For Bobby 2/21/2011

This won’t be my usual update.  I simply can’t post beautiful snow photographs today or talk about what’s coming up this spring and summer on the island.  Today is for talking about a missing islander, and for saying a few more prayers.

Mackinac Island residents –  including us part-timers, friends, and family everywhere have been praying all week for the safe return of Bobby Roach.  Bobby is an island resident who disappeared last Friday evening (Feb. 11), after last being seen at The Village Inn.  When islanders began to realize on Sunday that he was missing, search parties gathered to comb the island, and searchers on snowmobiles criss-crossed the ice (where they could safely do that).  Coast Guard helicopters arrived to fly low over the ice bridge.  After a week of searching, Bobby has still not been found, and our greatest fear is that he has disappeared . . . through the ice.  

Bobby is a Mackinac Island volunteer fireman and a life-long resident of this tiny, remote-in-the-winter island.  He knows about ice, and safety, and emergency procedures, and these facts have kept hope alive longer than should probably be realistic.  But his snowmobile is also missing, and he does not answer his cellphone or the fire department radio that is always with him, and that makes the possibility there will be a bad outcome to this even more real. 

Ted and I don’t know Bobby, but when we look at the photographs that have been posted, we recognize him as someone we have seen many times in our summers there.  My friend Liz, who teaches on the island, said it best in her blog this week, “Bobby is as much a part of the Mackinac Island landscape as Sugar Loaf and Arch Rock.” 



It was only one year and one week ago that I wrote about the tragic snowmobile accident that claimed the lives of two dear women on the island.  The winter before that my buddy George, who drives the winter taxi,  lost one of his sons to the ice.  George Jr. and his snowmobile went through the ice in the middle of a snowstorm, as he crossed from St. Ignace.  He was able to pull himself out, but hypothermia claimed his life just yards from the Coast Guard station.  Those of us who do not brave winters on the island know little of the seductive lure of the Ice Bridge.  To islanders stranded there after the ferries must stop running, and whose only way off the island is by plane, the Ice Bridge “making” is similar to being given a direct pass to freedom after days – and sometimes weeks – of planning trips around scheduled flights.  During the short duration of the Ice Bridge, the island is no longer an island – but part of the mainland.  For the 550 year-round residents, the lure to cross is almost overwhelming, even though crossing the Ice Bridge is never condoned by the Coast Guard.  I pouted last winter about the lack of an Ice Bridge when we were on the island for Winter Festival.  I see it only as a “fun thing to do”, something that I’ve put on my bucket list.  Each year the thought that perhaps that particular item should be deleted from my list is reinforced more and more.

The search for Bobby has been called off.  But still we pray for a miracle, or that at least he will be found, giving closure to his family.  But the ice can be unforgiving, and in the past others have disappeared as Bobby has, and they are simply . . . gone. 

As I wrote last year, so many of us “summer people” know only the beauty of Mackinac – the step back in time, the Victorian cottages, the peace and rest we draw from her isolation.  But the island has her dangers also, and to those who winter there, they are never more evident than when something tragic happens to one of their own. 

God bless, Bobby Roach.  You are missed.

33 thoughts on “For Bobby 2/21/2011

  1. Thank you for your heartfelt post. My family and friends who winter on the Island are devastated by this loss. Praying for the Roach family and Bobby’s Mackinac family.

  2. I just want to say thank you. Like yourself I was a Mackinac Island summer employee. I got to know a lot of the year round residents including Bobby. A few years ago I was involved in a bicycle accident with a tourist (fudgie) and Bobby made sure my bike was brought back to me. He also checked on me a couple times after I was released from the hospital. So even though we didn’t hang out together and he can be a little on the wild side Bobby will always hold a dear spot in my heart. I’ve been thinking of him, his kids, & his family wishing upon wish he comes home. Bobby if you’re out there somewhere you already know you’re missed & loved.


  3. I knew Bobby….you always remember people that made you feel special. Bobby was a presence that lit up a room when he entered it…..his voice is unmistakable and I can hear it right now. He will most assuredly will be missed. God Bless the island, Bobby and his family, we will always love you

  4. My prayers for Bobby have been going out since Liz first posted about his missing last week. They continue for Bobby and all who love and know him.

  5. May God’s presence be felt by Bobby’s family, friends, and the island community during this time. As God never leaves our side even during our time of struggling with why tragic things happen, he has also never left Bobby’s.

  6. Your post brought tears to my eyes Brenda. I have been trying to find new information since I first heard about it right after Valentines. I have 2 boys that are firefighters and this just seems to hit to close to home. I pray that he will be found soon and my prayers and thoughts are with his family and friends.

