Before he got sick, when the cancer started to eat away at his liver, Robert
Utter Sr. was still the social type.
In his mid-70s and still a strapping 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, he remained active and even had a part-time job in a warehouse.
Utter's son, Bob Jr., 54, and daughter, Vickie Honner, 51, remained very close with their father until he passed away at his home on Dec. 19.
"We found out in mid-October he had liver cancer," recalled Bob Jr., who has been Waite High School's athletic director for 17 years. "The preliminary report was it was just like a spot on the liver. We did a lot of research on it and they called it 'primary' at the time, meaning it was just there in the liver.
"We went to several doctors around here and then we went to the Cleveland Clinic, which has a couple of procedures that can't be done around here. Some of his blood work wasn't where it needed to be."
Two months after he was diagnosed, Bob Utter Sr., who lived less than two blocks from Vickie's house in Perrysburg, died at age 75.
Lord knows he lived a full life. Vickie and her brother are living proof.
"There is a plethora of things I remember about my dad," said Vickie, an office manager at an independent senior living facility in Perrysburg. "Most importantly for me was how he taught me to be an individual. My father allowed me to be and do what I wanted to do in life, to become a daughter that made him proud and to be the lady I am today.
"For him, it was great that I was an athlete as long as I realized I was a lady first. I'm (nearing) 52 and I'm still playing softball and loving every minute of it with my two boys. Dad played softball, too, up until his 50s."
Bob Sr. was a big part of Toledo's prodigious prep athletic history.
A 1952 graduate of Macomber High School, Bob Sr. played on the school's inaugural football team and scored the first touchdown in Macmen history. Macomber, which opened and joined the City League for the 1938-39 school year, closed in 1991.
Bob Sr. was an all-league football, basketball and baseball player, and in 2002 he was inducted into the Toledo City League Athletic Hall of Fame. The ceremony was held at the SeaGate Centre.
"Anytime you're inducted into any hall of fame, in particular the City League Hall of Fame, that's quite an honor," Bob Jr. said. "You look who's in there and you see your name in there with all those great athletes and great citizens, Dad was pretty excited about that."
Bob Sr. played football as an end at the University of Toledo for one year, "but he really didn't like school so he went to Libbey-Owens-Ford and was there for 44 years," Bob Jr. said.
Bob Sr. became a huge fan of men's fast-pitch softball. During the 1950s he played for the East Side YMCA, Local 9, and Rooster Inn softball teams.
"I know he was heck of a softball player back when he was in his 20s and 30s," Bob Jr. said. "When we were growing up, he was working every day at LOF (as a maintenance supervisor) and I remember going to fast-pitch softball games. They would travel and play in tournaments all over the Midwest. When we were kids, we were always at a fast-pitch softball game."
Bob Sr. and his wife, Sharon, included their kids in everything. Family was always a priority.
Bob Jr., who graduated from St. Francis de Sales in 1973, played baseball and basketball for the Knights. He was a junior shortstop on the 1972 team, coached by Jim Kubacki, that lost in the Class AAA state semifinals, 6-5, to eventual champion Cincinnati Moeller.
Stritch at state tourney
Vickie played forward at Cardinal Stritch and helped the Cardinals' basketball team reach the state tournament in 1976, the first year the OHSAA held a state basketball tourney for girls. Stritch lost to Columbus Bishop Hartley, 45-35, in the Class AA semifinals.
"Mom and Dad were always at all of our contests," said Bob Jr., who played baseball at Kent State from 1974-77.
Fishing and hunting were always a big deal for Bob Sr.; he made sure to include his two kids if they wanted to tag along.
"He loved to fish and hunt," Bob Jr. said. "Me and my sister went fishing the last several years with his good friend, Bob Lamb. My dad had a boat for a long time. Bob was very nice to my dad and they would go fishing all the time. Dad liked to hunt for deer and rabbit, and he would go to Pennsylvania every year with friends from work, Don Mercer and Jim Mercer."
"My parents were both very family-oriented," Vickie added, "and my father was quite the outdoorsman and athlete. He saw that in both of us kids. My dad didn't care if I was a girl. If he went hunting and fishing, I was there. I never once felt that my dad wished he'd had another boy, no matter what it was."
Bob Sr. even made sure Vickie knew how to change a tire and change the oil before he allowed her get her driver's license.
"He wanted to make sure I could take care of myself," Vickie said.
Bob Sr. and Sharon, who were married 55 years, continued to be hands-on parents when Vickie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. She is now cancer-free.
"My parents took me to every treatment I had, and there were a lot of them," Vickie said. "As hard as it was for my dad to watch me go through that, he made sure I was on time and went through the treatments. He made sure I knew he loved me."
In the last 10 years Bob Jr. and his father continued to do things together, such as attending UT basketball games and NCAA tournament games. They sat together at Ford Field in Detroit last year when North Carolina and Michigan State played during the regular season in December and again in the national championship game in March.
Bob Sr. was also a doting grandfather with his grandsons, Brett and Brad Honner, and granddaughters, Jessica and Adrienne Utter.
"He was extremely proud of his four grandchildren," Vickie said. "Probably more so than he was of me and my brother. Dad was a huge part of their lives, too."