Rest in peace, Bob Hockenhull

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine passed away after battling cancer for eight years. The fact that he had it in him to battle cancer day after day for almost a decade should tell you everything you need to know about Bob Hockenhull. He started off his adult life as a soldier, and he remained a soldier to the end.

He had made great strides with experimental immunotherapy treatments and celebrated the pioneers in these medical concepts winning the Nobel Prize, as he was a living testimony to their contributions to humanity. For as long as I knew him, he was optimistic that he’d have a long life despite his diagnosis. And he did. From him, I learned that the most important thing when you are facing down illness is hope.

I encountered Bob years ago when I wrote about the bond market and was pretty active in financial circles on social media. He was a retired bond trader and enjoyed my snarky takes on often obscure topics in high finance. If you work in finance, there are not many people in the world who can appreciate the details of what you are talking about. It’s sort of like being a physicist or someone who develops artificial intelligence in that way. You are lucky if you find people who get what you are talking about. You are even luckier if you can find any colleagues that get you.

Bob was trading bonds long before there was any technology for trading bonds. He mailed me a copy of what traders called a “yield book” from decades ago – before the days of computer-generated models – which was a book of tables of potential yields on bonds under different conditions. He also sent me his treasured first financial calculator. And some collections of bond market papers from World War II. He knew I loved history and finance, and these were historical artifacts of sorts for the financial markets. I immediately placed them in a position of prominence in my office.

Bob was a kind, hilarious, and wise soul. He was wise about risk in the financial markets, but also on life in general. His signature on all correspondence was:

Risk is what’s left when you think you’ve thought of everything.

Not everything that can be counted counts.

He loved conversations about how to live a good life. He relished my enthusiasm for teaching our daughter new things. When I built an 8-foot tall telescope over the course of a weekend, he told me stories about being out on a battleship when he was in the Navy and looking up at the night sky in the middle of the ocean. Every time I see the sunset I look for the green light at the very end. He had a habit of trying to spot it when he’d have the chance to watch the sun set on vacations in Turks and Caicos. That was the kind of person he was. He carried a love a life and beauty and learning around with him.

Even though he was long retired, he still loved the intellectual jousting that comes with having spent a lifetime in a highly analytical profession. He’d email me articles and market commentary to start a debate about what certain trading patterns meant. That was his idea of fun. He’d challenge my opinions and force me to re-think my perspectives. I am a better thinker for having had him as a mentor.

He served our country in war and enjoyed listening to me talk about my father’s service with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam. I was happy to hear that he would be buried with full military honors. He was very proud of our military.

Rest in peace, Bob. You were a damn good man. One of the best. You are missed.

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