As I write this column, my eyes keep straying from the computer keys under my fingertips to the empty chair in the cubicle across from me. That’s where Bob Hanna used to sit.
Bob hasn’t sat in that chair for weeks and I’ve missed him. Now that I know he’ll never sit in that chair again, I’m starting to miss him even more.
Early Friday morning, I was told my long time compatriot and very good friend had passed away last week.
The cause of death was said to be natural causes, but I’m convinced Bob died of a broken heart.
His wife, Beverly, passed away unexpectedly about a month ago and hit Bob harder than any devastating punch he ever described in his volumes of well-written, informative boxing columns over his 40-plus-year writing career here.
After Beverly, writing was Bob’s greatest love. And, for my money, there was no better writer than the guy who sat in that now-empty chair.
I don’t remember the date Bob joined The Standard-Times sports department, but it was just a handful of years after I joined the family in June of 1966.
For whatever reason, we seemed to hit it off right away. So much so that some people in the old Standard-Times building referred to us as Abbott and Costello or Martin and Lewis. Whichever comparison, Bob was always the straight man.
Whether he was covering an event or was writing a story, he was all business. He wasn’t always proficient at meeting daily deadlines but the finished product was pristine. Bob could make a dull subject matter shine with a writing style and vocabulary that appealed to anyone interested enough to read. And, his “So Help Me” weekly columns attracted legions of readers over the years.
He was at his best when it came to the sports of running and boxing.
The only running I did was to the refrigerator or bathroom and was real happy to have Bob relieve me as the main writer for the New Bedford Half-Marathon shortly after he arrived. With Bob painting word pictures, the annual event became the Mona Lisa of running events in the Whaling City.
Boxing was in Bob’s blood and when he wasn’t bobbing-and-weaving his way through an occasional street fight in the suburbs of Boston as a youth, he was a walking encyclopedia of the sport, thanks to hours of reading boxing books and magazines.
We often double-covered the Golden Gloves competition — which was big in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s — but when it came down to who had the most knowledge of the sport, Bob won by a TKO. Flair may not have been his style, but when it came to accuracy, he knocked out the opposition.
I don’t think he ever won an award for writing, but that’s only because Bob wasn’t interested in entering contests. He wasn’t interested in impressing a panel of judges. His only interest was pleasing his readers, of which he had many.
I don’t know what his legion of boxing and running readers are going to get now. Hopefully, they’ll get something to satisfy their interests even though it won’t feature the Hanna flavor. Nothing ever will.
I’m going to miss my dear friend for a lot of reasons.
I’ll miss seeing his name above a story because that’s what got me (and a lot of others) to read it, no matter what the subject happened to be.
But, most of all, I’ll miss seeing him sitting in that chair in the opposite cubicle, chewing on a sandwich staring at the notes he wrote the previous night before inputting them into the computer, turning them into another well-written column or feature story.
I miss Bob a lot already, just as those who have read him over the years are beginning to miss him now.
But, I also take solace in knowing he’s reuniting with his greatest love… his wife, Beverly.
God bless you Bob and thanks for memories.
Rest in peace.
Buddy Thomas writes for The Standard-Times. He can be reached at email@example.com