Dustin DeVaughn doesn’t remember the first time Robert “Bob” Dashiell came to DeVaughn James Injury Lawyers to ask if he could fish at the pond next to the law firm, but he does remember how the conversation went.
“I said, ‘Absolutely, you can fish there any time.’ ”
Dashiell was hesitant, though, and worried he might be run off by someone who didn’t know he had permission.
“I said, ‘Here, let me do this.’ I got one of my business cards.”
DeVaughn wrote, “Robert has permission to fish in our pond any time he wants.”
Wednesday was the last time Dashiell, 71, fished there. It’s not entirely clear what happened — he likely had a medical incident before falling in the water — but he died at the pond.
“We didn’t know he was here,” DeVaughn said.
Unbeknownst to the firm, Dashiell parked on the north side of the pond, which is the size of about three football fields just east of the firm. The office is along K-96 in front of the east-side Menards.
Dashiell texted his wife around 3 p.m, and he was found at 4:30 p.m.
“We don’t know what happened between 3 and 4:30,” DeVaughn said.
The children of his firm partner, Richard James, were visiting and wanted to play by the pond.
“They came running back in and said there was a guy floating in the pond,” DeVaughn said.
He said he and James didn’t quite believe it but went outside and saw someone — or what looked like could be a mannequin — in the water.
“I stripped down to my underwear and dove in and swam out to him,” DeVaughn said.
He said he figured without clothes and shoes, it would be easier and faster to swim.
“By the time I was able to get my hands on him, I could tell it was a real person, so I yelled out to Richard,” DeVaughn said.
He said he could also tell Dashiell was deceased.
Dashiell’s fishing rod and hat were floating in the water, and two fishing rods and a tackle box were on the shore.
Still, DeVaughn said he couldn’t immediately tell it was Dashiell. He was disheartened to learn who it was.
“Our whole office was saddened,” DeVaughn said. “Robert was such a nice guy and always had a smile on his face and was just full of life and happy.”
About six months ago, Dashiell, a longtime Air Force photographer, gave the firm a “gorgeous picture” he’d taken on the property, DeVaughn said.
“It’s taken from behind a pear tree where you can see the beautiful white blossoms.”
Also in the serene photo are a couple of geese and a glassy view of the pond with reflections of nearby trees. The picture hangs at the firm.
“We thought it was so cool,” DeVaughn said.
“Our community lost somebody who was incredibly nice. Our heart goes out . . . to the whole Dashiell family.”
Michelle Pfanenstiel, one of Dashiell’s five children, said her father went fishing about three times a week, sometimes with one of his 12 grandchildren.
“He loved taking his grandkids fishing,” she said. “He loved being outside. He never kept the fish. He just liked the sport of it.”
Pfanenstiel laughs that her father was “really cheap and really particular on the things he did,” but also said he had a “big heart.”
“My dad was the kindest, most gentle man who was generous with his time and loved everyone with everything he had.”
Dashiell made friends with everyone he encountered — unless someone gave him bad service.
“He loved his relationships that he had with people at the grocery store,” Pfanenstiel said. “He’d go to the commissary on the base every Friday.”
Dashiell would make salsa to give to the sackers and would bring them photos of flowers and butterflies “just to make them smile,” his daughter said.
“They’re probably wondering where he is today,” she said Friday.
DeVaughn said he and James have always welcomed fishermen to the pond.
“We’ll even bring people drinks — soda, water — when we see them.”
Ironically, he said he doesn’t believe there are any fish in the pond.
“My kids and I have tried so many times.”
He’s often swam in it, usually after a bet gone wrong.
“When Richard and I lose, we have to swim the pond.”
Even given what happened with Dashiell, DeVaughn said that “absolutely I don’t have a negative connotation” about the pond.
“Robert loved the pond and loved fishing there, and it’s something we loved.”