Bob Manning



 Candace O’Connor (for the Garnet Lake Conservation Association)


When Bob Manning, 88, died of heart failure on Thanksgiving Day 2023, his beloved family—wife Tomoko; sons Carl, Ted, and Bill; and four grandchildren—suffered an irreparable loss. But so did his “adopted” family of friends and neighbors who live near his year-round home on Garnet Lake.  Among this family, too, he was universally admired for his quiet wisdom, his youthful curiosity, his determination in the face of illness, his hard work on lake-related issues—and his love of the Adirondacks.


“Bob didn’t say much, but when he did, you knew to listen,” says Diane Burgess, a near neighbor at the lake.  “His advice was well thought out and made you think.  He was way ahead of most in worrying about the environment, being an early adopter of solar panels….He always seemed so much younger than his years. His mind was ageless, and he always amazed me with his knowledge of technology, the environment, Garnet Lake.”


Another neighbor and long-time friend, Paul Beer, agrees. “For most of my years at the lake, Bob…was always there: totally reliable yet unobtrusive, friendly, easy to ignore; you expected him just like you knew the sky and the lake would be there. Only when I joined the board three years ago did I start to appreciate other sides of Bob. He was one of the ‘old people,’ the holders of old knowledge, of how and why things were done by previous generations.  He was one of the most competent members of the Garnet Lake Conservation Association (GLCA), and his input on the board was wise, generous, helpful, and concise.”


Among his many contributions to life at the lake was an important but intangible one:  Bob was simply a very nice man, the kind of person whom everyone enjoyed knowing.  “Bob was a solid, thoughtful, kind soul,” says neighbor Judy Thomson.  “He was a great neighbor and huge contributor to our lake community.”


Johnsburg friend Bob Nessle recalls his early acquaintance with Bob.  “‘This man is someone I should get to know,’ I thought to myself as we both stood on the base lodge patio at Gore Ski Center.”  Briefly, they had met at Gore even earlier, when Nessle was a volunteer with the NYSEF Racing program and Bob was an avid skier with the Backwoods Ski Club.  “The lift rides were perfect ‘get-to-know-you opportunities,’” adds Nessle.  “Bob was a quiet man, not one to talk himself up at all, but little by little, in bits and pieces and at odd times, I eventually connected his life narrative.”


As he remembers the story, Bob was born in Endicott and graduated from the SUNY College of Forestry (later the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry) in 1957.  During his service in the U.S. Navy, he was stationed in Japan, and there he met a lovely young dental technician, Tomoko, who became his wife. After his honorable discharge, Bob earned his MS in education from SUNY-Albany; then he returned to Japan as a Department of Defense civilian, taught science at military bases for 29 years , with Tomoko, raised three sons.


But he wasn’t only talented in science. “When typewriters became computers, Bob’s brain could not rest on the sidelines,” says Nessle. “He dug into this weird new science and was soon captivated by the wondrous possibilities of digitization. He became the high school techno-guru.”


Over the years, his attention also began to turn toward his home state of New York, and especially to the Adirondacks.  As part of his teaching contract, Bob and Tomoko could fly back to the United States, and in summertime they did.  In 1978, they bought an old white house, once owned by the pioneering Ross family, at the north end of Garnet Lake and undertook a series of renovations to modernize it and make it their own.


After retirement in 1997, they lived at the lake year-round, and Bob grew more and more environmentally conscious.  “He was a pioneer in energy conservation and use of renewables, such as geothermal heat exchanger and photovoltaic solar for his home,” says Thomson.  “He had a battery-powered plug-in hybrid car, electric lawnmower, and snowblower.”


He also became involved in securing the health of the lake.  As friend and neighbor Roy Keats remembers, when the GLCA became part of the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (later the Citizens Lake Assessment Program), Bob volunteered to become a lake monitor, checking the lake and recording the results. “That involved water clarity, as well as water sampling. The program required the samples to be filtered, before being mailed into the state with freezer packs for analysis,” says Keats.


At Garnet Lake, Bob was also a key figure in the fight to eradicate Japanese knotweed, an invasive species infesting the dam and both sides of Mill Creek.  “I will always remember our treks alongside Mill Creek to put orange flags on the offending spots for treatment. It was strenuous work, climbing over all sorts of obstacles,” adds Keats. “Bob always did the majority of the work.”


When the GLCA became concerned about the safety of the dam, Bob joined the fledgling Dam Committee, serving with Keats and others.  “He has always been my on-lake contact for anything arising with the dam,” adds Keats. “When there was a big rain event, I would contact Bob for a report on the total inches fallen and the lake level status. He would measure the water depth in our Auxiliary Spillway when flow occurred and submit the required Incident Report to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. I have had many thoughtful discussions with him on dam replacement concepts, and he would invariably have good suggestions.”


But his interest in the lake and its nearby woods had a creative side as well.  In 2004, he bought a wooded property, part of Oven Mountain, around 11 miles from his home.  On this spot, once owned by International Paper Company, he decided to develop a well-managed forest, so he hired forestry consultant Steve Warne to map the property and plan fits improvement.  On the site, he and Warne found evidence of long-ago maple sugaring and also a disused garnet mine.


With his typical generosity, Bob hosted annual tours of the mountain for friends and neighbors—and, despite his age, led the groups himself with the help of son Carl.  Along the way, he would point out interesting features of the land:  a beech tree heavily clawed by climbing bears, an age-old rock planted by a glacier, autumnal trees gloriously colored yellow or red.


And his mountain was not the only example of his generosity.  When the GLCA commissioned a history book, Manning became its volunteer photographer. “All I had to do was ask Bob for a photo, and I’d have it by the next day!” says author Candace O’Connor. “He’d either take a new shot or he’d rummage through his photo files and find just the right one.  He also figured out how to take low-res photos and increase their resolution, almost magically.”  


Bob and Mary Vawter didn’t know him well, but “we always found him to be a quiet man of substance, who gave help whenever asked in any way he could.  Bob remembers being stranded at the lake once with a dead car battery,” says Mary Vawter.  “After a call to Bob Manning, the car was jumped with a portable starter and all was well again.”


In his later years, he was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, though he didn’t want it to slow him down.  “I loved the way Bob lived life,” says neighbor and GLCA head Anne Bernat, “despite the numerous roadblocks in his way. For instance, when the disease flared up, he could be found with a hiking pole at his back, tied to his waist and to the back of his ball cap, which assisted in holding his head up. It was quite a sight, but it worked so he could continue to walk and do the things he wanted to do.”


Just recently came one vivid example of his impact on people’s lives, says Bob Nessle.  A young man stopped by Bob’s home to see him:  a former student from Japan, now living in California, who was on a trip east and decided to look up his old teacher and coach.  “This young man obviously had deep respect for him, as have I.”


What will we do without him? wonder many residents.  “He will be greatly missed,” says Bernat.  Peter Parker of Garnet Lake Lodge says he enjoyed chatting with Bob. “He was an inspiration for me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I enjoyed meeting him on the way to get the mail and listening to him.” “He was an icon,” says Diane Burgess. “His presence at the lake will be felt by those of us who knew him, as well as the next generations who will not experience all he had to offer.”


Actually, Bob’s useful, generous, hard-working life was a little like his loving efforts to improve Oven Mountain, says Paul Beer. “He took care of it; he made paths, kept them clean, knew a lot about it, knew where previous users have been, and what they left behind.”


“A mountain was not too much for him.  That was Bob.”