Article by Marlon Hanson, fellow MAMA member and dear friend
“I first met Bob Kocher when I was President of the Texas Automotive Writers Association and he was President of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. We immediately struck up a friendship because of his passion for MAMA and wanting to make it the best it could possibly be for all members, journalists and manufacturers.
We immediately decided to compare notes and attend each other's events to see what we might do to improve our respective organizations. I learned a lot from Bob, witnessing first-hand how MAMA put together its events and he, likewise, learned how to make MAMA more user friendly for all.
I am particularly grateful for his urging me to attend the MAMA Spring Rally ... I was astounded at how many vehicles were registered and we had an opportunity to drive. Because of Bob, and his introducing me to the Rally, I urged my board to create the TAWA Spring Challenge (now the Spring Roundup). We had 45 vehicles registered for our first Challenge, largely due to Bob's help in assisting me with the nuts and bolts of doing such an event for only automobiles. Being in Texas (the Truck Capital of the world), we had mastered our fall event, the Texas Truck Rodeo, and Bob eagerly worked to institute some of the aspects of the Rodeo into the MAMA Fall Rally.
As members of MAMA, you know what a great foundation Bob was instrumental in creating for you. But, enough about Bob, the car guy, aka AutoBob! What I will miss most is Bob, the man.
Bob loved fun and always drove to get the most out of life. I often met him and his beautiful wife, Connie, in Las Vegas, where we spent many an hour, day, and week in various gaming activities as well as enjoying world-famous automotive events such as the SEMA show. In addition to our escapades in Las Vegas, we loved to cruise.
Our first cruise together was on the Norwegian Breakaway out of New York. Yes, we loved the ship, the world-famous Rockettes from Radio City Music Hall, who were on the ship with us, but the thing I will remember most about that cruise happened one night while sitting at a slot machine in the ship's casino.
Bob ran up to me, giant grin on his face, bubbling with excitement. You have to come to O’Sheehans Pub, he exclaimed. Now!! They have the best Hot Fudge Sundaes you have ever had. They are as big as your head! I had to abandon my machine and follow him to O'Sheehans. Bob and I marveled at the size, sweetness, and wonder of our Sundaes. Connie was not as much of a sundae lover as us and, I believe had apple pie ala mode or something else as we immersed ourselves in our newfound delight.
As late as early August, we spoke of taking future cruises, possibly in November, but for sure in December. We were also looking at a few possibilities for 2020 and decided we would decide where and when to go next at this year's SEMA show in early November.
Life is so fleeting. I got a message from Bob on August 14th:
“I am hanging in. Just waiting for a time for my kidney biopsy. No one seems to be in a hurry. Went to a kidney doctor yesterday and he didn’t seem to be worried. I give up trying to understand it all. I guess no lung cancer is a big plus. Will let you know as we get information. Hope you’re having a great time. Hope to see you soon. Bob”
Bob then sent some bad news on August 22. He began with the better news that although they had found some “spots in my lungs, a large mass on my kidney and a small mass on my spine,” there was no cancer in his lungs or kidney. Then came the bad news: “However, I did not luck out so well with my spine biopsy. I do have a rare cancer. The spine biopsy showed angiosarcoma cancer with is relatively rare and I guess harder to treat. Next we wait and see what treatment the oncologist suggests.”
By August 30, he had yet to receive news on what was going to be done about it but said pain had intensified and he had to see another oncologist. There was nothing that could be done.
The morning of September 12, I got a call from our good mutual friend, Kelley Enright. Bob was in the hospital and it was terminal. We could not believe it. It had been a couple days less than a month since his first diagnosis. And, now they were giving him two weeks to live. That night, my wife Kristin was working on making arrangements for me to fly to Ohio to see him. The next morning, Friday the Thirteenth, Connie told me he was gone. Impossible to believe. We would not be taking that next trip to Vegas. We would not be taking that last cruise. We will not be having that next hot fudge sundae.
I will never take another cruise without having a hot fudge sundae in honor of Bob. I will never walk into a casino in Las Vegas without thinking of Bob. I have had a hard time putting together this year’s Auto Judge Awards program with one of our founding judges and most influential people gone.
AutoBob … I love and miss you. I cannot think of a tribute great enough for our colleague, leader and friend, Col. Robert Kocher!