This is a piece my brother Jamie wrote about Bob Kupka, a former teacher of his at West Roxbury High who became a great friend. Bob passed away in January 2016, and his obituary is below. Jamie sent me this essay he’d written last week, and I decided to retype it and put it up here.
Before I start this essay, I do want to say a few things about Bob Kupka. Bob was a caring man with a big heart who had an interest in the kids as a teacher. He was loved by the students, his colleagues, his friends, people he knew from sporting events, parents. And what can I say? Just a lovable guy.
And I want to start this essay on what good friends he and I were. When I first met Bob, I did not know how to take him. He would kid with me when I would be in front of the potato chip selling table talking to my friend Scott Brothers. I couldn’t take kidding at the time but he liked me and I didn’t know it. He called me Mac. That would stick with me for as long as we were friends. Then the next year he called me Jimmy Mac. That stayed with me too, which everybody called me, students and teachers.
When the next school year came, he and I became real good friends in lots of ways. We cared about each other and he and I took a liking in a lot of ways. And to top it off, we shared an interested in the old rock n roll that took our friendship off in a big way.
And I also saw what a decent guy he really was. Not only that, I helped him out with the hockey team. I helped him with the potato chip sales which he also was in charge of. And I can remember when I was home sick, he called my house to see if I could go to the hockey game. My mother answered the phone and told him I was sick. And my mother thought he was very kind. And that same year of school, he gave me a Celtics calendar.
And when the next school year came where I was a senior, he did something very nice. I had very bad marks which I was down about. And he called my house from Billerica where was was living at the time and talked to my mother about it, and me as well, and another teacher called too. And it got straightened out.
That same year I was going to be the only manager of the hockey team. To tell you the truth, I never showed up for any of the hockey game but at the sports banquet, he gave me a nice hockey sweater, which was a very kind thing he did. And to tell you more about our friendship that year, he gave me a picture of Elvis Presley which I really liked. We would lend each other oldies cassette tapes. And to top it off, I was kind of screwing up by cutting one of my classes. He brought me up to my teacher and said I’ll be back from now on and I did go back to not cutting my class.
But another thing to top off our friendship even more, I wasn’t going to get a diploma. I was going to get something called a certificate of attendance and he was very much involved with me coming back another school year to get my diploma with the principal and some other teachers. Then I came back and got my diploma. And also that year I did start to go to hockey games and the first game I went to he said to the person at the ticket desk, Let him in, he’s the manager.
That year, I graduated and after that we remained friends. And also as I can remember, that year and the year before, liking the old rock n roll as he and I both did. We had fun times asking each other about trivia questions about the oldies. And it was funny one time when we’re doing it, the school police officer said, Do you guys play this all the time? And my last year of high school, I can also recall the first day Bob came to me and asked if I saw Year of the Dragon, a Mickey Rourke movie. We were also Mickey Rourke fans. It was good being with him my last year.
And another thing I remember was the first time I met Joan, who was Bob’s girlfriend who would become his second wife, and not only that, my friend as well as Bob, and how meeting her occurred. I was over the house where Bob was living along with his buddy, Billy Mahoney. And another former student of his was there named Sam. We were having an oldies contest, Sam and I. Bob was keeping score. Then Joan came over. Bob introduced her to me and she was very impressed how I knew the oldies. And not only that she told me she knew all about me. Bob told her everything about me. I do have to say it was a fun night. I had a really good time meeting Sam and Joan. Then Joan drove me home. Sam came for the ride.
And even after graduation, I also remember I would go over to the house to visit Bob for the next year. Many times, Joan would be over seeing him too and it was all some great visits. And not only that, Bob and Joan were glad I got out of bagging groceries and got a job with the Boston Police Department as a custodian.
Then shortly after after that happened, Bob moved out of Billy’s house and got his own condo in West Roxbury, which I was very happy about because I lived there too. And let me tell you how great it was going over his condo living near by my house and him being my friend in ways. I would go over there and we would have some great talks on the oldies and not jus that, other things too. I would make him and Joan cassette tapes from my stereo. I would bring my VHS’s on the oldies. Bob and I would watch it on his VCR.
