Robert J. Croteau

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Robert J. Croteau, 31; Great White was his favorite band

There was no bigger Great White fan than Robert J. Croteau.

If you needed proof, you could check out his album collection, every one signed by the band. Or look through his collection of autographed memorabilia, including guitar picks, shirts, and dozens of concert tickets.

He was on a first-name basis with the band members -- and even the lead singer's mother.

"He died doing something he really loved," his mother, Judith, says.

Robert, 31, had been assaulted and spent 4 1/2 months in a coma last year. To try to bring him out of it, his family played Great White's songs in his hospital room. One album in particular was being played a lot on the radio at the time. It was called Recovery. When he woke up, all Robert wanted was to hear that album.

"I tried to get him to listen to other bands, but he didn't want to hear it," says his brother Tommy.

Robert, who grew up in Fall River and graduated from Durfee High, lived with his parents and Tommy. For them, he was an amazing fix-it man and housekeeper in one, happy to clean and arrange the house if anything was out of order.

"The way he collected stuff, and cleaned and fixed everything. Things I couldn't be bothered with, he'd do," Tommy says. And he was always excited, whether he was watching wrestling or reruns of All in the Family. "He acted younger than he was. He was 31, but he acted like he was 21," Tommy said.

Robert worked as a landscaper for Barnes Tree Service in Rochester, Mass., and for Summit Grove Landscaping in Dartmouth, Mass. In his free time, he visited residents at the Cardinal Medeiros elder-care home in Fall River to watch television and play bingo.

"He was just a friendly guy," his mother says. "He liked everybody, and everybody liked him."

-- Daniel Barbarisi, Providence Journal staff

Published in The Providence Journal on Mar. 20, 2003
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