Bob Ackershoek on the air at WIOX 91.3FM in 2010, when the radio station launched. Photo by Julia Reischel.
Bob Ackershoek, the host of the long-running "This is the Rock" radio show on WIOX 91.3FM and the co-owner of Cassie's Cafe in Roxbury, died on Friday, December 13 after having a heart attack. He was 62.
Cassie Grabowski, Ackershoek's partner of 35 years, said that he suffered a heart attack on Tuesday, Dec. 10, while the couple was on vacation in South Carolina. He died early Friday morning at a South Carolina hospital, after several days in an intensive care unit.
A former real estate broker, Ackershoek was the host and resident curmudgeon at Cassie's Cafe, where he presided over the town of Roxbury's daily comings and goings from a perch behind the front counter. His presence there was largely ornamental, Grabowski said.
"He claimed that he made the soup, but he didn't," she said. "He was the host. That was sort of his function."
Ackershoek's true calling was music. He spent Tuesday nights at WIOX 91.3FM, introducing Catskills radio listeners to his long list of classic rock favorites. His deep, sonorous voice anchored the show, punctuating playlists that he spent days refining.
"He was a perfectionist that way," said Grabowski from South Carolina. "He would take notes on his plans for the show. He was doing that on the way down here. He kept pulling out his notebook and writing notes. He knew what sounds went together, what songs -- he would think of them and they would come together."
Curating music was a lifelong passion for Ackershoek. As a student in communications at William Paterson College in the 1970s, Ackershoek managed WPSC 88.7FM, the college radio station, which he helped build into a mainstream fixture on campus, training volunteer staff and crafting the programming.
After graduation, Ackershoek became the manager of Tech HiFi, a stereo store in his hometown of Totowa, New Jersey. It was there in 1978 that he met Grabowski, who was helping her sister buy stereo equipment. When Ackershoek heard that Grabowski and her sister were going on a cross-country trip, he made them mix tapes.
"We listened to those tapes for months," Grabwoski said. "That was the only music we had with us. I loved the stuff that he played, the way he put it together. I just fell in love with this person, because of those tapes."
Ackershoek worked as a real estate broker for decades, first in New Jersey and then in the Catskills, where he and Grabowski moved in 1983. He ran his own real estate firm, and later worked as a broker for Apple Tree Realty in Andes.
In 1997, Grabowski and Ackershoek opened a cafe, Cassie's Kitchen, in the town of Andes. In 2008, the couple renamed the restaurant Cassie's Cafe and moved it to Roxbury's Main Street.
In 2003, Ackershoek began what he referred to as his "sabbatical" from real estate and devoted his time to other pursuits.
An avid golfer and fly fisherman, Ackershoek was a craftsman in both sports. He built fly-fishing rods and hand-tied his own flies, and made custom golf clubs for friends.
When WIOX 91.3FM launched as a community radio station in Roxbury in 2010, Ackershoek was one of the first volunteer show hosts, station manager Joe Piasek told the Daily Star last week. "This Is The Rock" quickly became one of the station's anchor shows.
Ackershoek's death is a tremendous blow to WIOX, especially since the station lost another beloved radio host and tireless local-music advocate, Terry Doyle, to a heart attack in February.
Cassie's Cafe was closed last week, but Grabowski said that the restaurant will be on a limited basis during the coming weeks. According to the cafe's Facebook page, Cassie's will be open Dec. 27-30 and Jan. 3-6, Fridays through Mondays from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Grabowski said that she hopes to plan a memorial service for Ackershoek early in 2014.
Donations can be made to Cassie's Fund Drive, a fundraiser set up by neighbors to help Grabowski pay Ackershoek's medical bills and other expenses. Ackershoek spent several days in a South Carolina intensive care unit, and the couple does not have health insurance.
Donations can also be made in Ackershoek's memory to the the Heart of the Catskills Humane Society, one of Ackershoek's favorite charities.
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