Robert VanDeventer

Robert VanDeventer

He lived life on his own terms

If Rob could be described in one word, it would be nonconformist. He was independent, strong-willed, and often contrary. Rob loved all things outdoors, as well as quieter pursuits like painting, reading, and writing. Music was a mainstay in his life. He was well-read and quick-witted, with a wicked sense of humor and a gorgeous smile.

Rob’s history with substance use began at age eleven. He experimented with different drugs for the next few decades, but considered marijuana “his best friend and savior.” His substance use became inextricably tied to his lifestyle, personality, and experiences.

“He became addicted at such a young age. It’s impossible to ascertain how it changed him,” his sister Kati said. “It became a fundamental and formative part of his development.”

There were many times Rob was met with compassion, and many times he wasn’t. Resources became more difficult to access and support grew scarce as his health deteriorated. He was diagnosed with hepatitis–C, pancreatitis, and Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, as well as depression, anxiety, and symptoms of bipolar disorder. Kati shared that medical professionals “were often dismissive and sent him away to vomit, bleed, and suffer on the streets.” After becoming homeless, some regarded him as “less than human.” These encounters exacerbated the challenges to Rob’s mental and physical health. His lifestyle made him vulnerable to many violent assaults, including a gunshot wound to his head. Although he survived, it dramatically affected his cognitive abilities and accelerated his decline.

Rob came to rely solely on himself. He did whatever it took to survive. Over the years, he held several jobs, such as working in restaurants, construction, and on a shrimp boat in Alaska. His favorite job was logging; he loved being alone in nature. His inability or unwillingness to conform meant that most of his jobs were short-lived.

“Rob refused to follow societal expectations,” said Kati. “He stubbornly opposed following any rules, for any reason.”

Later in life, he considered stealing to be his profession—particularly from corporations. He had an affinity for expensive outdoor gear, knives, watches, and bikes. In Robin Hood fashion, he enjoyed sharing his spoils, too.

Rob was friendly, charming, and could strike up a conversation with anyone; but his closest relationships were with his mother, Jinny, and his sister, Kati. They enjoyed countless family ski vacations, where he was the king of the “yard sale.” Their favorite memories of him were on road trips to Yellowstone, the West Coast, and Canada. He and Kati climbed steep Garden Creek Falls while Jinny desperately tried not to watch. The three of them enjoyed many lazy days at the lake and camping with friends. He and his sister loved to rock out to Janis Joplin together. Kati’s sweetest memories of her little brother are from childhood when he and their dog, Bernice, slept on the floor next to her bed every night. Rob was always his mother’s golden boy.

Substance use disorder (SUD) shaped the lives of Rob and his loved ones. Watching the state, medical, and legal “safety nets” fail repeatedly was exhausting and demoralizing. Their hearts broke repeatedly and their hopelessness grew as they fought his decline.

“We miss his sense of humor, the love we shared when he was able, and the sweet young boy that we lost,” Kati said. “SUD robbed him of his best qualities and tragically shaped his quality of life and his death.”

Rob’s sister, Kati, and mother, Jinny, provided the information for this narrative.
June 6, 1972 – June 1, 2023–Age 51

Portrait Artist: Theresa Clower
Narrative Writer: Angela Day

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