By Leslie W. Rue, ACBS President 1994

ACBS and the entire antique and classic boating world lost an unforgettable and valued member with the passing of Dr. Robert J. Johnson on July 1st of this year.

Bob was also affectionally known as “Big Bob”, “The Tipster” or “Tippy”. The “Big Bob” came from Bob’s rotund physique, you couldn’t miss him. The term also describes Bob’s personality ; it was big , engaging , and always pleasant.

The term “Tipster” or “Tippy” came from the ongoing articles on boating and restoration tips that Bob wrote for several years in Chris Craft Club’s “Brass Bell”.

As a practicing physician, Bob was always the “go to guy” when anyone needed medical assistance at a boat show. Bob served on the ACBS board of directors in the early 1990’s and rarely missed an annual meeting. He was also active in his local chapter (Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes) . As a sidelight, Bob was a personal friend of Bob Speltz. “The Tipster” participated in more than 20 St. John’s river cruises and on many occasions trailered his boat, with his long term and devoted partner, Beth Kessler, all the way from Minnesota.

May Bob rest in peace and have unlimited heavenly boat cruises.


  1. It was in 1996 at the BSLOL boat show that Kathy and I met Bob and Beth for the first time. Already legends in the ACBS, they both took us under their wing with our 1947 23′ Chris Craft Express Cruiser’s show debut with our whopping year and a half experience in wooden boating.

    Throughout our years in Iowa with BSLOL, then Missouri, then in Florida our paths crossed here and there over the next 25 years- and he was always the same gracious, genuine, and interesting character whenever we met. I will never forget our few times with Bob and Beth in his 22′ U-22 “Cowboy”- Bob barrelling along at speed and Beth “offering a rope” to those we passed.

    Bob was the best ambassador of the ACBS and wooden boating there was. We too will remember him, and miss him.

    Kathy and Gary Baker, Palmetto, FL

  2. I joined Tipster (and Les Rue) in many of the St John’s RIver Cruise adventures and the Sunnyland Boat Show that followed and we all attended. Paul Mikkelson joined us one year and with his and Bob’s Scandinavian heritage, the Ole and Lena jokes had us rolling in laughter all day long. Bob and Paul really had the accent down and no matter how many times we heard the self deprecating Ole and Lena jokes you couldn’t help but bust out laughing. When Les could not make the trip he would loan his boat to me and Bob who I would pick up at the Atlanta airport to captain the boat for the cruise while I handled the lines and the cooler and snacks. We always ended up with a boat full of guests for the trip that Bob would keep entertained. We enjoyed many nautical miles and shared many meals at Angel’s Diner in Palatka (one of the St John’s River stops) with ACBS members over the years. My family and I will always have fond memories of Bob (and Beth) visiting on their way down to Mount Dora, the annual ACBS meeting here on Lake Lanier or conversely visiting their home and most recently their farm in Minnesota. RIP Tipster.

  3. I attended my first ACBS show hosted by Bob Speltz in 1989 at Albert Lea, MN. We did not have an active ACBS Chapter in Wisconsin at that time and I wondered what the reception would be like for my little 14′ Aristo Craft Torpedo and it’s 28 year old owner. I met at least a dozen BSLOL members at that show that have become dear friends. Bob stood out from the crowd and made me feel at home. He invited me to their annual Rendezvous in Excelsior Bay, MN and to join ACBS. Bob then proceeded to invite me to stay at his home in St. Paul and join several BSLOL members for a Friday evening cruse aboard a 30′ Chris Craft he co-owned with another member. I will never forget his easy going manor and the simple pleasure he and Beth took in being on the water.

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