And also in the summer time, Bob, Joan, and myself would go out to the pool at his condo complex and swim. We had some real great times together, and also some of my other teachers would come over his house and we had some great talks as well. And some of Joan’s friends would come over and I would have more great talks with them also. And I’ll never forget meeting Bob’s parents, nice older people, and Bob really wanted me to meet them, and I really appreciated that. It meant a lot to me.
And at Christmas time, we would always exchange presents. And I remember one Christmas time, he and Joan were hosting a party. I was invited and I met some nice people. And another thing about our friendship, we could kid around with each other. That shows really good friendship.
And Bob also had his good ways about caring about me. I remember when I was involved with the wrong girl and going to move in an apartment with her, he called me over to his house and advised me not to do it. And in other ways too. I was in the hospital there times he came to visit me. And when my mother dies he came to the wake. And also when my grandmother died, he also came to her wake. And he also many times would advise me to try to find friends my own age because I was always hanging around older people. But he always said he and I would always be friends and looking back, I think he had a point there.
And also he told me to get my teeth fixed, because at the time my two front teeth were chipped and that made me look bad. Like a lot of people told me to do, and eventually I did it. And in a lot of way he cared about me.
Then as time went on, I would see Bob and Joan every once in a while. Then I would see them more and more occasionally, mostly around Christmas tim. Then Bob and Joan got married and eventually retired from their jobs. And sadly, Joan got sick with MS. And I remember I called them a lot to see how Joan was, which they appreciated and to show their appreciation, they called me up to say thank you which I thought was awfully nice. Me and Bob had a great talk after the thank you. Then not long after that they sold their condo and moved to New Hampshire. Even after they moved, I stayed in touch with them and what can I say? We remained friends.
Then, as I remember, my father died in the hospital and I called Bob and told him, but he could not make it to the wake because he had to take care of Joan, but he called his colleagues also and his friends and had them come to the wake, which was another nice thing that he did for me. I was very touched by that. And the year after my dad passed away, I got my own condo and Bob and I would send Christmas cards to each other every year. And not only that, I called Bob every chance I could. Then sadly, a year or two later, Joan passed away. Then I did something nice. I sent Bob a mass card remembering Joan. He very much appreciated that.
And around the time Joan was sick and before she died, Bob developed some health issues of his own. One of them was cancer. But Bob was no coward. He told me not to feel sorry for himself, that he was gonna beat it. He went through some chemotherapy for it. Plenty of times. And he had a lot of people who were concerned about him, his family and friends and me. I called every chance I could to see how he was. And guess what? He beat it. And time went on and he was doing well. And I called him every week. And about three of four years later, he developed cancer again but he still took it like a man, which I have to give him credit for.
And as I recall, the last Christmas card he sent me on it said, Thank you for the prayers. Then a month later, sadly, we lost Bob. And I and a lot of other people, especially his family, were devastated by it. I took it kind of hard but I can remember about Bob Kupka. He was a great guy, a fantastic teacher, a man who thought of other people . Someone I knew well and loved. Someone I shared an interest with. Just a totally good person, who is truly missed by a lot of people and will always be remembered.
My dear friend, Bob Kupka.
Hampton, NH – Robert J. Kupka, 70, of Hampton, died peacefully Thursday, January 21, 2016 at Exeter Hospital.
He was born October 24, 1945 in Springfield, MA the son of the late Joseph and Gertrude (Murphy) Kupka.
Raised in Springfield, he graduated in 1963 from Springfield Cathedral High School, where he excelled on the school hockey team and was inducted into the Springfield Cathedral Hall of Fame. Following graduation he went on to play hockey at Boston College and graduated with the Class of 1967.
Mr. Kupka was a teacher at West Roxbury High School for 30 years, retiring in 2002. During this time he was the school hockey coach and soccer coach as well as a well-respected and well-known referee for NCAA Division I Hockey,
Robert enjoyed reading, walking and spending time at Hampton Beach, where he could always be seen sitting at his favorite bench. His greatest joy was spending time with family, especially his grandchildren.
He shared 10 years of marriage with his late wife Joan B. (Allman) Kupka who predeceased him in 2010.