Robert “Bobby” Hunter never wrote a bestselling novel, never won a political office, never made millions of dollars and never had a reality show. Hunter was a divorced highway foreman with two daughters. He lived his entire life in one town.
But when Hunter was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and his daughter and ex-wife had a benefit for him at the Port ‘N’ Starboard at Ocean Beach in 2011, more than 400 people showed up with dozens of items to raffle off.
“I work at Ocean Beach and I have never seen that many raffle items before,” said Hunter’s daughter, 19-year-old Katie Hunter. “He was overwhelmed.”
Bobby Hunter died Tuesday at the age of 61, after fighting cancer for 16 months. He lived his entire life in Waterford, and worked in the Waterford Public Works department for 37 years.
“He is the kind of guy, more in his older age, that just when you see him you want to hug him,” said lifelong friend Ed “Eddie” Reed. “Definitely going to be missed. Already is.”
The Family Of Bobby Hunter
Hunter’s father died when he was 16. He dropped out of school, and began working to take care of his four siblings. After getting a few jobs, he wound up at the , where he stayed for 37 years.
He got married and then divorced, although he stayed close with his ex-wife after they separated. The couple had two children, Kristy, 25, and Katie.
“They got along better apart than together,” Kristy Hunter said. “But my father always had a special place in his heart for my mother.”
Bobby Hunter went to night school in the early 1990s to finally earn his GED. While he didn’t have grandchildren, he had something almost as good, Kristy Hunter said.
“I have three dogs and he called them grand dogs,” she said. “That was him though, he just had this great sense of humor. All he did was make us laugh.”
When Hunter was diagnosed with cancer in October of 2010, it was hard for the girls and their mother to deal with, Kristy Hunter said. But Bobby Hunter stayed positive to the end, even driving himself to his early radiation treatments, she said.
“It would get so painful I couldn’t come down for a couple of days because I would be so choked up over it,” Kristy Hunter said. “You finally come to the realization of what am I doing, this is my last chance to spend time with him. It isn’t about how I feel, but about spending time with him that your never going to get back.”
The Work Of Bobby Hunter
When Nancy James went from working in a children’s library to being a secretary in the Waterford Public Works Department, she was in a “culture shock.” Instead of being surrounded by cute little kids, she was surrounded by big imposing men.
But one worker, Bobby Hunter, befriended her. And slowly, this group of tough men wasn’t so imposing any more, James said.
“I got a whole different perspective from him,” James said. “Bobby, honestly, was one of the most honest, dependable, loyal people you’ll ever meet.”
James would even ride with Hunter during her lunch break when he was plowing snow. After he retired in 2006, they remained friends, she said.
This past New Year's Eve, James visited Hunter in his hospital room, and brought confetti and sparkling cider to enjoy the holiday. One of her last memories was Hunter taking her to Gillette Castle to feed the ducks, something Hunter used to do with his two daughters.
“I tell you, I have tears in my eyes just talking to you,” James said. “But those are the things I can hold on to.”
The Friends of Bobby Hunter
Reed meet Hunter when he was 13-years-old. The two became fast friends, along with another Waterford guy named Ray Silver.
Ray, Eddie and Bobby did everything together, just having as much fun as three guys could have, Reed said. Hunter was the ultimate jokester, refusing to ever let anybody have a bad time, Reed said.
“There really are no bad Bobby stories,” Reed said. “Every time we hung out we just had fun.”
Friend Carol Wilson remembers the time that Hunter won a raffle, and he got a box of macaroni elbows and a small can of tomato sauce. Or the time that Wilson was treated poorly by a man, so Hunter and Silver picked up Wilson’s husband, who was short, so he could yell at the guy eye-to-eye.
Reed couldn’t even pinpoint a single memory as he fought back tears talking about Hunter. Both Silver and Hunter are now dead, he said.
“Life moves fast,” Reed said. “But the three of us were best friends, best buds. And we always will be.”