Bob Christman had your back, whether it was a last-minute request to buy milk for his grandchildren or watching out for Army comrades when he fought in the Korean War.
“He was a very reliable individual, someone you could depend on if he was given an assignment,” said Mario Obertis, commander of the VFW Post 8031 in New Hyde Park. “He’s a guy that if he said he was going to be there 10 minutes to 10, he’d be there . . . right on the dot.”
That’s why his VFW colleagues were concerned when Christman, 86, a retired CPA from New Hyde Park, didn’t show up for a Tuesday afternoon meeting last week. His family found him dead Thursday morning in his bedroom and suspected he had had a heart attack. He had lived alone since his wife, Carolyn, died 11 years ago.
It was a shock, relatives said, because Christman had been dining out regularly with friends and had stayed up late the previous weekend to watch a Cardinals game. He had accepted a Hempstead Town certificate of merit last month for his volunteer work, which included doing seniors’ taxes each year and serving as commander, then treasurer of Post 8031.
“He just lived life to the very end,” said daughter-in-law Tricia Christman of West Hempstead.
That was in marked contrast to the early part of his life in Queens. He was a Depression-era baby who didn’t remember much about his mother because she had tuberculosis and was put in a sanitarium before he was school age, said his son Steve Christman of West Hempstead.
With the help of his two older sisters, he looked out for himself, and, after high school, he started taking an interest in numbers — he worked for the accounting department of a construction company.
But at age 20 in 1952, he was drafted into the Army for the Korean War. Ending up about 2 miles from the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, he struggled with maggots in Army food, mosquito hordes, water up to his knees at times in the bunkers on the so-called Suicide Hill, which had a slope so steep that the enemy never attacked it by foot, Christman wrote in a brief memoir.
“You have to be sure somebody’s got your back,” he told his family he learned in the war.
After his return in 1954, Christman went to college on the GI Bill to get an accounting degree. It was a career that suited his fact-based approach to life, one that hadn’t been softened by a maternal presence in his early life, his family said.
Christman worked for Sperry & Hutchinson, which set up rewards programs for various companies, and retired as its controller after more than 30 years.
He liked being a CPA because with numbers and accounting, rules had to be followed, his son said.
He followed the rule of his day — men worked and the women took care of the children — but that all changed when a retired Christman changed a dirty diaper for the first time, for his son’s son.
“The first time he sat with the kids with a bottle, he really loved it,” Steve Christman said. “He became more appreciative of all the stuff he might have missed out. . . . He kind of turned that thing around and gave it to the kids.”
Family and friends said Christman fed his intellect in his retirement.
“He would come to gatherings at my house . . . and just work the crowd,” said Tricia Christman, Steve’s wife. “He would go from person to person and get involved in a conversation. He would remember that the next time you saw him and bring up details.”
He also is survived by two other sons, Robert and Gary, both of Torrington, Connecticut; his sister Dorothy Betancourt of Silver Spring, Maryland; and two grandchildren.
Burial was Monday at Locust Valley Cemetery.