Tribune Print Share Text

‘You can learn new things’

Former broadcaster, spokesman joins Peabody community

Created date

September 25th, 2012

Bob Mehrman was following Sales Counselor Jane McIntire through his first tour of Brooksby, when he spotted the Peabody community s TV studio. Curious, he sneaked inside to get a glimpse. Soon Bob had introduced himself to the studio s staff, including AV/TV Manager Chris DeThomas. DeThomas had worked at WCVB-TV, Channel 5, like Bob. While Bob visited Brooksby twice more after the first detour into the studio, his longtime love for broadcasting played into his decision to move to the Erickson Living community and his choice of apartment home. As soon as I saw the television studio, I said, that s it. I was very impressed, he says. Having worked at Channel 4, Channel 5, and Channel 7, I think [Brooksby s] done a wonderful job. Bob requested an apartment home in close proximity to the TV studio. He got his wish: his one-bedroom apartment is just a three-minute walk from the studio.

Home in the limelight

Before Brooksby, home for Bob was a house of 54 years in Beverly. He entered the broadcasting world in May 1951 via WESX-AM in Salem. Bob learned on the job, reporting the news and disc jockeying for a number of local stations before becoming the manager of public affairs at WJIB-FM, Boston. Fifteen years later, Bob became executive director of the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association, a position he held for six years. During that time, Bob received a life-changing diagnosis: cancer of the larynx due to smoking. Though he fought the cancer with radiation for six months, it returned, and in May 1990, Bob underwent a laryngectomy, the surgical removal of his voice box. He learned to talk with an electrolarynx, a handheld device that creates vibration that allows him to speak. Bob s work at the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association led him to meet the director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program. One day he said to me, With your background, you d be a good spokesperson, Bob says. For about a decade, Bob spoke to people of all ages about the dangers of smoking, visiting schools and appearing in award-winning radio and television spots. He has spoken before more than 250,000 people and starred in a commercial for the American Legacy Foundation that aired during the 2001 Super Bowl.

Active learning

Bob had no intention of slowing down upon his move to Brooksby last summer. Though he is no longer a spokesman, Bob serves as president of the Boston Cured Cancer Club for Laryngectomees. A trained educator, he also works with people who have recently undergone laryngectomies, helping them regain their ability to speak. Having discovered Brooksby s TV studio before moving to the community, Bob got involved immediately and began meeting people. I was not about to sit on my behind, he says. Just a few months after his move, Bob was elected to the resident advisory council (RAC), which connects people who live at Brooksby with its staff. Bob is the liaison to communications, a group that includes television. He lines up the regular RAC Live TV program, interviewing staff on camera. While he brings production skills and broadcast know-how to Brooksby, Bob has also begun learning to work the cameras and to edit video. I figure I can learn something new while I m here, he says, adding that in the TV studio, They ve taken people in there who know nothing. That is the great thing about [Brooksby] you can learn new things. Bob relies upon technology to connect with his son, who lives in Asia. An avid iPad and Mac user, Bob belongs to Brooksby s iPadders group and the photography club, and he hopes to hone his computer and photography skills. Of Brooksby, he adds: It s a great spot; not a place you go to wait to die, but a place you go to live.