MORRILTON, Ark. — Longtime EWTN host Bob Lord passed away on Feb. 13. After Bob and his wife, Penny, made their first appearance on Eternal Word Television Network in a 1986 interview with Mother Angelica, the Lords became network regulars, perennial favorites loved by EWTN’s international family of viewers. Penny died on Jan. 21, 2014.
The Lords appeared in series after series, week after week, hosting more than 200 programs, most of which were filmed on location at shrines and other holy places, highlighting pilgrimages, saints and Eucharistic miracles. From the late ’80s until now, the Lords have always been on EWTN — at this point, close to 30 years, said Doug Keck, EWTN’s president and chief operating officer. He called the Lords “foundational fixtures at EWTN.”
“What was great about them is they fit into Mother’s understanding of the family,” he said. “The people could welcome them into their home like their aunt and uncle, getting to visit all the places they could never visit. In a sense, it was like watching home movies.”
Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa detailed how the Lords loved Mother Angelica and the opportunities to contribute to her service of the Gospel. “They were always filled with wide smiles when they came to EWTN, and they always left you with the words, ‘God love you.’”
Bob and Penny were married 55 years at the time she predeceased him. He is survived by his grandson Rob Ziminsky and his wife, Andrea, their two children, Matthew and Mark, of Illinois; his daughter Clare Parker, her husband, Bobby, and daughter Christiana of South Carolina; and his adopted son and daughters, Luz Elena Sandoval-Lord, Raymond Joseph (Brother Joseph) Freyaldenhoven and Blanca Estela Perez of Holy Family Mission in Morrilton, Ark. The Lords were predeceased by a son, Richard.
The funeral will be held Feb. 26, with the Rosary prayed Feb. 25 at 6pm and visitation to follow at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Morrilton, Ark. The funeral Mass will be 10am at Sacred Heart Church. Bob will be interred next to his beloved Penny in the Holy Family Mission Holy House of Loreto Chapel Crypt, also in Morrilton.
Bob Lord was born on Sept. 9, 1935, in the Bronx, N.Y., where he went to Cardinal Hayes High School. After serving two years in the Army during the Korean War, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Bob would later write of himself: “On Sept. 23, 1957, his life changed when he met Pauline Macaluso (who became Penny Lord) at a birthday party given her by friends from the Academy. … They never took their eyes off each other from that time on.”
Bob emphasized in his autobiographical highlights, “Bob’s biography is really Bob and Penny’s biography, as they did everything together for 56 years.”
Instead of becoming actors, they chose to marry on Dec. 21, 1958, and build a home and family. In 1967, they moved to Santa Monica, Calif., for their son’s health. After a Marriage Encounter Weekend in 1975, after the death of their son, and coming back to the Church after being away for a time, they became a strongly committed couple with Jesus at the center of their lives.
A year later, the Lords made their first pilgrimage to Europe and the Holy Land. Their pilgrimages to churches, shrines and sanctuaries, especially ones that had to do with miracles of the Eucharist, became an annual event, as their hearts thirsted more and more to visit holy places.
Ten years later, Penny told Bob the Lord wanted him to write a book on the miracles of the Eucharist. Called This Is My Body, This Is My Blood: Miracles of the Eucharist, it was an instant success, eventually selling more than 300,000 copies. After talking about the book as guests on Mother Angelica’s show, she asked the Lords to make a television series about it. It proved so popular that the Lords continued to make series that have aired continuously on EWTN, often five days a week.
From his vantage of knowing the Lords for many years, Father Pacwa witnessed, “Because of that love of God, they were also willing to go wherever they needed to go in order to serve him. Whether they needed to relocate their residence or whether they needed to travel the world to discover more about the Church, they always went wherever they felt needed.”
They traveled tirelessly to bring people the stories of miracles, shrines, churches, sanctuaries and saints. “Penny was always on the move, and Bob’s job was to manage the ship and get it to where Penny wanted it to go,” Keck noted. “They always worked as a team.”
Truly, they did. As pilgrimage directors, the Lords founded Journeys of Faith (BobandPennyLord.com) in 1980 and wrote 24 more books that followed Bob’s first. “Each would write a different chapter in the books,” Keck explained. “They would assign each other the chapters they would write.” Then each would read the other’s chapters as they worked. They even wrote for the Register.
In 2000, Bob and Penny also opened Holy Family Mission, as a base to write, complete their films, have conferences, days of recollection and St. Joseph’s Table, and build a replica of the Holy House of Loreto.
Yet these kinds of accomplishments don’t tell the whole story of Bob Lord.
