Bob went home to be with his Lord and Savior early Saturday morning, after a two-year battle with esophageal cancer. Both of his sons were at his bedside at his passing.
Bob was born in San Francisco to Swiss immigrant parents Leonnart and Elsa Heinz. Bob was the third child in a family of four kids ― a girl, Sonia, who was followed by Bob’s older brother James, or Jimmy, who his friends deemed “Whitey” for his very blonde hair. Bob was followed by his younger brother, William, or Bill. Bob’s family moved from their home in Brisbane, to a new home just off of Vineyard Avenue in Pleasanton in 1951, when Bob was just 8 years old, after his father took a new job at the Hansen & Geiger Dairy there.
Bob spent his childhood growing up in the small town of Pleasanton at a time when your neighbors were also your closest friends. At a young age, Bob learned that he was good at taking things apart, putting them back together and making them work. He put this ability to use tinkering on and fixing small machines, then buying a junk car from a neighbor, which he got running and then drove around town at the age of 13. Tragedy struck Bob’s family when he was 15 and his older brother Jimmy was killed in a car accident in Livermore, coming home from a high school basketball game in Tracy.
Bob learned to be a hard worker from his father and had several jobs starting at an early age. He worked at the local grain mill where he had to move and load heavy sacks of flour for an entire shift, and packed garbage when it was still collected on the backs of garbage men who carried it in steel cans to the trucks from the sides and backyards of customers – before the curbside rolling garbage cans and robotic armed collection trucks of today. Bob found his calling when he went to work for Ernie Bonne at the small Chevron station on Main Street in Pleasanton, and then for Phil Younger, when Ernie retired shortly thereafter and sold to Phil prior to Chevron demolishing the old, small station and constructing the new one in its place. Bob not only enjoyed and excelled at being a gifted mechanic, but he found that he was a people person, equally good at the customer service/customer relation building side of the business, which he really enjoyed. Bob got his big opportunity with the changes and expansion occurring when Standard Oil began franchising their locations to individual dealers under the Chevron brand.
Bob found out that a new Chevron station was being planned in a new subdivision portion of Livermore. Bob got a recommendation letter from his then boss, Phil Younger, and went in to see the local Chevron District Manager to plead his case to get to be the Chevron Dealer for the planned new Chevron station on the corner of Barcelona Street and Concannon Drive. Bob was turned down initially and the location went to another individual, who went bankrupt six months later. Bob convinced the District Manager to give him the opportunity and was able to scrape up the required start-up capital, which at the time was just the cost of the first load of gas and initial accessory inventory from Chevron and Atlas. Due to his hard work and aptitude, he was able to succeed where his predecessor had failed.
At the age of 14, Bob had met his childhood sweetheart, a blonde attractive young lady a year his senior named Sharen McGonegal. He proposed a few years later at the age of 17, after dropping out of high school and starting work full time. The two were married shortly thereafter, with their parents’ permission (since Bob was still a minor). The couple initially lived in an apartment in Pleasanton and were blessed with their first son, whom they named Gary Craig, two years after their marriage. Following Bob going into business for himself as a Chevron Dealer, they purchased their first (and only) home on Wall Street in Livermore in 1964. Shortly thereafter the couple was blessed with their second son, John Mathew, who everyone called Johnny.
The Chevron station thrived and Bob created firm relationships with his customers, many of whom were or became his good friends. Bob’s brother Bill joined him, working for him as a mechanic after returning home from his service tour in Germany with the US Army. Both of Bob’s sons also worked at the station early on. Gary went on to enter the construction industry, while Johnny took more of a liking to the gas station business and would eventually become a Chevron dealer himself and later took over the last remaining family Chevron station on Santa Rita Road in Pleasanton. When a new station opportunity opened up on First Street in Livermore, Bob urged his brother to try to get the station. Bill took the opportunity and started a very successful dealer location of his own. Subsequently, Bob’s old boss’s station in Pleasanton became available for purchase. Sharen decided that she would like to try her hand as a dealer and the couple purchased the business on Main Street in Pleasanton in 1983. Shortly thereafter, Bob was notified that after 25+ years as a dealer, Chevron would be closing his station and demolishing it. Bob and Sharen worked at building up the Main Street location as the Livermore station was closed. A few years later, the Chevron station less than a mile away on the corner of Valley Avenue and Santa Rita Road in Pleasanton, which was then operated as Bob Combs’ Chevron, became available, as the dealer there sought to retire. The couple negotiated the purchase from Mr. Combs and Sharen was again listed as the dealer.
