter a person in need, I ask myself, “What would Bob do?” and try to do likewise.

When I think of the impact that Bob has had on so many people, it is truly an inspiration to me. The world is a better place because Bob is here and it will be a better place long after he’s gone. He is absolutely the best of us.

Connor Maytnier, Friend

I first met Bob when my parents and I moved to Fox Point in 1999. Bob and Anne were the first neighbors over to welcome us, with a basket of fresh vegetables from their garden in tow. In the years that followed, Bob became both a mentor and a dear friend to me. Bob showed me what it means to love those around you and to give back to the people and places that have given us so much.

Bob introduced me to community service at a young age. I vividly remember his 2007 bike ride across the country. Following that ride, inspired by Bob’s example, my father and I set out to get more involved with Bob’s work on behalf of the Les Turner ALS Foundation. A second-grader at the time, I took Bob’s guidance and encouragement to heart. A cross-country bike ride wasn’t in the cards for 8-year-old me, so Bob helped me channel my community service energy into a more appropriate avenue. For my first foray into community service, inspired by Bob, I launched a lemonade sale to help raise money. Ten years later, I graduated high school having served as Bob’s ALS Tag Days “co-captain” for five consecutive years.

In the years since, my community service involvement has continued to grow. Looking back, I know that Bob played a meaningful role in my life during my childhood and helped to shape the person I am today. He led by example and showed me what it meant to help make this world a better place, one step at a time. I’m just trying to carry that spirit forward.

Susan McConnell, Friend

Bob Lee has been a mentor and guiding light as I founded the nonprofit, Let It Be Us. He spent countless hours connecting me to Barrington citizens who served to root our important work within the strength of our community. Bob Lee is simply one in a million and I am so thankful to be included among his close friends. I’d be remiss without mentioning Anne Lee as the ultimate mentor in all things that are worldly. Bob calls her his “secret weapon”. Their daughter Laura is beautifully following in their footsteps as a valuable leader of our community.

Courtney Quigley

Bob and Laura are both mentors to me. Their granddaughter/daughter, Maggie Horak, has been part of Hope’s In for the past three years. Bob and Laura both exemplify selflessness and commitment to service in ways that continually inspire others to get involved in Barrington and beyond. Both Bob and Laura have brought growth to people’s hearts, they’ve helped open people up to new perspectives and have made this community a more enriching place. 

Beth Raseman

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” “Play it forward.” “Teach your children well.” All these catchphrases jumped into my mind, when I thought of Bob and Laura. Father and daughter are each amazing people, but when they are working together … get out of the way!

I got to know them both on a much deeper level when I worked on a “Ride for 3 Reasons”, and I got to know their family, friends, and the people who they inspired to get involved as well. They both pour their heart and soul into life, and people of all ages follow their lead. One time, I remember stopping at a lemonade stand in the Horak’s front yard. When we asked what they were raising the money for, a boy of about five years old began an impassioned speech about Bob and the Ride, and what he and his friends were doing to help.

Bob and Laura are not attention seekers, rather they are people who just see things that need to get done and they do them. They are also people who pay attention to the people around them, bringing homemade cookies after a loss or for a birthday, or flowers from the garden just because. Together they are a father and daughter that others want to emulate, including Laura’s children and Bob’s grandchildren. The next generation is following in both of their footsteps. Barrington is lucky to have them both!

Jack Schaefer, Friend, Fellow Board Member BADC

Bob is a true friend who I got to know after he joined the board of the Barrington Area Development Council where he immediately made a positive impact on everything our organization does. Seeing the needs of others, creating a plan to help and, so important, following through on myriads of details are things we’ve seen from Bob time and again at BADC where we are fortunate to have him as Vice President. Currently for BADC, Bob is managing the details of organizing 100 area leaders for the upcoming Global Leadership Summit. This project puts to use his considerable computer skills and knowledge of almost every area not-for-profit organization. For all his skills and talents, Bob is most characterized for me by his open heart and genuine humility. Named as Barrington Area Citizen of the Year in 2011, he remains an inspiration to all who know him.

Joy Wagner, Founder, NeuroBalance Center

Bob Lee is a generous man. Generous of his time and his considerable talent. Most important, generous in his tireless spirit. Bob serves on our advisory board, but his contributions to our Center are too numerous to list.  Recently, one of our major donors instructed me to “get all my players to the table”. In his service to our community Bob is indeed a major player, and we are honored to have him at our table. Liason, fundraiser, activist, Bob does it all with humor and enthusiasm. I don’t know anyone who works harder to do good. I don’t know anyone who has more fun doing it. 

Amy and Craig Winkelman

Bob and Laura are an incredible father-daughter duo and are truly an inspiration to the Barrington community.  Working in the Barrington schools, we have been fortunate to get to know Bob and Laura through their involvement in various programs and district initiatives. Both are generous with their time and have a passion for helping others. What makes Bob and Laura so special is their amazing energy and  kindness to all. Their enthusiasm is contagious and they have positively enriched the lives of so many in our community.

Rev. Dr. Zina Jacque, Pastor, Community Church Barrington

When one encounters Bob, they find a force of nature. His passion and commitment are without compare. His devotion to making life better for countless people he will never meet is breathtaking. And his willingness to give of himself is, seemingly, without limit. Ten years ago, when I arrived in Barrington, I often wrote sermons in public places. One of my favorite was the, then, Caribou Coffee shop. On countless mornings, I noticed this handsome man, leaning over a tabletop, engaged in deep conversation with another person. Each time I saw Bob he was with someone new, listening intently, and offering wisdom and grace.  I finally cornered someone I knew and asked, who was this man who seemed so willing to pour into others. I was told his name was Bob Lee, and that he was an excellent mentor to those who wanted to follow their dreams to make the world better. After that conversation, I began looking forward to seeing him at Caribou. He was always smiling. Always willing to offer guidance. And, always encouraging.

When I finally came to know Bob through BADC, I found out that everything I had learned was true and then some. I have been blessed to know Bob and his amazing wife Anne.  They, together with their children, have brought honor and power to Barrington and we are all better for it. 

Jan-Edward Gierlach, Friend

I am a good friend of Bob Lee and Laura Horak. They are two of the kindest and most compassionate people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. The energy which they both devote to serving the needs of others never ceases to inspire and motivate me. Where for many of us compassion ends with the thought of good intentions, Bob and Laura go the extra mile by taking decisive action to make a difference. I would like to thank Bob and Laura not only for what they have done on my behalf, but for what they have done and continue to do for so many others. 

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Publisher’s Note: Quintessential People™ is a heartfelt collaboration between our publication and portrait artist Thomas Balsamo. Our goal is to share exceptional images and words that ring true about some of the finest, most inspiring people in our community. For more information, contact QB at publisher@qbarrington.com, or Thomas Balsamo (Portraits By Thomas) at 847-381-7710, or visit www.portraitsbythomas.com.