Jul 052011

I had the honor to speak with Mr. Bob Gurnsey. I really was interested in hearing about Bob’s life in his own words. Of course most know the history of the man who created Paintball. I wanted to make it more than just that. I wanted to get to know him on a personal level. I was interested in his adventures, his health and his life as it is today.

I will touch on Bob’s past a bit. A true Entrepreneur. As a matter of fact Bob Mentored a class on Entrepreneurship at Amos Tuck Business School. At the end of the semester, Bob was asked by his students what he thought an Entrepreneur was. Bob quotes, “I will give you 5 minutes to write down what you think it is“. After reading their thoughts, he quotes, “An Entrepreneur is a Street Fighter“ he follows by saying, I don’t have an MBA, I learn as I go and there is nothing like paintball! Bob led many businesses to success, he was the back bone that pushed Paintball forward, his efforts made Paintball one of the greatest games ever created. Bob is still involved in the game today, he has tremendous strength and will never give up. Although keep in mind he took the brunt of lawsuits in the Paintball business. He defeated all of the cases and spent over one million dollars in fighting. He managed to defend himself without involving any of his ex business partners in the legal mess.

Gurnsey and daughter at the Red Barn

While touching on his health, he took me back to a place in his life that was fascinating to me. Imagery, a state of mind, that can actually heal the body. Bob was misdiagnosed in the mid 80′s. Doctors diagnosed him with Acute High Level Lymphoma; Bob was given 3 weeks to live. He started a treatment called “Slamming”, which destroys the body with a very high dose of Chemotherapy, Bob went through this treatment for 6 months. He endured this treatment many hours a day for five days straight. Bob would then get fifteen days off then head right back to treatment. “If you can get through this, you can get through anything” as Bob humbly puts it. He used this imagery in a way to fight off the cancer cells. He would imagine in a deep state of mind that his good cells were attacking the bad ones and winning. He calls this method “Spinach and Warriors” After this treatment Bob continued on his journey, accomplishing his goals. In 2003 he was diagnosed with Leukemia. The blood tests determined that his Leukemia had started back in the 80’s when he was originally diagnosed. Bob started more treatment at that time, he moved to Jacksonville, Fl in 2004 to get his treatment from the Mayo clinic. He is still there today.

When I spoke with Bob I could hear the life and energy in his voice. He would tell stories and laughter would interrupt. At one point he says to me, so lets talk about you Tina. Well, I really laughed then and said no, no, I am listening continue on please. So he did which I was pleased.

Bob had interesting things to say besides paintball. He was a ski coach in the 1970′s and also raced cars at 160 mph. Being a skier has an interesting place in Bob’s life. One would think that, this has been an up hill battle, as true as it may be, Bob would never admit it. He told me of the story about using Imagery with his Ski students. He would have them stand just at the edge of the slope and image the run, all the way through, every hill, bump, and curve until they reached the bottom. It worked! I think Bob’s life “in his own mind” is similar to skiing. He will tell it like this “I am the perfect person to have cancer because I am able to laugh“. Bob thanks his wife Lori, his family, his Mayo Doctors, his friends and many prayers through out his life for keeping him alive. Bob tries to gives inspiration to the Patience at the Mayo clinic by saying, It’s just Spinach and Warriors”. And he leaves it at that.

I must say, he has not given up in any way and he wants people to know this in his words, “I have plenty of life left with many goals” Bob and I spoke about his plans for the future. As we spoke I talked about a Fund Raiser I was helping with in Orlando, Fl. He asked, what can I do to help? Well when he decided to attend the event I was floored! So he will be there, and this will make many people happy to meet him. He wants to continue giving back as much as he can. Bob also is attending the “Paintball Festival” in Pittsburgh and handing out the Lifetime achievement award at the Business conference August 5-6. Then Bob plans to carry on to, The Black Market War game on Aug 27-28 in New York. He will continue his journey by traveling back to 1981 with a group of people to visit where the “first 12 man game was held”. In Henniker, New Hampshire. Bob will carry on to 1982 Sutton, New Hampshire to visit the first commercial field. His journey does not end there. He will also be touring the Red Farm house. This is where Bob did his business affairs, he said to me, “boy the city did not like those UPS trucks tearing up that dirt road”, as he laughed.

When Bob returns home he would like to start on a book. “An American Story About A True Entrepreneur. He has many great ideas and is currently looking for some support in making these ideas happen.

Mr. Bob Gurnsey you are a true inspiration. It was an honor to talk with you. You are correct in your quote “You are the right kind of person for this“. And all though you can’t race that car at 160mph anymore, you have already won the race. Thank you for all that you have done.

By Tina “Golden Girl” Ruzzo