Shortly after 10 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, according to neighbors, a man on Hawley Boulevard in Normal Heights called his girlfriend on the phone and told her, “I set myself on fire; call the fire department.” When firefighters arrived, they found a small house in the rear of the main residence locked and engulfed in flames on the inside. They put the blaze out quickly and discovered the remains of Bob Reisinger, a man in his 50s, inside in the laundry room.
Reisinger’s grandmother, who was in her 90s and lived in the front house, died a year ago. His brother Michael still lives there.
Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the fire department, said the death was “an apparent suicide,” although an investigation has not been completed. “No foul play is suspected,” he said.
Reisinger, who sported a long gray beard, was often seen riding his bicycle in the community. Reputedly a heavy drinker, he was a regular at Rosie O’Grady’s bar on Adams Avenue, where he helped open in the mornings by cleaning up from the night before.
Bridget Allen, a bartender off and on for nine years at Rosie’s, said Reisinger, whose nickname was “Heartbreak Bob,” would “do anything to help anybody. He and I used to talk in the mornings before we opened. He’d tell me about his early life when he chased women all the time and lived a pretty wild life. He often ran down the street to pick up food for me. When I offered him some, he’d say, ‘You know I can’t eat that.’ He meant having few teeth. He’d say, ‘I know it was my fault.’”
Patrons in Rosie’s said they don’t believe Reisinger could have killed himself because he seemed to always be in a good mood. A man named Erick said Reisinger had once taken his keys away from him “when I was wasted.” Others talked about how Reisinger greeted people at the front door, where he often stood outside smoking.
Ed Sandford recalled the time he and his wife held a party in their backyard and Reisinger volunteered to watch the kids. “He just sat on the edge of the canyon,” said Sandford, “and made sure none of the kids went down."
A celebration of Reisinger’s life is scheduled for Wednesday, April 24, at Rosie O’Grady’s. The bar has raised $900 from his friends to help pay for funeral expenses.