Occupation: Sales manager for Witec Instruments. He also owns ICMAS, a company Hirche humorously refers to as having two meanings: “It’s called Instrumentation Contract Manufacturing and Analytical Services, but ‘I Can Make A Sale’ sounds better.”
Family: He and his wife, Susan, have been married 29 years. Son Everett Hirche, 25, is a glass artist in Star, N.C., and son Rick, 23, works at ICMAS.
The snowy, icy weather that has left many Blount County residents inside for the past few weeks was a regular part of Bob Hirche’s life when he and his family lived in Madison, Wis., in the 1980s. It eventually drove them south to Maryville.
“The winter we are having right now was a regular deal. What we have had this week is daily routine from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick’s Day,” he says. “That is enough to make someone move back South, so I took a lateral transfer with the company I was with and moved to Maryville in 1988.”
Hirche was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and attended Garden City High School where a teacher stoked Hirche’s interest in geology. “A high school teacher named Dr. Julian Kane got me headed in the direction of geology,” he says. “We did field trips and would go to all sorts of different field trips - from studying beach sand to looking at various aquatic life in the ocean.”
Hirche went on to Marietta College in Ohio where he majored in geology. He graduated college in 1977 and went to work in the mining industry. “My first job was as a surveyor in Southern West Virginia in a little town called Gilbert, just down the road from ‘Hatfield and McCoy’ country,” he says.
Hirche spent seven years in mining before he got involved in sales, selling coal mining equipment. He moved to Illinois, and then to Abingdon, Va., where he met the woman who would become his wife.
“Susan and I met at a party through mutual friends,” he says. “We’ve been together 29 years - that should tell you something. We are very good friends and great partners.”
From Abingdon, the Hirche’s moved to Birmingham, Ala., and then headed north. “I changed careers and ended up in Madison, Wis. Then in 1988, we moved back south and landed in Maryville. I started my own business in 1994,” he says.
As a teen, Hirche earned Eagle rank as a Boy Scout and has devoted much of his time to the organization. “I spent a number of years volunteering primarily because I think Scouting has impacted my life positively, and I think it has had a good impact on lots of young men’s lives,” he says.
Here is Bob Hirche:
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
“From The Blues Brothers character Elwood, ‘It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.’ And the character Jake says, ‘Hit it.’”
What are you guilty of?
“Taking on too much.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“My Sea Ray boat and Old Town canoes.”
What are you reading currently?
“Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“During a ski trip I did one of those famous ‘watch this,’ moves down a steep run and ended up in a full face-plant at the bottom. Yes, it was caught on video.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“Boating from Louisville to the Florida Keys and Bahamas via the Tennessee River; hiking from Top of the World to Mt. LeConte and back; not taking a car to the airport and parking free by riding my bicycle on the Greenbelt from our condo to the airport and then taking a plane trip. We have such a great resource in the Greenway here in Blount County.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I would be more patient.”
What is your passion?
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“My paternal grandfather, Frederick Robert Hirche. He came to the U.S. though Ellis Island from Germany in 1922.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“Woodstock. I was 12 miles away at Boy Scout Camp catching my first trout at the time and had no clue what was going on that rainy week.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“Our elder son, Everett, is a glass blower and made me a beautiful set of glasses for Christmas one year.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Slow down to a trot.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“Dr. Julian Kane, my high school earth science teacher. It was he who first exposed me to geology, which became my college major and for the most part my career.”
Do you Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“One of my first full-time jobs was working in a coal mine in a survey crew. For a couple of months, one of the engineers asked me to collect time-study data on how fast the miners did various activities. With stopwatch in hand, I timed the miners who did not take kindly to a college kid with a stopwatch and continuously ran over my lunch bucket. After losing my third bucket, I asked for and got a reassignment. Later on I found out the engineer who asked me to do the time-study work had his lunch bucket run over more than a dozen times in one year, so we had a big laugh. He then looked for the next guy who would do the job.”
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
“‘The Road Runner.’ He never gets caught no matter what trap is devised and set.”
What irritates you?
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“Sunset at Louisville Landing Marina. A lot of folks don’t realize the restaurant is there and has been open to the public for years. It’s a neat place to hang out.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“Slow down and take it all in.”
What is your greatest fear?
“Failure - so you keep pushing forward.”
I still can’t quite get the hang of…
“Flying - I have done it for years but time-zone changes still take their toll.”
If you could do one impulsive thing, what would it be?
“Take that boat trip down the Tennessee River.”