I last saw Bobby Hinckley at Katz’s Bagels on a Sunday about one month ago.
For the past 20 years, we’d meet there almost every Sunday morning.
He didn’t look good and he said so.
“I’m pretty sick,” he told me. “The doctors can’t figure out exactly what’s wrong with my liver.”
We shook hands and high fived one another, as we always tended to do.
I watched him walk out of Katz’s.
He turned and said, “Let’s hope I can see you next week.”
He still had his smile, even at that late stage when Bobby was heading toward the end.
As sick as he was, he wasn’t seeking sympathy and he didn’t complain about his plight.
The end came Saturday when Bobby died.
He was 54.
His death caused an outpouring of emotion in this city among those of us who knew Bobby – what he had been and what he had become.
Bobby Hinckley was a wild, wild guy in his youth and long into adulthood.
He was the first to admit that every Sunday at Katz’s when we’d meet and shake hands and trade tall tales about the old days.
He did it all. He experienced it all. He made many mistakes which he admitted to – and more importantly – which he regretted.
However, for the last 20-25 years, Bobby Hinckley set the example. He raised the bar of his own life and helped to save many, many others from ruination. Still more were helped back to sanity and sobriety by Bobby.
He was a larger than life figure in this city in more ways than one when he was coming up the ladder.
First of all, he was a very, very large and imposing man.
Second, he was strong as a bull and willing to fight at all times.
At Chelsea High School, he played football – and you didn’t want to be lined up against Bobby Hinckley because he’d hit you like a ton of bricks and enjoy it, which made it all the worse if you were the guy being hit.
During his adulthood Bobby continued as a brawler, a drinker and doing other things as well that didn’t always give him a clear head.
He was an iron worker – a professional welder.
The tough job made him tougher. He worked hard. He partied hard. He was a very angry guy when he was using.
You did not want to insult him or get in his way or tell a bad joke he wouldn’t appreciate.
Then came the awakening and Bobby ditched all that.
He cleaned up his act.
He changed his life – and everyone came to know him as a much different man, a better man, and someone who was always willing to do for others.
He married Marylou Flamingo and they had a son, Robert, III.
He was in all his various incarnations a devoted family man but ever so with his wife and son, whom he adored – and for whom his loss will be so hard to take.
He was their heart and soul – and they were in his.
Bobby Hinckley didn’t want to die.
He loved being alive.
He enjoyed his existence and who he had become over the years.
Bobby Hinckley was a happy man and a good, good guy.