Bob was born in Euclid, Ohio, on November 4, 1958. He was the fifth of six children born to Larry and Kay Swaney. The memories and pictures we have of all six children together back in those days are pretty funny since we were born within eight years so we were all pretty close in age. Our parents sure had their hands full then (and now, too).
We grew up in a nice area in Euclid with wonderful friends surrounding us. Our parents sent all six of us to Holy Cross Catholic School. We had so much fun in that neighborhood. Most of the families on our street had five or six children too, so there were always plenty of kids to play with. Back in those days, we didn’t have things like Nintendo, so all of us kids would play outside together in our fishpond, walking on stilts, or even riding a unicycle. We had a huge monkey bar set our Dad made and a shuffleboard game on our driveway so we were the house on the street where all the kids played. When Bob and our brother, Mike, were around eight and nine years old, we used call them the Smothers Brothers. Mike was “Dick” and Bob was “Tommy.” The two of them were the comedians in the family.
We would go on vacation to West Virginia every year and we stayed in cabins with our cousins. Our Dad would pack us all up in the station wagon, give us all Dramamine, and off we would go. On the trip, if we weren’t sleeping, we were fighting. “Mom, he’s/she’s touching me.” At night, when it was pitch black outside, we would go walking or riding in the back of the station wagon with the tailgate down and scare the wits out of each other. We would collect lizards and box turtles and bring them home with us. Bob would paint his name on the turtle's shell so if it ran away someone would find it and return it to him. Those were the days.
In 1972, we moved to Indian Hills. There, Bob attended Euclid Central Jr. High. We were all in our teens by this time and causing a little havoc. Poor Bob would get blamed for things that happened in the neighborhood since he was the longhaired kid on the block. Once, when we were on vacation, he was blamed for throwing eggs at a house. Most of the other families in this neighborhood never thought their children could do such things so it was always one of those “Swaney kids” who did it.
Around this time, Bob discovered his artistic talents. He took art classes throughout junior high and high school and he received several awards. When he was going to be recognized at an Art Award Ceremony by the City of Euclid, they told my Mom that Bob could not attend and receive his award unless he cut his long hair. My Mom told them he drew the pictures with long hair and he would receive his award with long hair. Mom hated Bob’s long hair, too, but she still stood up for him.
After high school, Bob attended Cooper Art School in Cleveland to continue to develop his artistic talents. He attended this school with Mike who is also very artistic. Mike has so many fond and funny memories of going to art school with Bob. He tells a story of how he, Bob, and their fellow classmates would ride up the elevator to get to class. Bob would tell them all to stand on their heads so that when the door opened for other floors they would get a good laugh. Bob always told a story or did something silly to get a laugh. It was just his nature.
In 1978, we moved to Chesterland. Bob loved this house because we had acres of property and woods that ran behind the house with a stream. He always enjoyed the outdoors. One day, Bob was down by the stream drinking with a bunch of his buddies and decided to dive in. Thankfully, Mike went back there and found him not looking very well. He convinced Bob that he had better go home with him and Mike helped him walk back to the house, which was no short walk. Dad and Mom drove Bob to the hospital and found out he had broken his neck and crushed two vertebras. They had to take bone from his hip to create the two vertebras he crushed and he was in a flip bed with a halo screwed into his skull. It is amazing that he walked home in his condition. Our sister Debbie remembers when she went to visit him, he said, "Talk about hangovers, they screwed this thing into my head." He was in the hospital for 2 months and had to go through intensive therapy to learn how to walk again. When he was discharged from the hospital, he had to wear the halo at home for 6 months but he didn’t care. He was just happy to be home.
The good news was Bob recovered very well from this accident. The bad news was he had become very addicted to pain pills.
A couple of years later, Bob decided he wanted to learn how to tattoo and started working in a tattoo parlor in Wickliffe. This was a way for him to use his artistic talents. He could draw anything and free hand tattoo artists were rare. While working in Wickliffe, he met a girl named Kellie and they were married in 1984. Bob was never happier. The two of them were so funny together and so much in love. In 1985, they had a daughter, Lydia, Bob’s only child, who he loved very, very much. Lydia was his pride and joy and because of his addiction, he lost valuable time with her. When the two of them were together, they were like two peas in a pod. Lydia was and will always be, Daddy's little girl.
Needless to say, Bob was still struggling with his addiction to pain pills, and eventually his marriage fell apart. It was very difficult for both of them since they really did care for each other and always remained good friends. He eventually got in trouble and served time for drug-related issues. During this time, he was in rehab to help him get over his addiction. Bob finally had a couple of months of sobriety when he was in another accident. He was a passenger in a truck that flipped and he had to be life-flighted to Metro hospital. He had re-injured his neck and needed over 100 stitches in his head. He also had numerous abrasions all over his body. The first thing Bob told them at the hospital was “don’t give me anything for pain.” Of course, they did and Bob found himself back to square one, addicted.
Bob’s drug addiction eventually took him to other drugs that were much worse than pain pills but easily bought on the streets. He finally moved in with our parents to try to kick his addiction once and for all. He seemed to be doing great. He was attending meetings and we all felt pretty good. He stayed at our parents for about six months and eventually moved out. After he died we found a journal he kept in his bedroom and it was named “Cold Turkey 99.” In this journal, he wrote about how terribly bad he wanted to quit doing drugs and get his life and family back.
After he moved out of our parents’ home, he fell back into the same habits. He was living wherever he could and doing drugs. Eventually, he was back in jail for 30 days. Bob was released from jail on October 15, 2000 and was found dead in a hotel room on October 29, 2000. He died alone (supposedly) from an overdose of a mixture of heroin and pain pills. He had lost his struggle with drugs and we had lost him.
Bob was an all around nice guy who had a terrible addiction to drugs that he just couldn't beat. Although he tried desperately, it was just something he could not conquer no matter how hard he tried. Remember that Bob's addiction originally started from prescribed medications, which he was never weaned off of after his recovery from his accidents. Addiction to drugs will kill you eventually and it needs to be addressed as a disease rather than a jail sentence.
Anyone who knew him loved him, and thought him to be the most talented artist they knew. Our family is so blessed to have so many memories of Bob that will make us laugh - and which we'll cherish - forever. Bob was a character. He was a little boy who never grew up. His nieces and nephews loved him because he would make them laugh, draw them pictures and tell them stories. Some called him “Uncle Buck.” Mike remembers when Bob would retell his life and times. With each time, the story was told, it would become more fantastic and brighter. His stories would have the same detail he put into his artwork. We know he is sitting up there on a rainbow, watching us all, with a line of angels as far as the eye can see, single file. Bob laughs and tattoos their butts one by one, assuring them all this won't hurt and no one will ever know, then calling out "next." We were all in that line at one time, and are the better for it. We thank him for bringing us all closer and for all the good times and memories we had with him. He will be in our hearts and souls forever.
Bob is survived by his parents, Lawrence and Catherine Swaney; his sisters, Linda (Jim) Clough, Debbie Edelman, and Sharon (Rick) Sweigert; his brothers, Larry (Mary) Swaney and Mike Swaney; his daughter, Lydia Swaney; his daughter’s mother, his ex-wife and his best friend, Kellie Mitrovic; and many nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins. He was predeceased by his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth VonHof, and his paternal grandparents, Lawrence and Helen Swaney.