Aug. 28, 1951 – Sept. 17, 2020
By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Bob Kinzel, 69, a longtime mountain community volunteer and coach, passed away on Sept. 17 while working at SkyPark. He has often been described as “a motivated change-maker for the mountain communities.”
Bob, after working for Burbank’s park district for 41 years, retired in 2011. He was honored with the Burbank City Employee of the Year award for 2010, the first time the city had ever bestowed that honor upon non-police officer or fireman. He had retired after surviving cancer, working daily while receiving chemotherapy. He was one of the few men at that time diagnosed and surviving his type of breast cancer.
He became a popular and well-received speaker on breast cancer throughout Southern California for the American Cancer Society. He often said, “The greatest gift of my life was having cancer. I was fortunate to get it early. It changed me for the rest of my life.”
A native Californian, Bob was born in Tehachapi on Aug. 28, 1951, moving to Burbank soon after, graduating from John Burroughs High School in 1970 and marrying Carol (from the cross-town rival high school) in 1973. They celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary on Jan. 20 of this year. They have two sons, Andy and Ben. His family was extremely important to Bob, which motivated him in his dedication to helping others through coaching and volunteerism.
Bob moved to Crestline in June 2011 and became bored with retirement after only three months so, in October, he began working for the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District, where he worked until 2018. During the Crestline incorporation meetings, he offered a presentation on how a city runs a park district.
A former high school basketball coach in Burbank, after arriving in the mountains, Bob coached junior varsity basketball at Rim High and then the 13-to-16-year-old student athletes at Lake Arrowhead Christian School. He was also the head coach for Rim Rec’s Special Olympics track and field team and later the Special Olympics’ bowling team.
Through the Special Olympics program, Bob’s athletes thrived under his supervision. “Bob has a gentle, easy attitude, but gets things done, showing them techniques and motivating the athletes from a place of love and understanding.” said Aaron Scullin. Kinzel often drove the athletes to competitions as far away as San Diego.
In the community, Bob organized the annual 5k and 10k Run Through the Pines at Lake Gregory for eight years for Rim Rec. He had to realign the route several times to keep the distances accurate due to changes in access to the Lake Gregory ballfield during the dam buttress project.
He did much of the initial footwork between the school and the recreation district to establish the Lake Gregory Education and Community Center. It was through his vision that the Rim Rec district decided to rent the vacant Lake Gregory Education Center for recreation activities. In addition, Bob served on the San Bernardino County Regional Parks board, as well as on the board of directors for the Crestline Village Water District.
Bob worked as the food and beverage manager at Snow Valley for several years. He assisted with the special athlete ski programs there, too. “His smiles were memorable and his work ethic brought respect, and wherever he went he made many more friends,” said Rim Special Athletes Director Jack Cooperman.
In 2019, at the Rim Resource Fair, Bob was surprised with the presentation of the P.O.C.K.E.T. Award (Protecting Our Community’s Kids Every Time), which honors members of the community who go above and beyond to serve mountain youth.
Bob has volunteered his efforts, knowledge and affable demeanor to numerous nonprofits through the years, including the Lake Gregory Environmental Education and Nature Center, the Rim Coalition for Youth, the Rim Community Health Fair and the children’s summer nature program at the Mountain History Museum. He lent his hand and work to all. He maintained trails at the Children’s Forest and the Heap’s Peak Arboretum. He was a consistent volunteer for chamber of commerce and community events and would help whenever needed.
“Bob has been a wonderful addition to our mountain communities,” said Crestline-Lake Gregory Chamber of Commerce President Louis Boehle. “He will be greatly missed.”
Bob worked for SkyPark for several years and was working there when he fell, leading to his death last Thursday. He had just recovered from an abdominal hernia operation about a month ago. SkyPark was offering grief counseling for its workers this week from Mountain Communities Hospital.
According to Carol, his bone and skin and some body parts were donated for transplants. It is estimated that over 50 people suffering from burns, having operations, including brain surgery, will benefit from these donations. Ironically, some of his body and skin tissues will be used in reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients, a surgery he refused after his breast cancer operation in 2009.
He is survived by his wife of 47½ years, Carol, his sons Andy and Benjamin, Benjamin’s partner, Felice Wu, and grandson Landon, who was the apple of Bob’s eye.
Because of COVID’s required social distancing on large gatherings, no services have been planned at this time, although it is hoped one may be held in the future.