Over 100 fans, family, and friends gathered in Bloomington,
Illinois on August 3-5, to celebrate the Tucker Tribute, honoring Fern
and Wilson Tucker. The weekend was sponsored by the Dawn Patrol, a loose
collection of over 300 science fiction, space and aviation enthusiasts
from throughout the United States and Canada.
Folks started flying in on Friday afternoon, coming from 14 states, including both coasts. Roger Tener, Cathy Tener, Dave Moreno and myself lived up to the group's name, arriving in Bloomington in a Bonanza dubbed "White Knuckle Airlines."
No activities were scheduled for Friday night, but following several groups going out to dinner, the early arrivals retired to the Hospitality Suite in the Dawn Patrol's wing of the Empire Inn and Conference Center. The two rooms were packed with good friends who talked until the wee hours. Bob Tucker, who looked 15 years younger than the last time I saw him, stayed at the party until midnight and a very animated Fern stayed until 1a.m. Bob, Fern and their children were all sporting Bob Tucker sweatshirts, which Judy Mays (Tucker) had made for the weekend.
Saturday morning many folks went to the nearby Bob Evens restaurant to start the day. Other daytime activities included an autograph session, a video from a Tucker Roast at Archon in 1989, and an informal Bloomington Used Bookstore tour. One of the stores had a large display of Tucker books and a clipping from the local newspaper's coverage of the tribute.
The event received other local attention, including a 30 minute interview with Tucker on the radio earlier in the week.
The actual event began at 5:30 p.m. with a reception where everyone showed off their finery, viewed a display of Bob's books and awards and caught up with late comers. Perhaps 50 cameras were present and flashes were constantly going off.
The atrium, where the dinner was set up, was pretty hot, but after folks got their food and found their seats, it wasn't too uncomfortable. There weren't enough servers to assist with the meal, but folks jumped in and helped get drinks and clear tables. The hotel was understaffed and the surprisingly good meal had been entirely prepared by one person, Dominique, who received a well deserved round of applause.
After dinner, folks returned to the main ballroom. When most people had settled down, the hosts entered to the fanfare from Star Wars. Then Bob and Fern were escorted to the main table, to the Olympic Fanfare.
Following opening remarks and thanks for the many individuals who had helped with the weekend, Bob and Fern were presented with a framed proclamation from the Mayor of Bloomington. It spoke about them at length, then proclaimed August 4th to be Wilson (Bob) and Fern Tucker Day. They were very surprised and pleased.
Then we settled into a pattern of Roger introducing a speaker, the speaker's presentation, then I would read some e-mailed messages or letters from folks that could not attend. Speakers included Jimmy Hollaman, Tom Meserole, Robin Wayne Bailey, Joan Marie Knappenberger, Missouri Smith, Nancy Hathaway, Gordon Garb and others. Bob was presented a plaque in honor of his contribution to SF and mystery literature and Fern received one for all of her support.
After each speaker, I would read a few messages, not giving the name of the sender until the end. It quickly became a challenge for Bob (and others) to attempt to name the sender in advance of the end. Well-wishers included Frank M. Robinson, Harry Harrison, Joe Haldeman, Larry Niven, Algis Budrys, William F. Wu, Rob Chilson, Mike Resnick, Phylis Eisenstein, Julie Shwartz, Lee Killough, James Gunn, George Zebrowski, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Dave Truesdale, Jack Williamson, and many others. Mark Tiedemann sent his in the form of a script for a play.
After about 70 minutes, Roger called for a brief break. When folks returned there were a couple more presentations and I read my last two messages: one from Sri Lanka (yes from Sir Arthur C. Clarke) and one that was from me. Roger presented the final plaque of the evening to Bob for his contribution to Fandom.
The ceremony was followed by a receiving line with Bob and Fern, and their children. Then the Dawn Patrol had one of their famous group pictures. After folks changed, many returned to hospitality suite to unwind and share a few Smooths.
Sunday morning there was another group run to Bob Evans, followed by good-byes and many wishes for another Bloomington Dawn Patrol Event, perhaps Bob and Fern's 50th Anniversary in 2003 or Bob's 90th Birthday in 2004.
reprinted from File 770