Mineola native Robert E. Bill was a New York Giants...

Mineola native Robert E. Bill was a New York Giants lineman. Bill died of heart failure on June 3, 2012. He was 72. Newsday's obituary for Robert E. Bi
Credit: Handout

When the 1962 NFL season started, Mineola native Robert E. Bill was a New York Giants lineman. A knee injury on the first play of the first game ended his professional career.

But he embraced a new line of work -- insurance -- much like he approached life, full of positive energy, his family said. Bill died of heart failure at 72 on June 3. He was in Cleveland to see a doctor about a hip replacement, having just attended his 50th college reunion at the University of Notre Dame.

"Dad was a very positive person," said his son, Robert Charles Bill of Lloyd Harbor. "He rolled with the punches. I'd ask, 'Hey Dad, how are you doing today?' and he'd say, 'Top of the turf. Top of the turf.' He meant he was alive and not six feet under."

As a teenager, Robert Bill was such a gifted athlete that the Brooklyn Dodgers wanted to sign him as soon as he got his high school diploma, the son said.

But Bill's father disapproved, and Bill went to Notre Dame, where he played football, impressing fans with his quickness, his son said.

Bill was the Giants' second-round draft pick in 1961. He was set to play with future Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle, but in that first play, he got hit from both sides.

His knee never fully recovered, and after the Giants paid off his two-year contract, his business degree helped him underwrite policies for Aetna Insurance. At 32, he had his own insurance firm, Robert E. Bill Associates in Farmingdale.

"Dumb like a fox" was how Bill's family described his congenial approach to conversations, fatherhood and more.

As Robert Charles Bill and his wife were expecting their first child, his youthful shenanigans were recounted "chapter and verse" by his father. The younger Bill, who never thought his father knew about the exploits, had just received a parenting lesson. "He kind of let life happen. He didn't micromanage. He let people be who they are," the son said.

Bill retired at 62 and lived in North Palm Beach, Fla.

He is also survived by his wife, Joyce Skinner Bill; two other children, Katherine, of Islandia, and Christian, of Stamford, Conn.; brothers Joseph and Michael, both of Indianapolis, and three grandchildren.

Visitation is from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at Fairchild Sons Funeral Home in Garden City. Funeral services start at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Garden City, followed by burial at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

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