The family’s service station businesses developed and changed as did our society, moving from full service with a complete service and repair backroom and all of the gas being pumped by an attendant, who also cleaned the windows and checked the fluid levels and tires with a gas purchase, to completely self-service gasoline vending and convenience stores replacing the service and repair bays. The backroom at the Santa Rita location, which was renamed “Santa Rita Chevron,” was completely converted to a convenience store in 1998. During this time Johnny began working with Bob at the Livermore location, and then moved over to the Main Street location, which was again closed by Chevron in 1994. So, Johnny and Bob moved over to the Santa Rita location and built up the business there (prior to shutdown at Main Street). Once the station was renovated and the backroom converted to a C-store, Bob was beginning to think more and more about retirement. In 2001, he worked his last day at the Pleasanton location. Johnny took over as the Chevron dealer at the Santa Rita location in 2005 and still runs it today. Next year, August of 2020, will mark the 55th year of the family legacy Bob started as a Chevron dealer.
Bob and Sharen had purchased some property on Vineyard Avenue in Pleasanton in the late ‘70s, where Bob and his family had built a large barn and raised cattle for a number of years, before it was sold to Greenbriar Homes in 2004. Unfortunately, that year also marked the year in which Sharen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, so rather than beginning to enjoy what should have been a wonderful retirement, the couple spent the next two and a half years battling ovarian cancer and pursuing any new and innovative treatment they encountered. Sadly, the battle concluded with Sharen’s death in 2007.
Bob was now alone in retirement as a widower, after having never been single since the age of 14. Bob filled his retirement with trips with friends to the vacation condo he and Sharen purchased in Hawaii, as well as to other locations. He also enjoyed camping, boating and the 4-wheel drive trips to the Black Rock desert in Nevada, which he had done annually since the early ‘70s. The last eight years of his life Bob was in a relationship with Michelle Mochado, who he enjoyed travelling and other leisure activities with him, including hunting.
Bob was introduced to hunting by a family friend as a boy and began hunting again in retirement. During his final hunting trip in Nevada in 2017, he noticed that his throat was sore and that he was having a hard time swallowing. He immediately scheduled an appointment with his doctor, who scheduled him for some tests and an endoscopy. Following a biopsy, he got an unwelcome birthday present on October 12: his doctor called to tell him that he had stage 2 esophageal cancer.
Bob remained a small town boy his entire life. He loved to just hang out with his friends and to build on that circle whenever the opportunity presented itself. He was a very social guy and was always in his element in the company of his friends. He was the go-to guy for all practical matters and certainly for mechanical issues and anything to do with cars for his sons and even extended family. This inadequate synopsis does not even begin to scratch the surface of the story that was his life. He will be missed greatly!
Bob is preceded in death by: his wife of 47 years Sharen; parents Leonnart and Elsa; brother James “Whitey,” and sister Sonia. He is survived by: his two
sons, Gary and Johnny; Gary’s wife Luisa and Johnny’s wife Stacie; grandchildren Tabitha, Zachary, Tyr, Anna Madeliin and Brianna; brother Bill Heinz and Bill’s wife Pam; niece January and nephew Rob, as well as January’s husband Scott and their daughter Devanee “DJ.”
Services will be held Friday, August 23, as follows: viewing from 10 to 11 a.m. at Callaghan's Mortuary, 3833 East Avenue, Livermore, 925.447.2942; Celebration of Life at 11:30 a.m. at Cornerstone Fellowship church, 348 N. Canyons Parkway, Livermore, 925.447.3465; interment (private ceremony for immediate family) immediately following Celebration of Life at St. Michael Cemetery on East Avenue (100 yards from Callaghan's); Reception/Wake/Graduation/Farewell Party following Celebration of Life at Bob Heinz's home, 2073 Latour Avenue, Livermore. For questions, contact Gary Heinz, 530.344.2755, email@example.com; or Johnny Heinz, 925.784.9824, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The family directs anyone wishing to donate, to donate to cancer research at https://ecan.org/. Esophageal cancer, now the fastest growing cancer diagnosis in the US, has increased seven-fold in the last two years and is now the leading cause of death among Caucasians especially.