Bainbridge Island has a fantastic sense of community and it is a unique and wonderful place to live. Driving through the downtown corridor on Winslow in December, you see twinkling stars and scrolls and holiday lighting overhead. The holiday lights and traditions on Bainbridge Island, along Winslow Way nearly didn’t happen this year. Bob Cedarwall died suddenly November 27, he was only 68. You often don’t realize how much work goes into that one-mile drive through town and take for granted that every year there’s twinkling lights will be back up, as is some magical elf does it in the middle of the night. That magical elfs name was Bob. For the past 40 years. Bob Cauldwell and a group of close friends have volunteered to decorate downtown. His friends knew him as “Bainbridge Bob” he was a tree cutter by day and an actor by night. His sudden passing, five days before the lights were to go up downtown took everyone by surprise. There were no elections board or deep discussions about what to do next. His group of closest friends all looked to one man named Howie Paine to keep this amazing tradition going. Howie had been involved for years being a volunteer helper for Bob, but with 5 days notice he was anointed the new leader of the group. The new “Bainbridge Howie” was unanimously anointed downtown decoration, King. But the crown sits uneasily on his head for his dear friend had to die for him to wear it. Howie calls their group “FOB or Friends of Bob community tree decorators”. They started out the Sunday following Bob’s death, and decorated a community tree, on Madrone Lane. The tree was a spectacular tribute to Bob and all he is given the community over the years.
Bob’s wife, Denise wanted to make this an annual event , so Howie said “I’ll pencil it in the next 10 years”. Howie and the rest of the Friends of Bob group with no backup plan left at dawn the next day and decorated downtown. He was not alone there are many volunteers, including the fire department, and many elfs helping. Howie told me “I was by no means all alone, I had to rouse some people from their sleeping beds at 4 AM and they came begrudgingly, but they came”. The magical holiday season was saved by our reluctant local hero Howie. Howie remained true to the design Bob had laid out earlier in the year, except for one small addition.E Howley added a small heart with Bob’s name in the middle at the end of the Winslow Way display as the only small reminder of a friend lost. There are hundreds of thousands of lights on every tree, beautiful scrolls down light poles and with the influx of cash from the Rotary the light display was even better, bigger and better than last year. It would be a great shame if such selfless hard work and determination went without genuine acknowledgment for his efforts. Howie himself would surely blow off any thank you’s and turned me down six times for this interview before finally relenting to answer my questions. Howley simply stated “Bob was great. He did everything he set down the blueprint and we followed it. That’s it” Howie would take no credit for the beautiful lights, saying that it was a “group effort” and that he is “certainly no hero”. Eery happy child that drove through downtown or walked down the sidewalks would disagree. I’m not sure how the newspaper got a picture of Howie, holding the heart illuminated with Bob’s name, I have yet to snap a picture that he has agreed to of him with his beautiful lights downtown. Howie gruff nature belies his obvious tender heart and kind and giving nature. Howie Paine is a true hero of Bainbridge Island.