Fair Harbor: Robert Chinkel Remembered
By Savannah Doviak
There’s much more to Fire Island than what is seen by passing visitors. Miles of beautiful beaches make this little slice of island a summer paradise, yet in cherishing the unforgettable summers, we also remember those who are missed.
On Nov. 26, 2016, the passing of Robert ‘Bobby’ Chinkel left his family devastated, as well as the Village of Saltaire, Fair Harbor Fire Department, and neighboring Fire Island communities deeply saddened. That it happened over Thanksgiving weekend, further added to the sorrow.
His story will be told and never be forgotten for all he had done for his community.
“There will be plenty of Bobby stories to tell,” as Vern Henrickson, close friend and co-worker of Bobby put it. “Those who knew Bobby knew how much he loved to cook and entertain.”
Bobby was an ex-chief and 44-year member of the Fair Harbor Fire Department. Remembered for his Christmas party pig roasts with eggnog, friends and family of Bobby had endless stories to tell. Continuing to reminisce, Henrickson told of walks across the frozen bay, fires on the ice with the iceboats, and the midnight snowplow runs in Saltaire Village when Fire Island blizzards hit.
“We met back in 1981,” Henrickson said. “At first we rode on the back of the garbage truck together, Joe Rosabella would drive. We built boardwalks and poured cement. Rich Wilde, Jimmy Wilde, and Scott Messenger joined the ranks. We would have competitions on who could lift the most. After several years we ended up going to the same back doctors.”
Kane Thornberg of Don Thornberg Building Corp. in Fair Harbor also had great memories of Bobby. “I would often see him walking around down town Fair Harbor before 7 a.m. cleaning up after the party the night before. Every bottle cap and beer can would be picked up off the dock before most people were even awake. No one paid him to do this, and no one even asked him to.
“I also remember his disdain for flyers being stapled to the telephone poles around town. He would constantly remove them from around his house and ‘politely’ ask the owners to refrain from putting them up. ‘It makes the place look trashy,’ he would say.” Thornberg continued, “People care for Fair Harbor,
but I don’t think I know anyone who showed it as much as Bob.”
Robert Chinkel retired from the Village of Saltaire after suffering a heart attack in December of 2015. Last September he led his daughter, Meredith, down the aisle, arm in arm, as she wed Nick Sterz.
His wife, Kathleen; their daughters, Meredith and Caroline; and sisters Marcia Stark, Meggin Hyams-Chinkel, Michele Hurley, Claire Chinkel, and Susan Burns survive him.