If you’ve ever seen a photo of an eagle, high in a tree or soaring through the sky above Lake Hopatcong, it was likely taken by Bob Behrent. The 73-year-old Roxbury Township resident, armed with a camera lens as long as a Louisville Slugger, manages to take stunning shots that invite viewers right into the eagles’ living room.
“My passion is to share my enjoyments with others,” said Bob, who often shares his shots on the “Lake Hopatcong Memories” Facebook page, “especially what the eagles, our nation’s great symbol, provide for me to impart to others.”
Bob parlays his photographic skills into a unique way of helping the Lake Hopatcong Foundation soar. He’s a regular on the Miss Lotta’s “Eagle Cruises,” making presentations to guests on board and raffling off canvas prints of his best work to benefit the LHF.
A long career in the field of electronic devices saw Bob sharing the sky, in a sense, with the birds he loves to photograph. His work has taken him on numerous flights around the globe, logging more than 2.5 million frequent-flier miles along the way.
He has written two books on air travel, “Planes, Pranks and Pepto Bismol: Tales and Tips From a Seasoned Road Warrior,” and “Pranks and Pepto Bismol, Too: More Tales and Tips From a Seasoned Road Warrior.”
Now retired, those frequent-flier miles have been turned in trips, with his camera of course, to National Parks and other scenic destinations from Florida to Alaska. For all his skyward interests and experiences, however, Bob’s beginnings were, quite literally, very down-to-earth.
The Irvington native’s father died when he was 11 and he did his best to contribute to the household finances. As a 12-year-old, Bob and a friend launched a worm business, digging, raising and selling them to sporting goods shops.
“Sure, catching night crawlers on a rainy night in the city park was somewhat odd,” conceded Bob, “but wearing winter rubber boots to dig for Georgia red worms in the cow manure mountains at the Tuscan dairy farm in Union was for surely odd for preteen kids.”
So, how did a kid from Irvington worm his way to Lake Hopatcong?
“In two years, we made over $600, more than enough to buy a used 12-foot aluminum runabout boat, motor and trailer,” said Bob, who had also adopted his father’s camera after his passing. “My friend’s father would tow it and us to Hopatcong for boating and fishing, then eventually water skiing. So, began my love for the lake in the late ‘50s.”
Unable to afford college, Bob took a job as an electronics parts distributor and, to learn more about the business, took mail order courses from the DeVry Institute for training as an electronics technician.
After 20 years of ascending through the ranks, he resigned, started his own company, Bomar Interconnect Products, named after himself and his wife, Mary. Twenty-five years later, in 2013, he sold the company to his largest competitor, bought a new boat and retired to use it on Lake Hopatcong.
While Bob’s life may read like an American success story, his was not without setbacks, perhaps the most compelling of which was a heart attack in 1990, which resulted in quadruple bypass surgery and, in 2015, open-heart surgery. He has also endured spinal surgery, 15 hand surgeries, and three days in an ICU after a reaction to bee stings.
“My most prized possession is my life and my health because without that, there is nothing,” said Bob. “My father died at age 43 and I was certain I wouldn’t make it beyond 43, myself, but I’m still around, which is remarkable to me.”
Not only is he still around, he’s making the most of his retirement years. Besides photography, he does occasional woodcarving projects, spends time at a gym, tends to 13 Japanese koi and is active with the Open Space Committee of Roxbury Township, where he has lived since 1979.
Bob also collects Mettlach steins, the first of which survived his great grandfather’s family’s 1878 arrival in the United States and from which he drank milk from as a child.
Bob has three adult daughters, Lory, Robyn and Cathy, and will celebrate his 37th wedding anniversary with Mary next year.
“Bob is so giving of his time and his expertise,” said LHF President Jess Murphy. “Not only does he help raise money for the Lake Hopatcong Foundation on the Eagle Cruises, he also has taken the time to talk to us at the Foundation about lake issues, helping us as we plan our future projects and initiatives.
“And he does it all with a smile on his face and a positive attitude. We’re so thankful he’s part of our world!”