I’ve never understood how the mind works.
I’ve never understood how I can meet someone, then forget their name 10 minutes later; but yet, with other things, they just stick with me and I carry them for the rest of my life.
For example, I remember the morning before my first day of school. I remember stumbling on the first step of the bus and nearly falling. I remember my bus driver, Mr. Thomas Jackson, laughing, then saying “C’mon get in, young’in.”
I remember all that — like it was yesterday.
But I don’t remember anything about my first day of school, itself.
In my career, I’ve been so blessed to meet and shake thousands of hands and hug hundreds more.
Some of you, I now consider family. Others see me at the store, wave and talk to me like we’re best friends, and all the while, I’m smiling, nodding, and wondering, ‘Who the heck are you?’
Never did I have any of these forgetful thoughts about Mr. Bobby Hebert Sr., because from the first day that I met the man, he made an impression that was impossible to forget because of the warmth and love from which he delivered his greeting.
It was 2016 at WOW Cafe in Galliano.
We were about to host a Booster Club meeting on radio and TV.
An elderly gentleman walked up to my table. I stood to greet him, then extended my hand out to shake.
He was smiling bright. He grabbed my arm, pulled me toward him and gave me a giant, massive hug.
That man was Bobby Hebert Sr.
Never before had we met, but here he was, hugging me with the strength of a bear — like I’d known him for my entire life.
He told me later that he knew some of my relatives and was friends with some folks in my family. But it was our first time ever meeting.
“You’re doing a great job,” he told me. “I love to listen to you. I’m so proud of you.”
I left the meeting feeling good about myself — like I was making a difference.
But it was nothing compared to the difference that the man delivering the compliment had made.
After telling my parents of Mr. Bobby’s kind words, they educated me on all of the things that he’d done. Mr. Bobby was a tremendous family man, father, husband, uncle, grandpa — all of that. But he also was a dignitary in our community, a man who volunteered his time to coach youth teams, helped church groups among countless other good deeds that have helped literally thousands of local people.
He was as loving of a man as there’s ever been.
And every, single time we’d met since that first meeting, he always complimented me and told me that I was doing well. He always — every, single time that we’d ever spoken — told me that I was making him proud.
In a meeting in later years, Mr. Bobby gave me a book. In it were dozens and dozens of newspaper clippings from 60+ years ago.
They were clippings from when he’d played. He was the father of an NFL quarterback, yes. But Bobby Sr. had some athleticism, too. He was the member of several prized teams in the 1950s and was a decorated athlete in his day.
Mr. Bobby smiled with great pride going through the book with me — page by page.
He told me old stories from his days as an athlete.
“The good ole days,” he said with a laugh. “The really, really old days.”
As he got up and walked away, I told him, “Mr. Bobby, you forgot your book.”
He turned, smiled and said, “I want you to have it. You can keep it.”
That book, to this day, still sits on my dresser. From time to time, I open it up, peek inside and look at all of the history.
As you all probably know by now, Mr. Bobby passed away this morning after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Several family members have confirmed the news to me and others have announced it on social media.
To the Hebert family, I express my deepest condolences to you in your time of need.
To all of the friends, colleagues and acquaintances who knew Mr. Bobby, you all are in my thoughts and prayers.
There are no words that can ever heal a loss this great and deep, but just know that I’m thinking and praying for you all.
Mr. Bobby, you will be sorely missed. But I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that you’re now in Paradise.
Pardon me for stealing your words.
But Sir, you made us all so proud!