DAYTON — Vandalia donor Robert “Bob” Kohn is both a born entertainer and a Donor for Life. Thankfully, he never has to choose between his two passions. Sometimes they merge, like last Christmas season when he performed an impromptu concert in the Dayton Community Blood Center (CBC) Donor Café. But on Thursday, Aug. 20 it was his life-saving passion that struck a high note as Bob made his milestone 100th lifetime blood donation.
Bob remembers how the journey to his milestone began in the late 80’s. “My dad had heart problems which required surgeries,” he said. “I thought it would be an advantage to have some blood available for him.” His father lived another 20 years, and Bob became a lifetime donor.
Bob and his wife Janice have been married 32 years and love raising Basset Hounds. Bob is an independent water treatment contractor and serves as the Ohio sales representative for Enerco Corp. But that’s the day job he never quit as he chased his dream of being a big band singer.
“I’ve been singing for 40 plus years,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme. My first gig was a fashion show for Hadassah (the American Jewish women’s volunteer organization) at the Marriott in Dayton where I sang, ‘Here she is… Miss Hadasha!’ Now that’s a gig! I actually got paid for that. They rented the tuxedo and everything. As they say in show business: That… is… a… gig.”
It may have been a modest introduction to show business, but he was hooked. “I did hopefully want to do it for a living,” he said. “I always wanted to be a lead singer for a big band orchestra. Then I got a job in ’97 with the Tom Dougherty Orchestra, a 21-piece big band, local, and I did that from ’97 to 2007.”
It was a decade of living a dream and performing his favorite music. “A lot of Sinatra from the early days with Harry James, with Tony Dorsey, lot of classic hits,” he recalled. “It was a hoot.”
Lately he’s scaled down the big band sound, performing with the “Signature” quartet and recently with pianist Greg Shepherd at the Crown Plaza lounge.
He unexpectedly found himself singing Christmas carols with a musician he had just met last December at the downtown Dayton CBC. Dayton Culture Works had provided classical guitarist Danny Voris to entertain donors in the Donor Cafe. Bob had just made his 96th lifetime donation and was chatting with Danny between songs about his own background in music. With a little prodding, they were soon performing a duet of “Let it Snow!”
Seasonal chestnuts are fun, but when asked to name his favorite song, he chose the Sinatra hit, “Fly Me to the Moon.” “It’s probably one of my favorites, because it pleases all music types,” he said. “You could be in a country bar with beer bottles flying. If you sing it, and do it well, it’s surprising how many people it will please.”
In the case of Bob Kohn, good things have happened when he followed his passions. Up on stage, in his black tuxedo, it may be surprising how many music lovers he has pleased. Now, donning the black “Donor for Life – 100 LTD” jacket honoring his 100th donation milestone, it may surprise even Bob how many more lives he has touched.