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Remembering Bobby Knight

"I learned that day that Bobby was a lot more than just a man who dressed in outrageous clothes and rode a bike. He was a person like everyone else who loved and hurt," remembers a reporter who came to know him well.

It was just last Saturday morning when my husband Mike and I visited with Bobby Knight at in the Bel Aire Plaza shopping center.

Bobby was worried about the end of the world. “Do you think it’s gonna happen soon?” he asked, somberly.

We reassured him. Although the world seems like a scary place,and its future may seem bleak, things are going to get better, and the world will be around for long, long time, I told him.

None of us could have expected that Bobby’s world would end in three days.

On Tuesday, Bobby, 52, was found unconscious at his Napa home by his brother.

Paramedics were summoned. Bobby was pronounced  dead at the scene. Police say there was no sign of foul play.

A familiar sight

Bobby's mental disabilities didn’t stop him from making himself well known: He was a familiar sight riding one of several decorated bicycles around Napa.

You couldn’t miss seeing him. With a multi-colored stocking hat, his flamboyant, psychedelic shirts and pajama-style pants and a two-day growth of whiskers usually covering his face, Bobby stood out in a crowd.

He worried about world problems and politics and had a ton of questions about the spiritual world.

But he also had a happy side that beamed when he rode his bike in parades and entered his artwork and baked goodies in the .

A wasn’t complete without Bobby all decked out in his most festive garb, riding his three-wheeler and pulling a cart loaded with a couple of dazzlingly decorated Christmas trees.

A new bike for Bobby

Although I would always wave at Bobby and he would reciprocate, I got to know him well several years ago when I was a reporter at the .

Someone had stolen Bobby’s three-wheel bicycle. Although he had several other two-wheelers, the three-wheel was his preferred choice of travel.

I was notified about Bobby’s loss. We met and I wrote a story for the newspaper.

No only did we talk about his stolen bike, but also about him, his thoughts, ideas and what made him happy and sad.

I learned that day that Bobby was a lot more than just a man who dressed in outrageous clothes and rode a bike. He was a person just like everyone else who loved and hurt.

The article generated a large amount of interest in Bobby’s plight. As we always do in the time of need, the Napa community rallied to assist.

A local bike shop surprised him with a brand-spanking-new three-wheel bike complete with a basket and shiny handle bar grips.

I, along with his other friends, went with Bobby to pick up his new bike.

Bobby broke all traditions, showing up clean shaven, sporting a flashy Hawaiian shirt, straw hat and toned-down trousers.

The smell of his sweet aftershave filled the building. When he climbed on that new bike, it was heartwarming. His smile beamed from ear to ear. I believe there might have been a tear in his eye.

Friends for life

From then on, Bobby showed an affection for me. “You helped me get my new bike, thank you,” he told me.

We would meet on the street and rather than just waving, we would exchange a few words. Bobby still worried about the affairs of the world.

A few weeks after he got his new bike, Bobby came into the Register office and gave me a framed photograph of himself, with that Bobby smile and wearing his Hawaiian shirt and straw hat. The photo hung on the wall of the editorial department until I left in 2009.

Sadly, I don’t have it any more. But all I have to do is close my eyes and pictured Bobby sitting on his new bike, proud as punch.

RIP Bobby. You will be remembered, especially by those whose lives you touched.

Louisa Hufstader February 15, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Thanks, Marsha, for this warm remembrance. I was just speaking with another Napan who knew him well, Wayne Morin Jr., who said Bobby was a person with disabilities who brought out the "inner glow of goodness" in others. Your story of the bike is a great example.
lisa miller February 16, 2012 at 06:24 AM
It was alway good to see him peddling down the street....every street in town....I often thought..what a carefree guy! Very colorful. I had the pleasure of speaking with him on a few occasions...and he appeared very joyful! Prayers to his family.
Nick Sanza February 17, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Bobby would always come to the Clover Stornetta Ice cream trailer before the fair and help me set up. Every day he would come to the back door of our ice cream trailer and I would give him 3 big scoops and a hat from Clover Stronetta. He never missed a day. Some times I would have him stop by the ice cream trailer and I would give him some Choc milk for his lunch and yes we would also talk about the world and the fair projects he always entered and his brother and parents. He will be missed knocking on the trailer door saying Its BOBBY! Napa-Nick and Jeep Sanza
Louisa Hufstader February 17, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Lisa, Nick and Jeep, thank you for these recollections of Bobby. I bet he thought of you as very special friends, Nick and Jeep! It's nice to think of him enjoying your ice cream and kindness.

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