By Joshua Resnek
It wasn’t always easy being Robert Hightower.
He was a complex Chelsea man who understood the trials and tribulations of life, and of his own life, which made it easier for him years later to serve as a mentor to younger people who benefited from his wisdom.
Bobby Hightower, as he was known throughout the city, died December 7 following a long battle with cancer.
He was 56.
He was originally from Georgia and came to Chelsea at an early age with his parents who settled in a three-decker cold water flat on Arlington Street in 1960.
As a kid, he grew up in a closely knit environment in the Chelsea of that era, long before the 1973 fire changed the city forever.
His childhood friends included Leo McCarthy, the late Stevie Lee, Danny Robinson and the late Walter Robinson.
He attended the Williams School where he excelled in basketball – and he was smart, a good student who learned quickly. He went on to Chelsea High School where he graduated in 1972 and where he played basketball with great skill and power.
At 6’5”, he was a strapping man, quick and strong, and in the Chelsea of this by-gone era, Bobby Hightower was no one to challenge.
He was a very quiet, humble type of man who knew how to size up people in an instant. He had a winning smile and for much of his adult life, he was popular in this city and well known.
As a younger man, he knew years of crisis but he outgrew his personal problems. He became one of Chelsea’s best – known men about town, involved with the city’s youth through a variety of programs which he worked tirelessly for.
When Bobby Hightower was calling on you, he was looking for help for the city’s kids or for the youth program he was working for.
“The time and energy that Bobby Hightower gave to the Upward Bound Program was absolutely outstanding,” said City Councilor Leo Robinson, a close friend who grew up with Hightower.
“He steered many struggling Chelsea kids in the right direction. He aided in getting them into college and to completing their educations when without him they might have never succeeded in that way,” he added.
Hightower raised his own family and was very close with his children and grandchildren.
In recent years he battled cancer as well as other medical issues and life struggles. Those of us who knew him understood he was not the type of man to complain.
“Bobby was many things during his life. He was a tough kid who understood the predicament that we all find ourselves in as we grow up. He was, again, many things. But mainly, Bobby was a credit to his name. He helped out more young people than most of us will ever do in our lives and for much of his adult life, he was a mentor and a friend to the youth of this city and to him. “Chelsea was a place he was proud to come from,” said Robinson.
Hightower is being waked on Thursday 4 to 8 in the Ruggiero Mazzarella Memorial Home 971 Saratoga Street East Boston.
A Celebration of his life will begin 7:30 p.m.