9/11 concert just the latest community service for Bob Bayers

Linden Hills institution is determined to create a Southwest tradition

September 11, 2001 was a day most will never forget. Bob Bayers wants to keep it that way, which is why he’s organizing the second annual 9/11 Tribute Concert at the Lake Harriet bandshell. The free concert begins at 7 p.m. on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

"It was a tragedy for the world," Bayers said of 9/11 as he stood in the back of his Linden Hills hardware store. "It shouldn’t go by unrecognized."

Last year’s Southwest recognition of the tragedy at the World Trade Center and Pentagon was attended by about 2,500 people — a number Bayers hopes can be met or even exceeded this year.

In order to realize the goal, he’s trying to make this show even better than last year’s, with a 54-piece orchestra and 60-member chorus made up of musical artists from 26 different local performing groups. They’ll play a wide-ranging selection of music, including three original pieces written especially with 9/11 in mind.

Universal language "This year’s concert is more international than last year’s," Bayers said. "We recognize that a lot of good people from a lot of different countries died on 9/11, and we’re honoring them, as well as all of the innocent Americans who died that day."

In addition to traditional patriotic songs such as "God Bless America" and Aaron Copland’s "Fanfare for a Common Man," the tribute includes Jocelyn Hagen’s "Lux Aeterna," "Dry Your Tears, Afrika," from the movie Amistad (written by famed film composer John Williams), and "Finlandia," by composer Jean Sibelius.

"Music is an international language," Bayers said. "There’s not a whole lot you have to say, except ‘let the music speak for itself.’ "

He’s hoping the concert becomes a yearly gathering of Southwesterners standing together for peace in honor of the 9/11 victims.

"It’s in my heart," Bayers said. "To see the warm outpouring [from the community] at last year’s concert, I won’t let it rest. I want to see it done right year after year."

That ambition might well be achieved if even a small percentage of the friends he’s made in his 51 years show up every

September 11th.

Doing it best Born just a couple of blocks away from Bayers’ Do it Best Hardware store, 4312 Upton Ave. S., Bayers has spent most of his life in Southwest. His family moved to Edina when he was a child, but he moved back after finishing high school in suburbia.

Now the burly, bearded community leader is as much a Linden Hills institution as his store, which his great-uncle originally brought into the family in 1923.

It’s a minor miracle that a modest hardware store succeeds among the chic assortment of high-end establishments now populating that commercial neighborhood.

"Customer service," Bayers explained simply, adding "Be right back," before rushing off to talk to an elderly woman about installing the $1.99 electrical cord she’s thinking of buying for her toaster.

What’s remarkable in this age of monolithic, impersonal megastores is that neither the woman, nor the other customers wandering in and out on a weekday afternoon, appear at all surprised by the attention he showers upon them.

"It’s what you expect when you come in here," one man said as he examined the carpet cleaning gear in the back of the store. "Then again, maybe it’s Bob’s secret recipe for popcorn."

Bayers’ Do It Yourself Hardware is so old-fashioned that they even have free, fresh popcorn on the counter as you enter the store. But it isn’t the popcorn or even the time-honored attention to customers that sets Bob Bayers apart. He’s the kind of guy who works six days a week and spends the seventh day trying to make his community better. On a recent day off, he went to the State Fair with his Masonic lodge, creating free, protective IDs for children.

He’s also just volunteered in his 34th Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon on Labor Day, has spent the past 25 Christmases playing Santa Claus for kids as part of his activities as a Shriner, is a past president of the Linden Hills Business Association and has served on the board of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council.

Sounds of peace His focus right now is on the 9/11 Tribute Concert, however.

"Some people go to their place of worship and pray for world peace," he said. "And that’s great. This concert is my way of helping many express the hope that the world can be at peace through song and music and by marking the occasion of our national tragedy."

This year, because of city budget cuts, concert organizers have to pay a $785 Park Board fee that was waived for the first concert. If you’d like to make a donation to help defray the costs of the event, you can send a check made out to "Bob Bayers’ 9/11 Tribute" to 4312 Upton Ave. S., Minneapolis, 55410.

"We’re not trying to raise funds for anything but perpetuating this, our way of dealing with and remembering 9/11," Bayers said. "Any money left over will be used as seed money for next year’s concert."

You can get more information at 926-1605 or at our911tribute.com.