Meet The Neighbor – Rob and Elaine Bidelspacher

Rob Bidelspacher’s family settled in Williamsport Pennsylvania in 1832.  An adventurous lot, Rob’s father, Charles Bidelspacher had an outstanding legal career and practiced before the Supreme Court of the US. The family traveled extensively including a cruise to the West Indies  in 1957 on the Mauritania, the  sister ship of the Lucetania. They visited a number of islands on that trip, including St. Thomas and Haiti.  One of  Rob’s memories from that time was taking a photo of Papa Doc’s palace and having his camera smashed by security guards. A scary experience for a young boy.

While on St. Thomas,  the family heard good things about  St Croix and came to investigate.  Rob started the first of numerous visits to the island, staying with  a Danish classmate of his from Mercersberg Academy Prep School in Pennsylvania.  The classmate was  Eric Laewetz who had a home at St. Croix by the Sea.  Then, St. Croix by the Sea had the largest salt water pool in the western hemisphere, or so Eric said!

After high school, Rob went on to Denison University as an undergrad in economics.  His brother majored in Sociology, and his sister studied French and African studies at Tufts  and later joined the United Nations. Rob went on to law school at  American University during the Vietnam era and in 1966 Uncle Sam called and he was drafted. Then,  the US Army Reserve was becoming the Military Police and he was sworn in as an MP and gave instruction at Fort Ord in California on the Monterey Peninsula.  He volunteered to teach the Geneva and Hague Conventions.  He spent six years from 1967 to 1973 in the Army Reserves in Puerto Rico and St. Croix.  He had to survive economically so he took his real estate exam in 1968 and his broker’s exam in 1969.

Elaine grew up on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia and later lived in Holland and Switzerland.  Her father was a power engineer and had worked in Panama in WW2.  When Elaine was sixteen, her father was offered the #2 position in the VI Water and Power Authority.  She did her senior year here on St. Croix and like all good St. Croix families enjoyed the social activities that were put on at the yacht club.  The St. Croix Yacht Club was started in 1954, and by the late 50’s they had a fireplace and one room with a roof.  By the 1960s it was the center of the social  life on the island for sailing and gathering. Different families took turns in the kitchen each week.  Rob had been a national champion in the Sail Fish class and brought the first 3 sun fish to the Yacht Club. There were movie nights at the club and it was at one such night where Rob noticed a pretty girl reading a book. He decided to approach her, introduced himself and asked if he could join her.  She put the book down, shrugged her shoulders and lifted the book back up again!  Rob took this as a “Yes” and sat down to talk to her. They dated for a while and married at St. John’s Anglian Church with their wedding reception at Spratt Hall.  They had their honeymoon in Austria.  They have two sons, TJ their first born, lives on St. Croix and works as a chef at Cheeseburgers.  Their younger son, Kevin lives in Florida and has two little girls aged five and two.

One of the defining moments in their life, was the arrival of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 that brought winds more than 250 miles per hour.  Rob speaks of the five features of the hurricane that made it particularly dangerous.  It moved  on a diagonal across the island, was a category 5 hurricane, moved slowly and stayed a long time hitting every square inch of the island.  The last feature was that the Governor at the time, Alexander Farrily defaulted by not realizing the situation was as dire as it was.  There was 70 to 90% devastation.  Rob has been  on the advisory counsel for hurricane preparedness through three different administrations.

Their home at #3 North Grapetree Bay survived Hurricane Hugo, sustaining damage that they have since repaired.  Elaine and Rob are active members of the community and have contributed their knowledge and expertise many times for the benefit of the Grapetree Association.  They have always been a great resource for the history of the area and have many stories to tell.

Rob and Elaine