Robert E. Lee (Bob), a prominent island legend, died of a heart attack on January 7, 2012. As owner of the rustic, laid-back Hole in the Wall, a tiny over-the-water restaurant in Blue Rock, Bob warmly greeted thousands of visitors over the last 14 years.
Bob was well-known and loved in the Jonesville area for his kind, caring and generous spirit. He had a fiery wit and wisdom and a heart of gold. Bob joyfully greeted everyone who arrived at the Hole and was easily recognized by his signature outfit: blue denim shorts, white sleeveless shirt, cigar and bare feet.
His bit of a paunch, snow white hair and beard made him a perfect Santa Claus for the east end children for many years. But, he was far more than “Santa for a Day” - - he was Pied Piper to the young and old alike in the Blue Rock community. If you needed a few lemps, a little help with your children’s uniforms, a family meal, or money for your electric bill, all you had to do was ask.
According to son Alan there was another side to his dad’s personality. “Dad was akin to Tom Sawyer,” Alan explains. “He was of a hippie mind-set and always a free-spirit. He taught me and others to make an adventure out of life.”
For example, Alan says in 1974 the family moved on a 40-foot trimaran in Redundo Beach, California. With the boat moored, the kids rowed to the shoreline and attended an alternative “free" school where they could develop their sense of adventure and free-thinking.
It was that longing for adventure that landed Bob and his wife Rhonda in Roatan. The odyssey began in November 1990 when they set sail in their sailboat Jim Dandy from California seeking "utopia." He ditched his career as a hospital administrator, bid friends and family adieu and headed south with no particular destination. Although the couple docked in Roatan one year later, they had never heard of the island.
After breaking down, they were rescued and towed to Oakridge by lobster boat captain Harris Chirinos, who ultimately became a life-long friend. Bob and Rhonda instantly fell in love with the tropical splendor of the island, the crystal waters, lush forests, flora and fauna, but most of all, the people. After working odd jobs for several years the couple found a waterfront lot loaded with promise. The main feature was a small, 12x12-foot dilapidated clapboard shack built on pilings over the water. However, on the upside, the parcel included 120-feet of mostly useless land up the rock hill. The Lees saw potential in converting the shanty into a bar and restaurant. They knocked down the front wall, built an open kitchen, and added a bathroom and outdoor deck. They lived in a small room in the back for several years.
With access by water only, the rustic bar had special charisma. In August 1997, they invited friends for an opening day Sunday barbecue, which quickly became their signature meal of the week.
Of course, 15 years ago Roatan was just a spot on a chart. However, sailors and divers from all over the world found Jonesville Bight. Bob and Rhonda’s unique brand of hospitality made Hole in the Wall an international “must stop”.
Together the couple also built one of the most unique houses on this or any island. A three story hand dug and hand cut stone house made of Blue Rock. However, tragedy struck shortly after they moved in. Rhonda died in 2004 due to a tragic fall. Then in July 2005, fireworks hit the roof and Hole in the Wall burned down. However, it was rebuilt and continues to be the edgy dive on the water.
The popular Sunday barbeque was often a mob scene with standing room only. The mouth watering lobster, dripping in butter, the grilled filet beef, home baked bread and all the fixings. But more than warm wonderful food was the friendly welcome for all who came by. Bob is survived by five children: Melanie, Robin, Bret, Alan and Jorge; four grandchildren and his beloved chatty Macaw Abogato. Not only will they morn his passing, hundreds on the island and thousands around the world share their grief.
So, with sorrow, we say goodbye to the Tom Sawyer of Roatan. Clever, smart, mischievous -- with a heart of gold. He saw humor and adventure wherever he looked. That was Bob Lee.