"We called him Uncle Bob," said Philipa Caplan, whose late former husband, Fred Glazerman, produced Hope's two last city appearances in the late '70s.
"Having dinner with him was like having family around the table."
The legendary comedian died late Sunday at age 100. He appeared in Winnipeg on several occasions, among them in 1930 at the Orpheum Theatre, 1953 at the Winnipeg Amphitheatre, 1955 at the Civic Auditorium and 1960 at Winnipeg Arena.
Glazerman, who died in 2000, brought Hope to town in 1977 and 1979. Hope appeared both years at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
"He was a raconteur like you never heard," recalled Caplan, who entertained Hope at the Westin Hotel in '79 with Glazerman, their two boys, Daniel and Alyn, and Caplan's parents, Sadie and Dave Shragge of Regina.
"I remember him being so interested in my parents, who weren't part of the showbusiness world," said Caplan, a human resource officer with Macdonald Youth Services.
"He sent flowers to us at home afterward to thank us for a wonderful evening. My mother almost fell off her chair."
Winnipeg's best gift to Hope was indisputably his lifelong love of golf, which began one afternoon in 1930 prior to his Orpheum date.
"There wasn't much to do in the morning except sit around the lobby in the hotel," Hope recalled in the May 2003 issue of the U.S. Airways magazine Attaché.
He had tried the game once before, in Cleveland in 1927, but had hated it. He was invited out to the links in Winnipeg by the Diamond Brothers, a comedy act on the northern vaudeville circuit with him.
He borrowed a set of clubs and went to what is thought to be Kildonan Golf Course, according to J. Alan Hackett in his 1998 history of golf in the province, Manitoba Links.
"I hit a bag of practice balls and played a few holes," Hope told Attaché. "I've been in love with the game ever since."
Decades later, he took to wearing a Winnipeg-made Tundra sweater after company partners Lou Kliman and Hugh Lowery sent him one.
'Bob loves the sweater'
"His wife, Dolores, sent me a letter saying 'Bob loves the sweater. I'm going to make him wear it with the label on the outside,' " said Kliman, who sold the company, Standard Knitting, in 1991. "She was joking about the second part."
Kliman says he was asked to donate the sweater to Hope by Andrew Coffey, the prominent Thunder Bay menswear retailer who became one of Hope's golf buddies in the '80s.
"Andrew used to ride around in Bob's cart in Las Vegas," said Kliman, who supplied Tundra sweaters to Coffey's store.
"When he brought Bob to Thunder Bay, he said, 'You can come over to our house for stew,' and Bob said he'd be delighted."
To this day, hanging in Kliman's River Heights den and on the wall of Standard's Inkster Boulevard plant is a 1992 picture of Hope on the links, wearing, Joseph-like, his Tundra sweater of many colours.
"He liked the look," said Alan Einarson, Standard's current vice-president of design. "They were sweaters that older golf guys really looked good in."
Veteran Winnipeg photographer Barney Charach has a souvenir photo of himself with Hope, taken by his wife Myrna in '79.
"I'm not star-struck, but he was very pleasant," Myrna said.
"All these celebrities are normal people like everybody else."
Winnipeg bandleader Ron Paley, however, still glows at the memory of opening for Hope at his May 17, 1979, gig with a 19-member big band.
"He was a wonderful human being, a great, great performer," said Paley, who recalled Hope joking about the blue tuxedos he had bought for his musicians.
"He said we'd probably got them from a rental agency and he assessed it right. The whole show was so memorable. We often still talk about it."
In the late '70s, Caplan recalls, she'd answer the phone in the Glazermans' Ash Street home. It would be "Uncle Bob" calling to shmooze with Fred.
"He and Fred would have these long conversations," Caplan said. "He loved to hear about the action, or non-action, in Winnipeg."
The Winnipeg Free Press's entertainment editor in the 1950s, Frank Morriss, reached for superlatives in reviewing Hope's April 1953 Amphitheatre show.
"Bob has timing working like a fabulous jewelled watch," Morriss wrote.
"Every syllable arrives at the right place at the right split-second. He extracts everything there is from a joke, right down to the last period."