by Nate Widom
Maybe you’ve seen HAC member Robert “Bob” Leitch running in the area or working out at HAC. However, there is more to his friendly and familiar face. To those who know Bob, he is known for his extraordinary mindset to keep active as he ages. And that’s not all: in addition to numerous hobbies, he also has made some exceptional travels and practices photography in the local community.
Bob grew up on a tobacco farm in Maryland in the 1940s near the Chesapeake Bay. He enjoyed chemistry in school, and upon receiving his doctorate in the subject, he started work with DuPont in 1967. With the exception of an international work assignment, he has lived in Delaware since.
Bob loves to travel and explore different cultures. Thankfully, his work at DuPont allowed him to live in Geneva, Switzerland for five years and gave him access to work in many countries, including the former Soviet Union in the Cold War 1980s. Later, he had global responsibility for licensing and technology transfer which took him around the world. DuPont has many employees worldwide, which provided him with many global connections. “I still keep in touch with a number of them, and I feel fortunate for having that kind of contact worldwide,” says Bob.
With the combination of a worldwide network and a desire to explore, it’s no wonder why Bob has been all over the world. And his experience has brought him many memories and joy.
“I just enjoy traveling, experiencing different lifestyles, eating different foods, and all that good stuff,” Bob explains. “The last I’ve checked, I’ve been in over 70 countries. My late wife and I also traveled a lot – Africa, Europe, India, Southeast Asia, Scandinavia and Iceland. I’ve been to all the Central American countries as well as Chile and Argentina, almost down to Antarctica. She taught cooking, so we sampled a lot of international cuisine,” Bob states. “Every time we went to a different country, she’d always come back and teach that cuisine in a class.”
And it’s no surprise that traveling so much exposed Bob to many sticky situations. “There have been a number of little things like that [when traveling],” Bob states. “For example, we were ambushed in Tanzania, in Ngorongoro Crater, and I stupidly fought them off. These were Maasai youth – just pranking really, but they did steal the backpack, papers, and passport of a British hitchhiker we had picked up.”
However, Bob insists that such experiences aren’t the norm and he’s thankful to have so many awe-inspiring memories. “There are several examples of an experience being scary at the time, but in retrospect, I was fortunate I didn’t get hurt,” explains Bob. “By and large, the experiences I’ve had when traveling have been wonderful.”
While Bob has traveled the world, he still loves America, having visited every state except North Dakota. “I enjoy the U.S. as well. I fortunately have friends and relatives all over [America],” states Bob. “I enjoy visiting them – the west coast, the heartland, the southland, wherever.”
While Bob loves traveling, he’s become more wary of it in recent years. However, he’d love to return to many of the places he visited again. “There are places I would still like to see or re-visit, but it’s no longer advisable to travel there because of political or health reasons,” Bob explains. “Travel has gotten to be more of a problem in the past 3-5 years and especially since the pandemic. I don’t feel that comfortable fighting with planes as much as I used to. At my age, I want to avoid getting sick because, let’s face it, recovery from injury or illness is more difficult the older we get. I’m now in my eighty-second year. I feel fulfilled in that I have traveled to most of the places I wanted to see.”
Post-retirement, Bob stresses the importance of keeping active as you age. He lives on a 5-acre wooded property and enjoys taking care of it himself to save money and for the sense of self-satisfaction.
“Hey, I grew up on a farm. While I know I can’t continue to do it forever, I try to maintain my house and property myself as much as I can. And I think the best way to do that is to stay in shape, and stay strong enough that I don’t injure myself. I realize that if I injure myself at this age, I am into a slower recovery scenario, or, worse, an injury that can lead to other complications, so I try to keep that in mind all the time. And that’s why staying fit is important!”
As a member of Pike Creek Fitness, HAC’s former facility, he has been going to the gym for over 20 years. Consistently, usually Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Bob comes in to exercise or run in Tweeds Park and the surrounding area.
“I usually do some cardio, and I run outside when the weather is nice,” Bob explains. “I get a lot of comments from my locker room friends [asking] ‘Are you running outside today?’ Usually, when it’s above 40 [degrees], I try to run outside if it’s not raining.”
Bob does not describe himself as a competitive runner but has casually run races throughout his life. And when not running, Bob loves to work out on the machines. “I’ve kind of given up on free weights because if you don’t have a spotter, you can kind of get into trouble, so I’ve gone more with the machines. There’s a great variety of things to do here.”
While Bob may be consistent in working out, he always considers safety and moderation. “I try not to be super obsessed about it or any of that crazy stuff, but I guess everything in moderation is my motto. I enjoy a drink. I enjoy wine, beer, and all kinds of foods, but all in moderation.”
When he takes his running routine outside of the HAC and Tweeds Park on the sidewalk of Valley Road, many friends and members of the HAC community see him while driving by and provide honks of support. This gives him a sense of community.
“People recognize me out there, and they’ll yell, or blow the horn or something. Sometimes I know who they are, and sometimes I don’t,” Bob explains. “It’s just kind of fun.”
“There are people who I’ve connected with here that you might never run into anywhere else,” he states. “There are people I’ve gotten to know in the club and have gotten together with socially after we’ve been acquainted, which is kind of cool.”
Additionally, Bob connects with the community through his love of photography. “I’m an avid photographer as well, so, of course, I enjoy going places and photographing,” he states. “Not just landscapes but events and people.” Bob was active in the Delaware Photographic Society for many years pre-pandemic, and he continues to photograph while traveling, as well as around the local area. Over the past 10 years, he has photographed for Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library and has had his images displayed on social media, in various marketing brochures, and in national publications.
Everything is always changing, so I try to flow with that,” concludes Bob. “As long as I’m on this side of the grass and can remember what happened yesterday, it’s all good. Remember—everything in moderation—but…do your best to try everything!”