  7. Words cannot express the Island’s sadness for our friend Bobby Roach. Mackinac has a huge piece of puzzle missing from it’s structure. This was a young man who would give you the shirt of his back, give you his last dime, his happy go lucky disposition was a true thing. Always a smiling person who would help anyone in need. I was always so proud when he would see me and he’d yell out hi Irene! that always made my day. The friendliest young man ever. I cried until i couldn’t cry anymore.. It is so hard to let go of the hope of finding him.. Now it’s harder then ever to accept our dear friend Bobby is gone forever… Prayers to his family, and to his children and a grandchild he recently had, remember your father, and grandfather was a amazing man who loved you. He was so proud. Rest in peace Bob we love you!

  8. Thanks so much for this update Brenda. I have become a faithful reader of your Blog and learned about this from the local news channel up there. I have been checking back to learn anything new and there has been nothing written. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. May God give them the strength to get through this. Thank you again.

  9. Well done Brenda. Still doesn’t seem real and a part of me still thinks (and hopes) I am going to run into him at Doud’s. I could go on all day about the billions of times Bobby has either made me laugh or did something kind for me or someone I know. I wonder if he knew how appreciated he was? It is a reminder to be thankful for the good times we all have with friends and family and a reminder to let those people know we love and appreciate them.

  10. So much to mourn in the last 3 years. For all her beauty, the island has an edge to her that warns us all to be wary. I didn’t know Bobby or the others that were lost but all of them contributed to what made Mackinac Island the place that we love. None of us know when something unexpected will happen to us but in a place so special the tragedies become more shocking. My prayers are for all of them and their families.

  11. Thank you, Brenda, for your tribute. It is so appreciated. I hope someone will let his family know about it.

    Even though I didn’t know Bobby, I wish I had. I will pray for his family and friends.

  12. Thank you for this, Bree. I drove carriages on Mackinac for several summers and came to know and love Bobby Roach – he always had a smile and a wave to offer as we passed on the street, and he always knew me by name – something that I always appreciated. He was one of the first islanders who took the time to talk to me, and although he was a wild man, he had a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone in need. My thoughts and prayers go out to him, his family and all of my extended Mackinac family. His crazy antics will live on for years to come.

  13. great blog about a great man, our thoughts and prayers for Bobby’s family as well as the islanders that thought of him as family.

  14. My prayers are lifted up for Bobby and his family. My son works at the
    Grand Hotel year round, and were so very sorry. Such a wonderful person will be missed.

  15. Bobby is my uncle. My parents lived on the island many years ago and it was my first home. I never knew him, but it touches my heart that so many thought so fondly of him I will definitely pass this on to my family I’m sure they’d appreciate it

    • Thank you so much for writing, Danielle. We didn’t know Bobby personally, but from everything that has been written, it seems he touched so many hearts and lives on the island. His family remains in our prayers.

  16. Thank you so much for posting this. Bobby is my uncle and I worked on the island a few summers ago and got to spend lots of time w my uncle. It saddens me so much to know that he’s still missing but it means the world to me to know that he touched so many people during the summers and winters. I love the pictures you have attached. The one at sunset is beautiful and I know my family would love to have that picture. Thank you for all the prayers and we are still hoping forrhis safe return.

  17. Bobby is my uncle even though i didnt know him. Reading all of the comments about him makes me wish i did. He sounds like a great and fun guy to know. it saddens me to think i may never get the chance to find out for myself. Thanks for your prayers and i really hope he returns home safely.

  18. Bobby was a 1 of a kind,
    My summers consisted of spending them at LaChance cottage, every other weekend we’d be up like clockwork, to either go on my Bike searching trips or just keeping them going in the back of LaChance for Alice, I met bobby when Brian asked me to see if i could fix a rim for a friend who bent a rim the other night, It was Bobby..the whole time I was fixing it we were joking so much its hard to think I even made it round again….all these guys treated me like I was a full summer resident , I remember for my Birthday I was out with Bobby, yeah he had a wild side , But don’t we all ,I said hey why aren’t we riding to the bars…his response to me was…when were done tonight you won’t remeber where ya parked it anyway…He was right…Bobby was in my words someone who’d be the first to help ya when ya needed it and the last 1 there to make sure your OK and your gonna be fine, what used to make me crack up was how he got my daughter who was 2 at the time to make raspberry’s if ya mentioned a certian persons name..those summers will always be more dearer to me Life is such a precious balance, those who live on the island will remember him for his humor , friendship , generosity to others, somebody who’s got your back,….Bobby..your going to be missed in ways that words can’t express

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