I first met George Gilbert Reincke in 1955, North Miami Beach, Florida. He was 16, I was 15. We were unlikely friends. George was tall and gangly, very serious minded, a natural car mechanic and an expert for his age in following the stock market. He learned that from his father. And, he was a conscientious student.
I was none of those things.
I couldn’t tell the difference between an inner tube and a spark plug, and I thought a stock market is where lots of food and beverages lined the aisles of grocery stores. I didn’t even have a father, he died when I was a baby. I liked baseball and playing the violin, neither of which interested George.
But we hit it off for some reason. He did have a gross sense of humor and a roaring laugh. He laughed when I made jokes and funny faces, or made fun of stupid people. He forever egged me on for more jokes. And he happily adapted to his new nickname: Rinky Dink.
He was funny also, though not because he tried. Simple little flubs turned into uproarious laughter. The laughter itself was contagious. Sometimes, we and our friend, Jim Murphy, would hold our stomachs laughing.
In 1955-57, we went to drive-in movies. During one intermission, we all assembled at the outdoor popcorn counter that was situated directly beside the outdoor microphone. A movie manager was standing there making announcements about the next movie which played on every speaker on every car window in the drive-in. Suddenly, next to the mike, George let loose with a thunderous belch that echoed in each speaker in the entire drive-in. We could hear people laughing.
George fell in love with a cute twin named Gail. When she moved back to a northern state with her family, he was devastated. Never knew he was such a loving guy.
George joined the Coast Guard in 1958, six months active duty, six years active reserves, mainly to satisfy the draft rules. From there, he got a job working in a business office for Dade County.
Meanwhile, I had joined the police department, which seemed to interest him, so he quit his job and joined the county police agency too.
We became roommates in 1961 after my young bride of one year decided to leave me. We lived in a two story apartment off West Dixie Highway and 150th Street in North Miami Beach. Now in our 20’s, we became drinking buddies. We talked and shared much about our lives and our future ambitions, that we did not share with others. This is when became like brothers. George was always someone I could talk to, as was I to him.
George ended up marrying three times. His first to a French Canadian woman seven years older who was a barmaid at an old clapboard hotel by the railroad tracks. She had two kids, one of whom was a boy named Chad who George loved as he was his own, but never went through the process of adoption.
His second wife was a stenographer in the department, who grew tired of George’s chronic absence from home.
He met Bobbi in the early 1980s and hit it off. They had two daughters.
George managed to promote to the rank of Sergeant and served in various capacities for Dade County, including a number of years in charge of the Underwater Recovery Unit.
He took one lieutenant’s test and did poorly. It wasn’t a natural for him, so he never took another promotional test. Test-taking was not his forte. But in truth, I envied him, because getting promoted to lieutenant and captain, was one of my great career mistakes. George stayed on the road, working with the public and with fellow officers. My job became relegated to an administrative desk. I always figured he was really smarter than me.
For some reason, I could always beat him at chess and at tennis. So, he went to the library and checked out books on strategy for playing chess and tennis. He hated losing to me, so he became an expert and eventually beat me using his new strategies. Pretty smart.
I always told George, don’t worry about being ahead of me, you’re the one with all the money.
But we did enjoy golf together. We were as bad as each other. He had a hard time breaking 100. (Thanks Goodness for Mulligans) But he worked on studying that game as well. We were playing the Red Course at Doral one day and decided to play with two clubs only; the 7 iron and the putter. That’s all. Would you believe, he shot a 90 that day. Beat the heck out of me.
It was in the mid-1980s that George and I were playing the Maggie Valley Course in North Carolina as a get-away golfing week. The first day out, he came down with a terrible sickness. George worsened as we drove home. Finally, the diagnosis. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Cancer. Chemo. Hair loss. Recovery. But the disease always followed him.
In retirement, George took his family and moved upstate to Palm Bay Florida, to give his kids a better education and feelings of safety. Nevertheless, his marriage to Bobbi was a rocky one. Each were hard-headed. Each had their complaints with one another. They eventually divorced. But he was a moral, decent and loving man, though he was not always adept at showing affection. It mattered most to him that his daughters learned good morals and smart business sense.
George was already living in Brevard County for several years, when my wife and I moved nearby to Melbourne. George had introduced us to the area.
Twenty-two years, George lived with that black cloud called Lymphoma, He had gone into remission several times over the years, in and out of chemo treatments. And, as he aged, he also became more devout to his God.
My wife, Suzanne, and I were at his hospital bedside when he passed away on November 14, 2008. He was breathing…then he wasn’t. George Reincke was gone, a week shy of his 70th birthday.
He was truly a loved man, even by that little step-son from his first marriage, who followed George’s footsteps in law enforcement to eventually become the Chief of Police in Hollywood, Florida.
His lovely daughters, I know, are proud to have had such a caring and devoted dad. And, even in divorce, he still cared deeply for his Bobbi.
He was the closest I had to a brother. No matter our differences, we could talk about anything.
He loved me. I loved him.
Happy Birthday, George.
Bur-Lah-Loop: Rinky Dink