At 12 years old, Bobby was in a car accident that changed his life forever
Some have called him the “Son of Paso Robles,” being his birthday, October 9, 1944, often lands on Pioneer Day. Some also call him brother, a friend, and a square dance partner.
His name is Robert (Bobby) Oeck. He is a Paso Robles High School Alumni and Paso Robles with deep family ties to the town. And when Bobby was only 12 years old, he was in a car accident that changed his life forever.
In June of 1956, while on a road trip near Denver, Colorado, with his grandfather, Max Oeck Sr. suffered an apparent heart attack, and their vehicle missed a curve, going over a 10-foot embankment.
Unfortunately, Max Oeck Sr. did not survive, and Bobby’s recovery was often described as a miracle.
When Bobby was found in the aftermath of the accident, he was believed to be dead. But after finding a faint heartbeat was rushed to the Children’s Hospital in Denver. Bobby and his grandfather Max Oeck were the only two in the vehicle at the time.
After two operations, Bobby was in a coma for six weeks. Miraculously on the road to recovery from a compound skull fracture, extensive brain damage, loss of sight in his left eye, and even the loss of his sense of smell.
In an article published on the Denver Post’s front page, printed Wednesday, May 10, 1961, and sold for 5 cents, it says Bobby returned to school after a year of home tutoring. His mother, Patricia Heaton-Oeck, said his recovery was “like a miracle.”
Kim Oeck, Bobby’s younger brother, said, “They didn’t think he had a chance of surviving the accident.”
After Bobby’s recovery from his near-death experience, he had to make several adjustments. See, Bobby is left-handed, and he shot using his left eye, which he lost his sight in from the accident.
Learning to shoot right-handed ended up not being a problem for Bobby, “I had no depth perception at all and had to go for about six months or so before I got my depth perception back in my single eye–I had to switch to be a right-handed shooter, and I found that I could shoot better right-handed than I could left-handed.”
Hunting was a tradition and way of life for the Oeck family. Bobby remembers living on venison and wild boar growing up. His father, Max Oeck Jr., and brother Kim were great huntsmen and guided hunts in the Paso Robles area.
Kim, who now lives in a remote area of Wyoming, still hunts with his father’s 1939 Winchester rifle.
Bobby got so good at shooting with his right eye, Kim remembers hunting with him in Indian Valley one day, where Bobby took home two bucks.
In 1962 Bobby picked up another hobby that he would enjoy for many years.
Bobby joined the Paso Squares square dancing club when he was 18. During its peak, there were more than 250 square dance club members on the Central Coast. Today the club only consists of 12 members but still meets the second Thursday of the month for some good ol’ fun!
Through square dancing, Bobby met his long-time friend and now roommate, Nancy Haynes of Shandon, in 1977.
The Oeck family has a long history with Paso Robles. Kim and Bobby’s maternal great-grandfather Walter Brush was Paso’s second and third pioneer marshal in 1032 and 1933.
Several other family members held positions as chairman and marshal, including J.P. Brush, Kirby Brush, and Max Oeck.
The Oeck brother’s deep family connection to Paso Robles makes it fitting that Bobby’s birthday often lands on Paso’s Pioneer Day, like his 21st birthday, which he sort of remembers.
“My 21st birthday was on Pioneer Day, and of course, that’s a free drink for each bar you go into, the first drink is on the house, and I don’t remember noon arriving that day,” Bobby said.
Besides his 21st birthday, Bobby remembers much of his life and the many memories he has made along the way.
“He’s never been mean to anybody. He is so friendly,” Kim said, “He has such a good outlook on life. He has just been such a part of Paso Robles.”