CLEVELAND, Ohio – One of the first things Bob Manak did after he learned he had months to live was to make other people smile.
He did that by making sure his prized collection of more than 1,500 bobbleheads would serve a purpose other than gathering dust. Manak donated the nodding figures to the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee in February.
Manak died Wednesday, March 22, from complications of colon cancer. He was 57.
His hobby was collections, from scouring flea markets for the colorful bobbleheads that filled his West Side Cleveland home to displaying shot glasses, magnets and other trinkets. But mostly he collected friends.
News of the bobblehead donation drew dozens of collectors to inquire whether Manak would sell some of his collectibles. But it wasn’t his first brush with fame.
In 1983, he graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in science. One of his fraternity brothers was Drew Carey. Manak liked to tell people that he can be seen in a photo included in Carey’s 1997 book, “Dirty Jokes and Beer.”
The impish fun of bobbleheads was a stark contrast to Manak’s first career. He participated in ROTC in college then served seven years in the Army’s artillery division and as a quartermaster in Korea and Germany. For much of his career he worked in government service, in the Veterans Administration and then as a claims examiner in the war-hazards unit in the Department of Labor. He adjudicated claims for contractors working for the government in war zones.
His second career reflected his love of Cleveland sports.
He worked for the Browns, the Indians and then for 18 years with the Cavaliers, roaming Gund Arena as an usher.
“He loved Cleveland sports teams so much,” his sister Caroll Comeau said.
In fact, that love of his teams will be with him at his funeral. He will be buried in Cleveland Browns pajama pants, a Chief Wahoo sweatshirt and with his Cavs championship ring.
A pair of bobbleheads – including one that the Indians recently had made in his likeness – will be placed in his casket, along with poker chips and pinochle cards. Manak loved traveling and had accounts at several casinos that he had planned to visit one final time.
Manak remained surrounded by his remnants of fun and, his sister said, the family recently found yet another box of bobbleheads.
In late February, not long after Manak threw a festive party at his house to see friends and family before moving in with his sister, his health deteriorated. He spent time in hospice.
“We thought we had a little longer, to be honest,” Comeau said. “We wanted to get him to an Indians game.”
Robert Jeffery Manak graduated from West Geauga High School in 1978, spending his final year as an exchange student in Perth, Australia. To the day he died, he stayed in touch with his host family, the Coombs.
He leaves behind his mother Dorothy – “his most precious friend,” Comeau said. Manak’s father James died in the 1960s.
He was the beloved brother of Frances Martin, Caroll Comeau (Bob), Jimmy (deceased) (Marci) and Louise (deceased). He was beloved uncle to Jonathon Martin (Maggie), Paul Manak (deceased) (Kim), Kris Helwig (Austin), Jim Manak (Cyndi), Pam Odom (Justin) and Mikki Butterbaugh.
Stroud-Lawrence Funeral Home, 95 South Franklin St., Chagrin Falls, is handling arrangements.
Calling hours are 1-3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Monday, March 27. Mass will be 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 28, at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, 496 E. Washington St., Chagrin Falls. It’s the same church where Manak was baptized.
Interment will follow Mass at Holy Cross Cemetery, 14600 Brookpark Road, Brook Park.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Hospice of the Western Reserve, 17876 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, Ohio, 44110, and the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, P.O. Box 0982, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53201-0982.
The bobblehead hall has never had a willed donation before, co-founder and CEO Phil Sklar said.
“It’s very touching,” he said. “It’s an amazing gesture.”
Manak also donated proceeds from sales of some bobbleheads to the hospice, Comeau said.