August 16 – Happy Birthday Bobby Greco

bobgrecoThere certainly are and were a lot of “Greco’s” in Amsterdam and I personally know or knew many of them. One of my all-time favorite Greco’s is today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Robert “Bobby” Greco. He’s the son of Frank and Jennie Greco, the husband and wife team that used to run Greco’s Market on Division Street in Amsterdam, located right behind the old Guy Park Avenue School. Bobby was born the same year as me on August 16. Though he went to West Spring  and then McNulty Schools and I went to Guy Park, during the summers his parents would have both him and his older brother Frank come with them to the store each day and both would hang around the Guy Park Avenue playground from early July till school started back up again in September. That’s where I met him and during the course of our childhood and teen-aged years he became one of my very best friends. Here are six of the ten things I’d like to share about my dear buddy Bobby. (I will share the other four in the second edition of my book A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays🙂

2) Bobby was a great basketball player. Though he wasn’t blessed with height he was without a doubt one of the great two-handed set shooters of all time. In fact, during our CYO basketball days playing for St. Michael’s parish team, I bet Bobby hit ninety percent of his foul shots. Which brings me to one of the funny stories of my childhood. Bobby had a nifty little basketball court in the backyard of his West Main Street house and we would have epic games there every day. Our mutual good buddy Dave Malkowich, an outstanding basketball player in his day would be one of the regular participants in those always competitive contests. Dave, who could leap like a kangaroo used to tease Bobby by telling him that his two handed set shot was out-of-date and too easy to defend, which used to drive Greco nuts. So one night he challenged Dave to try and block his set-shot. Malkowich proceeded to block about twenty-five straight. But after each attempt a persistent Bobby responded with one excuse after another (I slipped…the ball is wet…that was a foul…my hands are freezing et.)  and just kept shooting and insisting the two-handed set shot would never die.

5) When Bobby got his driver’s license he would often drive his father’s ten-year-old 1960 Chevy Belair two-tone, red & white station wagon to school. One day it was stolen from the Wilbur Lynch High School parking lot and a panicked Bobby called the Amsterdam police. At the time it was stolen, the aging vehicle had been parked in between someone’s 1969 Malibu SS and a souped up Pontiac GTO. When the cop came to investigate Bobby gave him a description of his dad’s car and kept asking him “Who in their right mind would steal a car out of a school parking lot in the middle of the day?” The cop just stared at the two classic rides sitting on either side of the spot where Bobby’s old Belair had been and responded “I think we’re looking for a blind man.”

6) Bobby graduated from Lynch High with me in 1972, got his bachelors from Albany State University and started working at GE. He then transferred over to Knolls Laboratory, where he remained for over 30 years, just recently retiring. If you asked him what his job entailed at the highly secretive installation he’d explain that if he told you then he’d have to kill you.

7) Bobby married the love of his life, Amsterdam native Sue Dygon and they raised three wonderful kids who have in turn given them a half-dozen beautiful grandchildren who Bobby absolutely cherishes.

8) Any community would be fortunate to have a “Bobby Greco” as a citizen and neighbor. The guy has always had a heart of gold. He and Sue were tireless volunteers for their beloved St. Michael’s Church. He still serves as a Eucharistic Minister, bringing communion to all of the area institutions serving the elderly. It was Bobby who for many years organized the Harlem Wizards basketball team’s visit to Amsterdam. In addition to playing an exciting game for the entire community, members of the team would visit each district school and speak out against drugs and bullying. And he was an indispensable part of many Light Up the Sky Christmas light display set-ups every winter for years.

10) It truly is an honor for me to say I’ve been a friend of Bobby Greco’s for over fifty years now. Though I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like, I so enjoy each time I do. He played an integral role in some of the happiest moments of my younger days. Happy Birthday “Cheech” and may you be blessed with many, many more.

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