Obituary: Robert Boyd, 1949-2024 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Robert Boyd, 1949-2024

Writer and musician was also an internationally recognized tai chi master

Published July 2, 2024 at 6:00 a.m.

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Robert Douglas Boyd (aka Bob, Faj, Bao Tak Fai, Johnny Silver, Boob, and Master Boyd), born in Burlington Vt., left this world on June 21, at the tender age of 74, surrounded by his family. A unique, creative character, he blazed his own path through life in pursuit of varied creative endeavors — music, writing, and martial arts — and in his most important role, as a proud and loving parent and husband.

From his first performance at John J. Flynn Elementary School in the third grade, singing “Sixteen Tons of #9 Coal,” to fronting dozens of rock, country, rockabilly and blues bands over the years, to his most recent venture — singing classics and playing jazz guitar from the great American songbook — Bob was a gifted guitarist, vocalist and showman.

As a writer, he started off as a cub reporter for the Burlington Free Press, before moving onto copywriting for print and radio ads with a major ad agency in Burlington. He partook directly in their productions, singing jingles, producing tv ads and doing his best John Wayne impersonation for radio spots. He joined forces with his good friend Connie Ramsey to form their own ad agency — known as Ramsey Boyd and later Blue Moon Advertising. Their collaboration won them coveted awards from Vermont to Boston, including a Clio, one of the world’s most prestigious creative excellence awards. He wrote and published several books about snake style tai chi and spent much of his life writing fiction — even though those close to him knew those stories were more autobiographical than he was letting on.

In the mid-‘60s, he set off on a path that would become a central focus of his life — the study of martial arts. From the early days as a karate student achieving a fourth-degree black belt, traveling to Okinawa, Japan, to learn from masters, becoming an instructor, and taking over the Uechi-Ryu Karate School in Burlington, he never stopped pursuing his study of martial arts. In the early ‘80’s, he transitioned to tai chi chuan, and after years of teaching and personal pursuit, he was sought out and accepted as a private student by the Grand Master Ip Tai Tak in Hong Kong. He quickly mastered the hidden system of snake style tai chi and became the adopted son and second disciple of Master Ip, and the first ever American to be brought into the Yang family tai chi chuan’s long lineage. Bob went on to become an internationally recognized tai chi master, passing his extensive knowledge of the snake style on to students in the U.S., Canada and Europe. He was executive director of the Burlington Tai Chi Institute and founder of the International Snake Style Association, both with the mission to preserve and perpetuate snake style sai shi for eternity.

Bob was a voracious learner and devoted teacher, who for years had vowed to pursue his creative passions until the day that he died — a promise that he was able to keep. He was practicing tai chi up until his final days on Earth. He touched so many people and enriched the lives of all those he came in contact with. He was humble, patient and generous with all his friends, family and students. He longed for a fair and just world and strived to set an example for what a peaceful, caring world could look like. It would be remiss to omit that he had an extraordinary relationship with his family, especially his son, Jackson. Theirs was a symbiotic relationship where each one was the other one’s hero.

Bob is survived by his wife of 43 years, Sydnee (née Silverman), of South Hero, Vt.; his son Jackson (Luz Gonzales), of Chicago, Ill.; sister, Sheryl Morehead (Tim O’Brien), of Burlington, Vt.; brother, Stewart (Wendy Byrne), of South Burlington, Vt.; aunt and godmother, June Terrien, of Burlington, Vt.; godchildren Polly Cain Mangan, of Burlington, Vt. and Trevor Ford, of Austin Texas; brother-in-law, Steven “Skip” Silverman, MD (Bonnie), of Sarasota, Fla.; nephew Will Morehead, of Burlington, Vt.; nephew Danny Silverman, of Los Angeles, Calif.; niece, Laurie Waldron (Josh), of Tampa, Fla.; two grandnieces, one granddog, and a number of cousins; very longtime friend and tai chi student, Ernie Pomerleau, of Burlington, Vt.; Mabel Ip of Hong Kong; disciples Thierry Bai,of France, Orit Alkabetz of France, Marcel Friederichs of Germany; and tai chi students here and abroad. He was predeceased by his father, Stewart Boyd Sr.; mother, Ann Clement; stepfather, Earle “Dexo” Clement; parents-in-law, Al and Shirley Silverman (Sarasota, Fla.); his beloved man’s best friend, Pudd; and dear friends, Dan Gibson (Fletcher, Vt.), Ned Strianese (Burlington, Vt.) and John Mech MD (Burlington, Vt.). Bob and Sydnee were longtime residents of South Hero and recently spent winter months at their home in Portugal. It was there that he was in closer proximity to his European disciples and students.

Profound gratitude goes to those who cared for him and his wife and son during Bob’s critical time of need; to brother Stewart and wife, Wendy, and the whole Vermont clan down at Trailer Estates in Florida; Ernie Pomerleau; Elita Soria (Chicago); Steve Hawthorne and Sandrine Simon (Costa da Caparica, Portugal); his devoted nurse, Jill (Bradenton, Fla.); and brother-in-law, Dr. Skip, who worked tirelessly through complicated barriers of the health care system to ensure Bob’s recovery.

There will be a memorial and celebration, hosted by his family on Sunday, August 18, at Snow Farm Winery in South Hero, Vt. The family will commence the event at noon with tributes to Bob, followed by the celebration. RSVPs are appreciated, (email to [email protected]).

A memorial and reunion will take place for tai chi students and disciples on Friday, August 16. Details to follow at a later date. Donations in memory of Bob’s life and work may be made to any of the following:

Worthen Library, c/o Kathleen Swanson, Community Lane, South Hero VT 05486

Champlain Islands Food Shelf, PO Box 24, North Hero, VT 05474

C.I.D.ER. (Champlain Islanders Developing Essential Resources), PO Box 13, South Hero, VT 05486

The accolades are endless for Bob, but he was a writer and liked to keep his prose simple. So, in the words of his musical hero Frank Sinatra, “I did it myyyyyyyyy way.”

Arrangements entrusted to Chicagoland Cremation Options of Schiller Park, Ill.

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