Remembering the Beloved Bob Indeglia
If ever a man was universally loved, it was Bob Indeglia – professionally known as Dr. Robert A. Indeglia. Loved by his fellow physicians, nurses and patients in the medical world; loved by those privileged to exhibit in his rings; loved by his multitude of judging and golfing friends as well as his extended family. If you didn’t love Bob, you just didn’t know him. His recent passing was a loss to us all.
Although Bob had grown up with dogs around him, his interest in the Norwegian Elkhound began when he was in Minnesota, acquiring his PhD and residency at the Mayo Clinic. He once joked what else could he do, surrounded by so many Scandinavians. Thus, in the 1960s he became involved with the Elkhound, and his devotion to the breed lasted the rest of his 84 years. During that time, Bob served multiple terms as president of the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America as well as being instrumental in rewriting the breed standard approved in 1973.
Ch. Mikkel of Keyport was purchased in those early years from an elderly Norwegian lady in Washington, and I have always regretted not getting a breeding to that dog. Both Larry Downey and his young assistant Stan Flowers handled Mikkel while Bob toiled away preparing for his future. As Bob was a resident and I a young, broke schoolteacher, the mating to Mikkel just didn’t happen. Frozen and chilled semen were not options to replace a natural breeding in those days.
Mikkel became the prototype for Bob’s later judging of his beloved breed, and rightly so, for he was the picture of the breed standard. Eventually this brilliant young man became the most prominent cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon in New England in a medical career that lasted for five decades. In addition to his devotion to his profession, Bob continued his love of dogs and dog shows and in time became a multiple group judge of great renown. With his gentle sense of humor, he would laugh that it was easier to become a heart surgeon than a dog-show judge!
When his second wife Mary wanted to become more involved in dogs and dog shows with him, she found the Elkhounds to be “too much” for her to handle in the ring. So, on her birthday in 1984, she found Bob sitting in the kitchen with a young beautiful brindle Whippet bitch as a delightful surprise. This thoughtful man had respected her wishes to be in the same group as the Elkhounds.
The respect for Dr. Bob as a judge was evident when the famous Westminster Kennel Club featured him as their BIS judge in 2007. He had previously judged breeds and groups at the Garden successfully, and on that magic night in ’07, he selected the English Springer Spaniel Ch. Felicity’s Diamond Jim handled by Kelly Fitzgerald as his winner. The candid of Bob, Kelly and Diamond Jim with Bob's granddaughter Alexandra peeking through was one of his favorite photos.
At the Westminster judges’ dinner prior to the big event, Bob shared the following with the dignitaries in attendance. He stated that he had always thought the most important honor of his life was in the ’60s, when the head cardiologist he was assisting in bypass surgery during his Minnesota residency instructed him, “It’s all yours now. Sew him up.” With emotion and sincerity, he considered the honor of judging BIS at Westminster surpassing that long-cherished memory.
“Doc,” as many affectionately called him, was a diehard sports fan and golfer. Among his many golfing buddies were the late, great dogmen – Bob Forsyth and George Ward. “Handlers and Hackers” was one of their favorite January activities in Florida in the days before so many dog shows in that state. This was a fun tournament/event that featured not only golf but handling face-offs as rusty retired handlers teed off in the ring as well as on the course. Later they laughed and joked about their exploits or lack of same over cocktails and dinner. Bob was always at ease enjoying being away from the operating room at such events.
And of course, there was always talk at these gatherings about their favorite teams and athletes. Bob himself was a great Boston Red Sox fan, but all his life had admired and revered Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. Bob was just a young boy when DiMaggio was in his prime, and he never got over his hero worship of the star centerfielder for the New York Yankees. To this day there is a great rivalry between the Yankees and Bob’s beloved Red Sox, arguably the greatest rivalry in baseball and sports.
When an adult Bob named one of his Elkhounds Joe DiMaggio, I kidded him about his conflict of interest because Joltin’ Joe was a “damn Yankee.” Bob said, “Hey, you can’t forget a guy who got Marilyn Monroe to marry him” with a twinkle in his eye. Bob’s greatest Red Sox year ever was in 2004, when they won the World Series. The Sox had suffered a long drought after selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919. For years their losses were termed “the curse of the Bambino.” It brought Bob great joy when “the curse” was broken.
Both Bob and I were always Frank Sinatra fans. His cell phone contained unending Sinatra music. Sometimes when he seemed to be involved in some important professional conversation on it, he was actually listening to “the chairman of the board.” Outstanding work by such fellow Italians as DiMaggio and Sinatra were a source of joy for him. His own Italian family was truly dear to him. Bob had followed in his father’s footsteps as a much-respected physician. With old-world modesty, he took great pride in his four sons – Vinnie, Bobby, Mark and Paul.
Bob’s last judging assignment was in late 2019, and he was much missed by the fancy that so enjoyed his charm and expertise while judging. I talked to him right before this year’s Super Bowl between the Rams and Bengals. It was the first time in all my 50-plus years of enjoying his friendship when he wasn’t all that into a Super Bowl.
Perhaps now he is in a better place where all his patients recover; all the dogs in his ring are perfect; and he gets that elusive hole in one while always shooting par. And then he and his friends that went before him gather to enjoy reminiscing about the fruits of their most productive lives. Those he left behind, while grieving, will count their blessings for having had him in their lives.