I am truly saddened to hear of Bob Stencels passing. I had known of his reputation through Richards Almanac, but it was through a chance meeting many years ago that I got to know what a real gentleman and magical personality the man really was. It was Saturday morning; August 27, 1988. I got a call from Bobby Rockman of LaRock's Fun and Magic in Charlotte, NC. Bobby said, "Greg, there's someone here I think you'd like to meet. His name is Bob Stencel." "You mean, the 'Stencel Aces' Bob Stencel?" was my reply. I don't recall Bobby's answer to my question, but I do know that in minutes I found myself at LaRock's introducing myself to a refined-looking gentleman named Bob Stencel---indeed, it was the man himself.
After our introductory dialogue evolved into more detailed discussions of card magic and such, Bobby asked Bob and me if we would like to use the session table set up in a little side room of the shop. I really did not want to impose, but Bob was happy to spend some time. In fact, after we sat down at the table Bob said, Wait here, Ill be right back. He walked out to his car and returned with a pad and pencil. Here, you may want to take some notes, Bob said with a warm smile. (That blew me away!) I was delighted to witness some incredible card magic and to participate in some seriously enlightening discussions of magic philosophy. He performed his legendary Stencel Aces, did a lot of J C Wagner routines, and quite a few routines with using the Gamblers Cop, a move that I had never seen so well-handled up to that point. Cards Across, ace trick variations, Cards to Pocket, All Backs---we covered them all. That session went for five and hours!
It turned out that Bob had some business dealings in Charlotte and would be in town for a while. We made plans to have dinner the next week and continue our discussions and card sessions; and so we did, meeting at the Little Italy restaurant near the magic shop. We traded more secrets and more stories. I showed him a handling of Holey POD (Richards Almanac) that I developed and gave him the necessary cards for the trick. I found that he had an interest in origami when I demonstrated how to fold a Fujimoto cube---a particularly elegant method of folding a square piece of paper into a cube. He seemed impressed with the fold and asked me for the instructions (which I brought to him later). I remember during my explanation of the folding procedure, I got to this one particularly nice part of the process, and I saw his eyes light up---and as I was saying now at this point, you---Bob politely interrupted me and said, No, wait. At this pointyou pray.
Yes, Bob seemed to be one of those well-rounded renaissance types with an eclectic taste for all things intriguing. And he really enjoyed being with people. He paused long enough from our dinner/magic session to twist a balloon into a parrot for a young child passing by our table. When Bob took out a sharpie pen and applied some deft strokes to the parrot, giving it eyes and feathers, and presented the surprise sculpture to the boy---it was smiles for everyone!
During his Charlotte visit Bob got to know several of the local magicians and showed a genuine interest in helping others with their magic. I recall his emphasizing the importance of writing in magic---that is, scripting the presentation. He referred us to the work of Terry LaGerould as good examples of scripting routines for presentations with emotional impact.
I never did see Bob after those few brief encounters; brief, yes, but dense and rich. I found Mr. Stencel to be one of those complete package magicians: great skill, superb entertainer, a wealth of knowledge, and extremely generous. And it is the latter that I remember the most.
My condolences to the family.