For 20 years, Gibsonburg man Bob Hiser pretty much bled Golden Bear orange and black.
At age 80, his heart suddenly betrayed him in late 2012, forcing him to get a pacemaker-defibrillator after a handful of previous heart procedures.
Hiser was forced to walk away from his longtime love affair with Gibsonburg athletics, as its de facto football field painter, baseball and softball diamond caretaker, and super-fan following the conclusion of the Bears' '12 football season.
"The thing that always has stood out to me regarding Bob, is just how unselfish he always was towards giving his time and expertise to the care of Gibsonburg's athletic fields," offers former Gibsonburg AD and football coach Matt Harp.
"The time and commitment he has provided to the athletic department at Gibsonburg over the past 20-plus years…it's just unmatched by few if any. And the most unique aspect of it all? He did it out of his love for the student-athletes and coaches at Gibsonburg Schools. You really took it for granted that Bob would take care of the fields and you never had to worry about it getting done or not done right."
He’s known well throughout the community, too. Hiser is such a fan of Ohio State football, that around these parts he's often simply referred to as "Buckeye" Bob.
He was such a regular at the now-defunct Lisa's Cafe across from White Star Quarry on the fringes of Gibsonburg, that whenever he'd venture in wearing his familiar Ohio State Buckeyes cap, it wouldn't be a stretch to see his liver-and-onions and coffee waiting for him.
The Pemberville High School graduate and Korean War veteran put in 29½ years at Chrysler, where he once churned out hubs for torque converters, and he also turned out long days at the local lime plant for 10 years.
Getting the paint right
Hiser nevertheless has a lifetime of Gibsonburg’s orange-and-black-tinted memories stored away.
"One season, they were just short a man on the chain gang out here, so I started out by helping out in that regard over at old Krotzer Field, and that's how all those years started," remembers Hiser, now 81.
His gesture in the early 1990s soon opened the door to a long time volunteer gig.
"Then, the athletic director back also painted the football field when some of the regular guys couldn't make it, so one night I just stepped in, and started helping him out with that, too," chuckles Hiser. "Then, all of the sudden, he just gave it up because he didn't really want to paint anymore, so I stepped in there and started doing it regularly. Oh, sometimes I'd go out and get this guy to help me out, or sometimes I'd get that guy, and there were even times when my own boy, and even my daughter helped me, but I just kept right on painting for 20 years or so, because I really enjoyed it.
"You know, it just always made me feel really good to do a good job, and to have the boys and the coaches thank us afterwards, for all the work we'd done," continues Hiser. "And when I retired from it near the end of last season, they gave me a lifetime pass to walk into the stadium, and all the games, whenever I'd want to. But it was the gratitude of the kids, and all of those coaches I got to know and worked with over the years, and the people, that really mattered to me most. Those are the things I miss the most. The players, the coaches, the people, and the gratitude and friendships, from all those wonderful years.
"It was just always really nice to have someone come up, and shake your hand, or slap you on the back, and say 'Thank you. Good job'. Because you know, we always took a lot of pride in painting that football field, and in getting it prepared and looking good for our own kids, those kids who came in from other schools to play on it, and our community on Friday nights."
Hiser laughs about the time when he and Gibsonburg's then-athletic director were forced to finish painting the football field because the crew that was scheduled never showed up.
"We had to go around, and put in all the hash marks and everything," he chuckles. "Our AD at that time was from Toledo, and I don't think he ended up getting into his car, and leaving for home until around midnight, and neither did I."
Hiser calculates it took he and the crew approximately six hours to paint and prepare Gibsonburg's football fields for the Friday night spotlight, and still maintains to this day that if you truly wanted to become a good, skilled painter, you had to learn your craft.
"People often don't realize what a big job it is," he offers. "You'd go out there on a Wednesday or Thursday evening, you'd put that painter right down on the line, and you'd have to keep your head down, tune everyone out, and just keep right on going across the field, without ever stopping. Because if you stopped, you could always tell where immediately afterward and it didn't look right. So, it took some discipline. You had to concentrate on what you were doing. And you had to learn that painter. It could be hard work, and that's not even taking into consideration the painting of the helmet on the center of the field."
His preference for painting old Krotzer Field or the new Golden Bears Stadium? The new field, he says.
"It's just a lot better, smoother field. At Krotzer, we used to bounce all over the place. We'd bounce some at the new stadium, but Krotzer was a bumpy ride."
His work did not stop on G-Burg's Friday night football main stage.
"We painted those two new practice fields they got out there now, too,” Hiser said. “They have goal posts up out there and everything and they're really, really nice fields, though we never had to be quite as precise or careful when we painted them. Oh, we'd get razzed a little bit if a line was slightly crooked, but it was all good-natured. We always had a lot of fun out there."
Hiser remembers joking around with guys like Richard Carper, Tom Angelone, and Eddie Bauer (Hiser’s brother-in-law), and his own son Kyle, who helped from time-to-time.
His family says some of his most-treasured friendships in life came from the fellows he watched the games with.
"Dad would stand on the sidelines, to watch the football games on Friday nights with the guys," shares daughter Lisa (Hiser) Kinney, "and they'd just argue, and have a good, old time."
Hiser appreciates the coaches he's worked with and watched teach Gibsonburg's youth..
"A lot of the coaches, they'd not only thank us for all of our hard work," says Hiser, "but they'd also get right in there, and help us clean up and stuff, by washing out our paint buckets. Plus, it was always a lot of fun seeing their different coaching philosophies firsthand, as they taught our kids the games."
Plus the myriad ADs, who have passed through the G-Burg ranks.
"I've seen a lot of them, that's for sure," he adds, "and most of them were really good guys. They'd bring us out Gatorade, and drinks, and things, and make sure we were okay when we were working out there. Brent Liskai, Matt Harp…those guys were like that. I can't really say a bad word about one of them."
Bob and wife Elizabeth, affectionately known as "Betty," were married 34 years until her untimely passing to cancer in late 1992.
"Betty" and Bob became parents eight times, with their children being daughter Dawn, 54, of Gibsonburg; Robbyn (Eakin), 53, Fremont; Lisa (Kinney), 51, Fostoria; Robert, 48, Arizona; Craig, 46, Fremont; Kyle, 44, Gibsonburg; Kerri (Henry), 42, Gibsonburg; and Sherrill, 34, Chicago.
Further, Bob has eight grandchildren to keep him young and busy, with a ninth on the way in '14). There is even one great grandson, and much to his pleasure, a couple of them have even taken up sports at Fremont St. Joe Central Catholic, where Hiser spends quite a bit of time these days bleeding the red and gray of his young Crimson Streaks.