“Bob was a dear friend whose faith was an inspiration to me,” noted Peter Gagnon, EWTN’s vice president of programming and production. Whenever the Lords were in town, they would have dinner with the Gagnons. “They were like grandparents to our children.”
“One of the great witnesses Bob gave to me was his devotion to Penny,” he reflected. “He truly lived his vocation as a husband and was always focused on Penny, and, together, they were constantly looking to Our Lord. Even after Penny died, I so often said ‘Bob and Penny’ when talking to people about him. Even in death, they couldn’t be separated.”
Keck said it was tough for Bob in the two years Penny was gone. A letter from Bob arrived at EWTN the first week of February, in which “he referenced the fact he always thinks she’s out on a shoot and will be back.”
“It was always the two of them, working together, each giving 100% to the other,” Keck affirmed of this unbroken bond.
As Father Pacwa observed, “Obviously, they loved each other and looked at each other with great love.”
He related, “They volunteered advice on a successful marriage to young couples they met here at the network, and they based that advice on their own experiences.”
Bob and Penny together were unwavering in their love and faith. They lived the two great commandments.
“First, they loved our blessed Lord with everything within themselves,” Father Pacwa confirmed. He observed Bob, like Penny, did everything possible to show people the concrete realities of God’s love.
And because of their love of God, they loved the Blessed Virgin Mary, as many saints as they could possibly learn about and the whole of the Catholic faith.
“They taught simply, sincerely and as often as possible.”
Gagnon also continuously saw that, “along with Penny, Bob was an unabashed defender of the Church and never missed an opportunity to share the faith with others. It was amazing to me how people who were struggling in their faith were often drawn to them for guidance, understanding and encouragement.”
Father Pacwa pointed out Penny may have done most of the speaking, but Bob always chimed in. They wanted to speak the truth and beauty of God, his saints and his truth.
With their Super Saints series, which is currently running on EWTN, Bob and Penny “did more to promote saints, especially in a period of time when there wasn’t a lot of focus on the saints, to keep that information alive,” Keck stressed. “I think they did a fabulous service to the Church in the late ’80s and ’90s. They did a good job bridging that gap that was an important part of their mission and ministry — they loved the saints.”
Concern for Others
Bob and Penny’s deep love and concern for others showed in ways large and small. A few years ago, when Gagnon found out he had leukemia, Bob and Penny were still traveling to shrines throughout the world. They sent him relics and holy oils from the different shrines, and everywhere they went, they would ask people to pray for him.
“I remember Bob calling and telling me, ‘It looks like a bonfire at these shrines with the number of candles we are lighting for you!’” Gagnon happily recalled. “They inspired me to always keep my faith in Our Lord and Our Lady during that time. Little did any of us know that they would also go through similar battles in the near future.”
This past year, when Bob found out he had cancer, Gagnon said both talked every week, exchanging chemotherapy stories, discussing side effects and sharing their struggles.
“The one thing that I came away with every time was the thought that he has put himself in God’s hands,” Gagnon emphasized. “Just a few days ago, he and I were talking about some of the difficult side effects he was having and his response was, ‘Lenten sacrifices!’ That was Bob — all for Jesus.”
When it came to others, nothing was insignificant for the Lords. Keck recollected how they always made sure when visiting EWTN to walk around the whole place “to see all the people, not just some; to make sure everyone knew how important they were to the mission — everybody. They were real people people.”
And, as Gagnon noted, Bob had a great sense of humor.
“We would constantly be joking and laughing whenever we got together,” Gagnon said. “He was like Penny and Mother Angelica in that way: showing that our faith is not a sad faith — it is one of joy.”
Months after Penny died, Bob wrote a letter to her, which he posted on his blog. He titled it “Happy Birthday in Heaven: Sept. 23, 2014.” It’s part of the monumental love story that was Bob and Penny — love for the Lord, love for each other, the saints, the Church and everyone they met.
“My Precious Penny, this is one of the most special love letters I will ever write to you,” Bob began.
“It is your first birthday in heaven. I’m not with you physically. That’s not good. But I can envision the magnificent celebration which will be given in your honor today.
“I can’t hold your hand the way I always have for 57 years. But this year, our son Richard can hold your hand, or your best friend, St. Anthony, can hold your hand. Or better yet, maybe our Lord Jesus will hold your hand. That would be awesome. …
“I will have to wait for another time to hold your hand, and put my arm around you. Spiritually, I’ll be part of the party, so I’ll be with you nevertheless.”
As Gagnon concluded, “Now that he is reunited with Penny, they can once again say together their signature sign off, ‘We love you!’”
Joseph Pronechen is a Register staff writer.