Bill Rees reviews “The Other Side of This Life” by Ted Robb

February 13, 2022

Dear Ted-

Nietzsche once said the life of a great man could be summarized by three telling anecdotes. Here is my summary of your life in three telling, personal qualities, as evidenced in your magnum opus: The Other Side of This Life.


Your tenacity best illustrated by your dealing with the Arizona Desert School where you went for health reasons when you were nine and for following three years, mitigated by your being responsible for a horse you named “Toothbrush”, by confronting conflicting legislative interests as Secretary of Labor and Industry Department of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where you earned your strips by resolving dozens of budget disputes, unemployment compensations issues, and workers compensation bills, and, as the Regional Administrator for Region 3 of Housing and Urban Development of the US, by dealing with both its bureaucracy on almost everything, and Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo who continually objected to sites for building public housing for poor people.

Your ebullience is evident in your persuading the Navy brass, after you were commissioned, to assign you to the Intelligence Unit when they wanted to plop you on a ship, and, again, when stationed to Bahrain, in having them waive a requirement that wives were not allowed to accompany staff at a foreign post. This quality also earned you an association on a first name basis with a Pennsylvania Senator, three Pennsylvania Governors, George Romney, the Secretary of, and five-star Admiral Arleigh Burke. Exuberance rules.

Your decisiveness is clearly demonstrated in your service as chairman of the Federal Regional Council in Philadelphia, as a Regional Administrator of HUD, when you fought for erecting “Section 8” public housing units for low-income people, and in the rehabilitation after Hurricane Agnes. Later, in your consulting practice, the creation of the Neumann Senior Housing project would not have occurred without your contagious persistence. You have knack for taking risks, honed by your support for Jack McGregor, a Republican and a Yale classmate, in his campaign for a State Senate seat in a district that was strongly Democratic. In this effort you created of a horse-racing ticket – “Put two dollars on McGregor to win” – a brilliant fund-raiser, which helped him win. Traveling in the Soviet Union in the Cold War was risky, even with Ms. Lord on your side: who wants to spend 2 weeks in a Siberian gulag before the US Army gets you out? And who wants to jump into Lake Baikal?

When your grandson wanted to be an actor you advised him to give himself a certain timeframe for something to happen and, if it didn’t happen, to move along, theater, like politics, requires luck, and being in the right place at the right time. I found this advice impressive as well as your granddaughter’s poignant Eulogy for Peg in which she articulated insight, understanding and love, certainly the result of a good education given to her and the good example you and Peg displayed in the way you conducted yourselves.