Robert Anderson disappeared from Wishek, North Dakota at age 32 in 1993.
Robert Michael Anderson was born on November 14th, 1961 to Aldine and Mathilda Anderson of Hugo, Minnesota. He was the second youngest of seven children. ‘Bob’ would have turned 54 years of age this month.
By all accounts, Bob was a sensitive and care-free soul and his demeanor fluctuated between at least two modes. His primary and most natural manner was that of a quiet and reflective boy and young man. He was also the occasional clown and prankster and was known to have a very rich sense of humor. Bob liked to have a good time and enjoy life.
Bob was close to both of his parents as a young boy and he spent a considerable amount of time playing alone on eight acres of rural Minnesota soil near Hugo, Minnesota. Roaming free throughout the small hobby farm, Bob had access to cattle, horses and several cats which he dearly loved. He loved animals and adored his mixed-breed dog, ‘Elmer’. Bob would often give Elmer a ride around the yard on his bicycle. With all the animals in his life, with his six siblings and two loving parents, Bob probably always felt that, although he enjoyed time to himself, he was never actually, ‘all alone’.
And he also found playmates in siblings and neighborhood kids.
Bob’s younger sister Debbie Villcheck of Minnetonka, Minnesota has fond memories of her older, protective brother. “Once a bunch of us neighborhood kids were planning to have a mud fight at the pit in Hugo”, she explains. “Bob was one of the people picking teams. He picked me first because he could not stand the idea of throwing something at his little sister.”
Vilcheck recalls, “He would spend hour after hour in the sand box. I would join him, that made him happy to talk and teach me what he learned at school or sometimes quietly play with a smile on his face. Bob enjoyed the simple things in life and looked on the bright side. He didn’t have to say a word to speak volumes.”
Bob’s older sister, Diane Kangas of Pillager, Minnesota, reiterates the notion that Bob had a quiet and sensitive side to him, while at the same time being very generous. “He would have really given you the shirt off his back” , Diane explains. It is a quality that is repeated again and again when speaking to his loved ones.
Perhaps these qualities of quiet sensitivity may be partially attributed to his time spent alone around the Anderson homestead. Time spent alone allows the opportunity to observe and to consider. This ability to actually see others is not something we all are capable of. While many of us are free to carry on rather oblivious and ignorant of our surroundings, the quiet and empathic observers of this world modestly sweep up after us, tending to the unseen, the wounded and the neglected. Bob’s was a nurturer of animals and, to a certain extent, of people.
A nurturer perhaps, but he wasn’t a saint and his quiet nature did not prevent him from having a good time in any way.
If Bob Anderson ‘the boy’ liked fishing, then Bob Anderson ‘the man’ enjoyed fishing, working on cars and drinking beer. Bob had a talent for working with his hands and was a skilled auto body mechanic. Some might say that Bob was a very good mechanic but a fantastic beer drinker.
Having a good time while drinking beer seems to be a recurring theme when talking to Bob’s friends and family. In fact, Bob’s drinking was a sometimes considered to be a problem.
“One of the things that bothered me about his drinking was that his beer can never touched his lips.” says John Anderson, Bob’s older brother. “He would crack open a beer, put his head back as far as he could and hold his beer about two inches above his mouth and just dump the whole thing. He was drinking a case a beer in a day and I told him he needed to get a handle on his drinking.”
They say I’m crazy but I have a good time,
I’m just looking for clues at the scene of the crime,
Life’s been good to me so far.
Lyrics Joe Walsh/The Eagles – A song that Bob liked.
Bob met Pam Larson in the late eighties and they were married in September of 1987. The couple had two children together, a daughter born 1988 and a son, Chase, born 1990. They divorced in 1992, the year before Bob went missing from Wishek, North Dakota with Kristin Diede.
Pam Larson remembers Bob’s great talent working with automobiles and she also recalls the beer drinking, noting that as their relationship was on its last legs, he could easily drink a half or whole case of beer a night.
During his, post divorce era, Bob lived for awhile with his nephew Travis Nelson.
“We loved to party”, says Nelson. “We were young and we would party and go fishing and have a good time. We worked on cars and we drank quite a bit. That was Bob’s life for awhile. Just having a good time.”
Travis Nelson also remembers his uncle as a man always willing to help others. “I remember one time, I ran into Kristin Diede at the bar. She was there drinking with some guys and Bob was not with her. Turns out, Bob was at Kristin’s apartment watching her kids for her while she was out having fun”.
Bob also lived for a time with his older brother John Anderson, adopting the occasional tom cat and inviting it into John’s home.
Says John Anderson, “I lived with him for a short period of time. Everybody loved him. He enjoyed himself. He liked eating, he liked drinking. Put a fishing pole and a beer in his hands and he was content. He liked outdoors sports, he was a typical northland guy. He did not take life too seriously. But he was a very skilled auto mechanic and liked working with his hands. By nature he was quiet but when he was drinking he was a hoot.”
Bob perhaps did not take life seriously enough on some fronts. While he never got into any real legal trouble, (and is not known to have been violent) he could cut an occasional corner once in awhile. John recalls that Bob did some moonlighting fixing cars for friends and was known to be a bit reckless with the flammable chemicals he worked with, always a cigarette hanging from his lips. “I thought I might come home someday to hear that the garage had blown up”.
And he was a clown at times. “We used to go the movies together sometimes. Bob would take a king size bucket of popcorn out of the garbage or something and punch eye-holes in it and put it over his head. Then he would walk around flirting with girls and say ‘I bet you want to know what I look like don’t you?’. I used to get such a kick out of that. This was after a couple beers when he would loosen up.”
