By Curt Phillips. I am deeply sorry to report that we’ve lost Bob Madle.
A phone call from his daughter Jane this afternoon informs me that Bob died peacefully in his sleep Saturday evening, October 8, 2022. He was 102. Bob’s health had been both good and stable until about a week ago when he went into a decline and began to fade away. Jane assures me that he didn’t suffer, and that his last days were calm and peaceful. Funeral arrangements are yet to be announced.
Bob Madle was the last surviving original member of First Fandom, having begun his activity in science fiction fandom in 1933. He was present at one of the earliest club meetings in Philadelphia in 1936, attended the first Worldcon in New York in 1939, and was a long time presence at science fiction conventions around the country. He was an accomplished collector and one of the most important science fiction book and pulp magazine dealers in the world. Few worthwhile collections anywhere haven’t benefited from Bob’s expertise in the field. Bob published David H. Keller’s Solitary Hunters And The Abyss through his New Era Publishers in 1948. He was the TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate in 1957 and attended the first London World SF Convention through TAFF in 1957. He wrote a long running series about science fiction published in the various professional magazines published by his long time friend Robert A. W. Lowndes. He served honorably in the United States Army during World War II.
More important than any of this to me; he was my very good friend. I first met Bob in the late 70’s when I called him at home, explained that I was a science fiction fan and asked if I could I come and visit him. He instantly replied, “Sure, come on over. We’ll talk about science fiction.” And that’s exactly what we did. He also sold me all the SF books and pulps I could carry away, plus when I expressed an interest in several boxes of old fanzines, he suggested I borrow them to read through. That was quite a generous offer considering that he’d just met me! I borrowed those zines, kept them for about a year, and discovered some of the best fan writing ever committed to mimeograph paper. When I took them back on my next visit, Bob quizzed me a little on what I’d read and was delighted that I seemed to have picked up a few things about fandom…
I visited Bob’s home in Rockville, MD several times thereafter, usually catching him watching his beloved Oakland A’s playing baseball on TV. Bob had followed that team since they were the Philadelphia Athletics; his home town team. We always had a grand and relaxing time chatting about baseball and science fiction, which we both agreed were two of the best things in life. He taught me so much about collecting science fiction, particularly early sf, and his vast trove of lore about the early days of both science fiction and early fandom can never be replaced. He was 102. If he’d lived to be twice that it wouldn’t have been enough for me. I had hoped to visit him again this coming spring. Instead I’ll just remember him whenever I read a particularly good story in an issue of Wonder Stories, or whenever I see the Oakland A’s on tv having a good game.
So long Bob, and thanks for 45 years of friendship.