Bill was a good guy to work for. When I had a few games in a row postponed, he threw me a few extra games as a backup to make up for it. He didn’t have to do that, but he was fair.
Bill was friendly and good to talk to. He worked at one of the car services, they had a small office on the boulevard, just off Jamaica. It might have been Blue Lane.
I would go there to hand in my time cards, which the managers would sign after each game, and Bill would write a check. Bill always took the time to talk to me; he spoke to me like I was an adult and I appreciated that.
Bill had an easygoing personality and he liked to laugh. Bill Hinchey was a real nice guy.
It had been a few decades since I’d seen Bill when he showed up at a meeting of our historical society at the Avenue Diner last year. During the presentation, I passed by his table a few times and thought he looked familiar.
It wasn’t until after the meeting when we spoke that I discovered who he was. I was happy to see him. He was a part of a very happy time in my life, when I was a teenager and part of the Rich Haven family.
And I felt, in some way, that it was the rounding of a circle. When I was a kid, Bill Hinchey was someone I looked up to, someone who was doing stuff for the community. Growing up in Woodhaven back then, it seemed like we were surrounded by adults we could look up to as role models.
And many of those kids grew up to be the kind of adults they looked up to, and gave back to whatever communities they found themselves living in.
And that’s what made the news that Bill Hinchey died shortly after an altercation with some young adults so damned difficult to accept.
Bill had been working at the Forest Park Golf Course, he was 79 years old. On a Tuesday afternoon last month, Bill encountered a group of up to eight young men on bikes inside the course.
Bill told the kids to leave and an argument ensued. According to reports in the news, one witness to the altercation said Bill was dragged from his golf cart and thrown to the ground.
These young men fled the scene, leaving Bill – nearly 60 years their senior – lying on the ground unconscious.
Bill was hospitalized with a broken right femur, the thigh bone between your knee and your hip, the thickest and strongest bone in your body.
Three days later, Bill Hinchey died when he went into respiratory failure during surgery to repair the injuries sustained in the attack.
This past week, the Medical Examiner ruled Bill’s death a homicide, and the police arrested a 19-year-old boy and charged him with felony assault and criminally negligent homicide.
It is a bitter irony that this man, who spent years of his life helping young people, lost that life at the hands of them.
And it’s depressing that this news barely caused a ripple in our community. Maybe it’s a weariness that we all feel, or maybe we’re just numb.
Or perhaps we’re just becoming resigned to this new way of life in New York City, where random violence targeting the elderly is becoming more common.
Last summer, we had a four-block fair on Jamaica Avenue. Mothers and their young children were dodging young men on bikes the whole afternoon.
One elderly woman was injured when a young man stunt riding struck her wrist with his handlebar.
When we asked the police if they could stop these young men from riding through the fair and putting people in danger, we were told they could not.
We are failing our young people by giving them no structure, no role models, no rules to follow and no jobs. It leaves them adrift and can lead them down some bad roads.
Many of them will overcome this; they will grow up and become successful and responsible adults. But some will make bad decisions, like this young man, who will have to answer for the death of Bill Hinchey.
And now his life as he knew it is over, forever changed at 19. And the great tragedy is that had this young man met a good man like Bill Hinchey just a few years earlier, he would have never gone down the sad and destructive path he did.