Yet, behind all his happy-go-lucky shinanigens, was perhaps the ‘real’ Bob, that quiet introvert that had spent time alone on the family homestead, the boy who loved animals. When he was not adopting stray cats in the neighborhood he was content snowmobiling, fishing or just talking to his sister on the phone. His inner world was likely much more dynamic, deep and complex than what his personality ever presented to the outside world, at least in a sober state. And he did take some things very seriously. Says John Anderson:
“There was some speculation when Bob went missing that he would have perhaps taken off and moved to Canada or something. I knew for a fact that he would not do that and I’ll tell you why. I’d seen the way that Bob loved his children, and I knew for a fact that someone that had that much affection for his kids would never leave them. He had his flaws and faults but he was a loving father and very proud to be a father.”
Although not an excuse, but at the very least an explanation, at some level, Bob probably used alcohol to help find a passageway from his inner world to the galaxy outside where he could flirt with girls and make people laugh.
This happens to be the classic Scandinavian mode of operation and if Bob’s Swedish and Norwegian forefathers passed anything on to him, it was this. The Scandinavians that immigrated into Minnesota came from a world where boasting, bragging or carrying on is frowned upon and where emotions are expected to be processed internally, quietly and modestly. This is manageable for some, for awhile, but when alcohol is introduced into the algorithm, the wheels fall off and the introvert must step aside and let the soul breathe for awhile.
Kristin Diede and Wishek, North Dakota
Bob met Kristin Diede sometime in the Spring of 1993. Exactly how or when is not known but it has been said that they met in a bar in downtown Minneapolis and considering what we know about him, it is not difficult to imagine that Bob met Kristin in a drinking establishment.
All these attributes that make up Robert Michael Anderson, the careful and caring observer and protector, his sensitive nature, his ability to read a room and make people laugh, they all become almost unbearable to consider (at least for this writer) when put into the context of Bob’s experiences with Kristin Diede and whatever truth took place in Wishek, North Dakota in August of 1993.
Bob could spot a wounded creature a million light years away and he would be one of the first to intervene and to help. The fact that Bob Anderson came into Kristin Diede’s life and to her aid is no coincidence.
Kristin Diede had literally been wounded, both physically and emotionally when Bob first met her that spring. According to a WCCO TV news broadcast, Kristin was being counseled by the Cornerstone domestic violence program in Bloomington, MN, and her ex-husband had recently been charged and convicted of assaulting her.
If we place Kristin Diede and Bob Anderson in into the same room, then they are destined to interact. They are in a way made for each other. They are perhaps doomed together. Kristin, like a lost and beaten stray cat, needed all the help she could get and Bob was the man to help her.
It is heartbreaking to consider what was going through Bob’s mind on the weekend of August 14th and 15th of that year. The environment of Wishek, North Dakota, was foreign to him. He stood out, an obvious outsider. Things were not exactly going smoothly by all accounts. According to the WCCO TV News broadcast, Kristin had called friends in Minnesota stating she was having trouble getting her kids back. Kristin and Robert even made a stop at the local police department to speak with a State Trooper.
Bob’s own insightful and intuitive nature certainly presented to him a disturbing premonition of bad things to come. Perhaps for the first time in his life, Bob was starting to feel like he was suddenly ‘all alone’. At the very least, he realized that he was somewhere he should not be.
After many years of trying to find answers to what had happened to their son, Mathilda and Aldine passed away just three days apart in January of 2015. If the truth can set you free, then Bob’s parents perhaps never saw another day of complete freedom after August 15th, 1993 when Bob vanished from their embrace forever. They never received the answers they were looking for and never were granted the truth. Instead, they were destined to live in the captivity of a parent’s nightmare.
If they had given up hope of seeing Bob again in this life, then perhaps, in the end, Aldine and Mathilda rejoiced in the freedom of being reunited with him in the next.
EPILOGUE – THE SOUNDTRACK OF A LIFE
When speaking with Bob’s friends and loved ones I was told that he loved lots of different types of music. There did not seem to be any one artist or genre that he was obsessed with. Bob probably enjoyed music as he enjoyed life, simply and as it came to him. I’ve take the liberty to choose a couple songs for his birthday. I am hoping he would have liked them.
Happy Birthday Bob. I’ve not learned everything about you, but I can tell you that you are missed by many!
Track One –Mayonaise by The Smashing Pumpkins
This live performance of the song Mayonnaise by The Smashing Pumpkins, took place and was recorded the night before Bob and Kristin disappeared, on Saturday August 14th, 1993 in Chicago,
As I view the Smashing Pumpkin fans in the crowd in this video, as they sing and scream along, so full of joy and so inebriated on life and music, I can also see Bob at the exact same moment in Wishek, North Dakota, less than 24 hours before he vanished, enjoying to the fullest whatever moment was at hand.
Fool enough to almost be it
Cool enough to not quite see it
Doomed . . .
Mother weep the years I’m missing
All our time can’t be given
Back . . .
This was the record release party for the pumpkins album Siamese Dream which would become a type of Soundtrack for many young people in the 1990’s.
This particular song was performed in the first encore of that show, which would probably place it around eleven pm central time. A topic for another post perhaps, but it is tempting to consider what Bob and Kristin were doing at exactly the moment when this video was shot. I am guessing Bob and Kristin were perhaps out at one of Wishek’s watering holes. (There are reported sightings of them in bars that weekend) They are possibly feeling good by this hour, anticipating getting out of Wishek the next day.
Track Two – I shall be released by Bob Dylan
Performed by Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood, Neil Diamond, Bobby Charles, The Staple Singers, and Eric Clapton.