Robert Emmett Bollbach was born to Catherine Casey and Harold Bollbach. His grandmother Hannah Noonan was from Sneem in County Kerry and grandfather Michael Casey was from Ballymahon in County Longford. Bob grew up in Yorkville, a German-Irish neighborhood on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. From the time he was born, he has attended or marched in every NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. He attended Our Lady of Good Counsel grammar school and Rice High School. Bob, along with his brothers Kevin and Rich and his sister Kathleen, spent their summers in the Irish Riviera, also known as Rockaway Beach. Bob graduated from Iona College with a BBA degree in Marketing. It was there that he first met his wife of 44 years, Dot Byrnes. They were married in 1975 and spent three years in New Rochelle. In 1978 they moved to Mahopac and raised their four children, Melissa, Chris, Brian, and Caitlin.
Bob has spent 48 years working in the food industry. He started his career at First National Supermarkets. In 1975 he began working in the brokerage business with a local food broker in Great Neck. Today he is Vice President of Sales for the largest perishable broker in the metro market. In the course of his work he has served on a number of trade associations. He is a past President of the Eastern Frosted Foods Association, the oldest perishable association in the country. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Frozen and Refrigerated Association. He has been a member of the New Jersey Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Through their annual golf tournament they have raised significant amounts of money for research.
Bob always puts his family first. With his travel schedule he made sure never to miss key events in the lives of Dot and his children. As the kids grew older, Bob returned to something he briefly dabbled with while he was at Iona – playing the bagpipes. Dot heard about Joe Brady Senior in Peekskill. It was there for many, many Saturday mornings that Joe had the patience to teach a middle-aged guy to play the pipes. Bob fondly remembers Joe for his friendship and for passing along his knowledge. When Bob was ready, Joe sent him to a practice in New Rochelle with the Blackthorn Pipe Band. They welcomed him with open arms and became lifelong friends. Bob spent over 20 years playing with the band. For over 25 years the Blackthorn Pipe Band proudly led the AOH Westchester County and Division 18 up Fifth Avenue in the NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.
Upon becoming a member of AOH Division 18, Bob served on any committees that needed help. He has worked on the Hudson Valley Irish Festival committee to celebrate our Irish culture. He has worked on many of the Freedom For All Ireland campaigns sponsored by the National AOH. He welcomed the opportunity to serve as Division 18’s FFAI Chairman. He is proud to have been part of the many momentous and informative FFAI events at the National, State, County, and Division levels, including speaking tours by Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, Father Gary Donegan from Holy Cross in Belfast, family members of the Loughinisland Massacre, family members of the Ballymurphy Massacre, Niall Murphy and Kevin Winters of KRW Law Human Rights, and Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four.
On the many trips that I have taken to Ireland, doors have been opened and we have been welcomed with open arms. Never underestimate the voice that the AOH has at home and abroad. Everywhere we travel and meet with organizations that we support, the message is the same: thank you for your support and thank you for the funds you give to our organizations. But most of all they are so appreciative of our friendship and the knowledge that through the AOH FFAI they have a voice in America.
I would like to thank: the officers and members of Division 18, John Joyce and his committee who worked so hard on this evening’s event, and my wife Dot for your unwavering support on all of the things I do for FFAI. To my children Melissa, Chris & Lindsay, Brian & Holly, Caitlin & Nick – thank you for your love and support. To my brothers and sister who have traveled across the country to be here tonight, and to my friends, some of whom have traveled great distances to get here – thank you. And to Mark Thompson – thank you for being a friend and for all of the work that you, Andree and your entire team at RFJ do. You do it with compassion and grace to help people who have suffered during the dark times of The Troubles. You help them seek the truth about what happened to their loved ones and bring some closure to their lives.
To my Brothers of Division18 – thank you for the honor of Hibernian of the Year. I am truly humbled by it and so proud to accept it.