He relies on camera, tapes, invisible wings

"Hernando Bob" Hinton of the TV news has cancer. He's not worried.

Published March 14, 2007

SPRING HILL - Death knocks gently at Bob Hinton's door.

She is an angel, the beautiful woman he first saw at the age of 5.

He awoke one night 73 years ago to see her floating there in front of him. As his three brothers slumbered away in the same bed, he stared at her from his spot on the edge of the mattress.

He can't remember exactly what she looked like, except that she had wings and glowed in the darkness of his childhood home in Dillonvale, Ohio.

Just as he was about to yell for his mother, she went away.

But he knew she would always be there for him, his guardian angel - even though he would not see her again for seven more decades.

Hinton swears she protected him with her invisible wings while he fought in the Korean War. As the bodies of Air Force comrades fell from the sky, Hinton survived an attack that left him discharged from the military and on disability.

He won't talk about what happened, except to say, "It was between God and me."

And his angel.

He says she is the one who pushed him to do good with his life, to always think about helping people.

With a love for photography, he picked up his first videocamera 14 years ago and made a short film warning high school students about the dangers of drunken driving on prom night.

From there, the tall, lanky and talkative Hinton began to show up at car accidents and fires around the county. He got into the habit of listening to a police and fire scanner.

That led Louise, his wife of 30 years, into the habit of looking up locations on maps for him while he gathered his gear. Or she would find herself waiting in the car, worrying as her husband pulled off the road and dashed to the scene of an accident with his small camera in hand.

Tampa television stations got interested in his video, too, and his location in the growing county. At first, Hinton had an exclusive contract with WTVT. But when Fox bought the station, he was free to peddle all his tapes to all five shops.

And over the years, he got the nickname "Hernando Bob."

Yes, his angel is the one who drove him to do the good with his videos.

He says she is the one who recently made him deliver several laundry baskets full of tapes to local police and fire departments, all videos they can watch and use for training.

Hinton remembers the night he saw her last, three years ago and during his first battle with prostate cancer.

Writhing in pain on the couch in his home that night, he called for her. He had never done that before.

Then, there she was in front of him. She smiled to let him know that it would be all right. The stabbing pangs went away. He went back to bed.

He expects to see her when it's time to go. He knows she is here, knocking on his door.

But for now, he pretends not to hear.

Four months ago, doctors said he would be dead soon. The cancer was in his lymph nodes and lungs.

But he's still here. Fighting to live without any treatment, with only painkillers to numb the constant aching.

"I'm not giving up yet," Hinton said. "When things are out of control you fight. But I know it's in God's hands."

And his guardian angel's.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or 352 848-1432.