Robert Ross Gaddie, beloved husband, father, brother, and friend, passed away on December 6th, 2023, at the age of 79, after complications from pancreatic cancer.
Bob was born on Easter, April 9, 1944, in Salt Lake City. He grew up on Military Drive, in the Yalecrest neighborhood, attended East High School and later the University of Utah.
He had an idyllic childhood, never lacking adventure. Bob and his friends spent their days outdoors in a gulley behind his friend’s house, where they scavenged for supplies to make treehouses, rockets, pipe bombs and dune buggies.
His work ethic and entrepreneurial mind emerged early. When he was 12-years-old, he started a lawn mowing business. During summers, he’d push his mower down the streets, cutting grass and trimming the perimeter of yards on his hand and knees with hand clippers.
He also worked as a paperboy, waking up early to ride his bike around Bonneville Golf Course, delivering newspapers to residents before sunrise.
As a teenager, he became an usher at the Lyric Theatre. He rode the bus downtown, made 17 cents an hour, and to help the homeless keep warm, he let them in for free. After his shift, he spent the money earned at the candy store.
When he attended East High School, Bob became a member of the cross-country team. Grades were never a strong suit, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t coming up with solutions to his own problems. Like how to steal his parents’ car when they went out dancing on Saturday nights. Disconnecting the speedometer worked for a while but taking the top off his Grandmother’s ‘57 Thunderbird and forgetting he left it lying on the lawn nailed him.
On weekends, Bob would drive his Volkswagen Gulf Blue Beetle up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton where he was a volunteer ski patrolman. He spent 11 years on the ski patrol, eventually becoming the assistant director, a numbered national and winning the 1964 Ski Patrol Award, given to the patrolman who performed the most outstanding feat of skipatrolmanship in the Intermountain Division.
As a college student at the University of Utah, Bob fell into another exciting venture. It was the late 1960s and the counterculture movement was taking off. With a couple of friends, Bob created a lightshow business called, “Five Fingers on My Hand.” Hanging in the rafters at The Terrace Ballroom and other venues around town, the group used oils, projectors and colorwheels to create psychedelic swirling backdrops for some of the biggest acts to come through Utah: Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Big Brother and the Holding Company and more.
Thinking he was too loose and not paying enough attention to his grades, Bob’s father pressed him to join the national guard. Bob went on active duty at Fort Ord and served as the supply sergeant until he saved a fellow guardsman from choking and was promoted to army medic. He spent 5 ½ years in the guard and when the Vietnam draft came around, Bob was luckily spared.
Other stints included driving to Lake Tahoe during the summer, where he worked as a Keno dealer at Harrahs. He also drove an ambulance and served as an EMT.
But the job Bob came to be known for started in 1970 when the 26-year-old hippie walked into a penthouse suite downtown and came face to face with a hot new product.
“We walked in and saw a big, king size waterbed on the floor. We laid down on it, and it was just a trip. I said, ‘Gosh I think these things could sell,’ Bob said.
Thus began Bob’s foray into the waterbed business. He rented a space on 9th and 9th and became part of the movement that transformed the area into the counterculture epicenter of Salt Lake. Upon retiring 29 years later, “Stone Balloon Waterbeds,” was named the oldest and longest serving waterbed store in the Intermountain West.
Bob spent his later years enjoying his time with his wife Laura and daughter Nicole, who he was so proud of. His optimism, sense of humor and ability to have fun never faded. Nor did his determination.
Conan O’Brien, a favorite late-night talk show host once said, “try to do what you love with people you love, and if you can manage that, it’s the definition of heaven on Earth.”
Bob truly had 79 years of heaven on Earth and we couldn’t be happier to have been a part of it.
A celebration of life will be held at City View Mortuary on December 29, 2023 from 3-5pm.