A story of love, friendship, and a racy sports car
Just over 60 years ago, when he was only five, Rob Blum became the very first child to have open heart surgery at the Hospital of St. Raphael — now Yale New Haven Hospital St. Raphael Campus.
THE SURGERY SAVED HIS LIFE but his heart condition remained a health challenge, and tragically, he passed away in 2012 at age 57.
Rob never let his condition interfere with living an active, joyful life. “He was unique, funny, witty, and bright,” says his daughter Courtney. “He looked at life as a gift and enjoyed every moment like it was his last.”
If you were Rob’s friend, you considered yourself very lucky. “Rob had a way of making every person feel like they were the most important person in the world,” says his son, Eric.
“When Rob died,” his wife Wendy recalls, “we had a celebration of life. Seven or eight friends got up to speak, and they all said that Rob was their best friend!”
One friendship really stood out, however. That was Rob’s friendship with Richard (Richard asked that we use only his first name, in order for the story to remain focused on Rob).
“We met Rob and Wendy in Aruba in the early ’90s,” says Richard. “And soon our vacation friends became our forever friends. We understood each other, we toured the world together, and we laughed and laughed.”
When Rob retired, he treated himself to the one thing he’d always dreamed of owning — a mint, 2007 silver Saturn Sky Turbo Redline sports car. Richard was thrilled for him. “That car was Rob’s pride and joy,” says Richard. “It was wonderful.”
After Rob passed away, Wendy asked Richard if he’d like to have the Sky. Richard didn’t hesitate for a second. “I took special care of it in honor of my friend, Rob,” Richard says. “And every time I got in the car, I felt I was talking with him.”
Paying it forward
Not long ago, when Richard regretfully decided to sell the Sky, he wanted to find a way to use the proceeds to honor his friend. He sought Wendy’s advice.
“Richard told me that he wanted to pay it forward — for Rob as well as all the people in his own life who helped him along the way,” says Wendy. “I gave it some thought … and suddenly I knew. It should go to help a child in the hospital with heart disease — a child like Rob.”
Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital (YNHCH) had just launched a campaign to expand and enhance its pediatric heart center, so the timing was perfect.
Richard was delighted with the idea. “We made this choice to honor Rob,” he says. “It’s to help give young people with heart issues the advantage of being treated at a great facility like YNHCH.”
It’s a beautiful act of generosity, yet Richard insists the story is about Rob, not him. “You can remember someone, you can miss him,” he says. “But to honor him with something tangible is even more important.”