Published: November 19, 2019
DANBURY, CONN. — Robert E. Kretchko, 66, a well-known antiques dealer based in New Milford, Conn., died November 6 at Danbury Regional Hospice from pancreatic cancer. He was the beloved husband of Loretta (Haddad) Kretchko, with whom he worked side-by-side for nearly 30 years in their business, Bob Kretchko Antiques.
When Loretta announced Bob’s death, to say it started a ripple effect of grief is an understatement. From the moment she posted the news on Facebook, a tsunami of messages poured in — not just from their myriad friends and acquaintances, but even from people who’d met him only once.
Because the thing is, even if you didn’t know Bob, you probably knew of him.
Whether it was his signature smile, unmistakable walk-run — one friend said even two aisles away in the dark at the flea market, you could always pick out Bob — or his buoyant wave and bright “Hi!” as he barreled down an aisle that told you seeing his pals at a show was just as important (well, almost) as finding the next treasure, you couldn’t miss him.
And just type his name into any search engine… you’ll get to about page ten before anything comes up that doesn’t have to do with Bob Kretchko Antiques. (Kudos to Loretta for mastering the secret to search engines!)
Known throughout the United States in the antiques community, Bob and Loretta did it all. When they first met in 1990 at a bimonthly auction in Cold Spring, N.Y., Bob was running a brick and mortar antiques shop, first in Larchmont, then in Pleasantville, N.Y.
Two years later, he closed the store, and the couple hit the road, setting up at antiques shows throughout the United States — in Manhattan at the Triple Pier shows; in Atlantic City; Miami Beach; Columbus, Ohio; Atlanta, Ga.; and Sandwich Ill. The Chicagoland Coin-Op Jukebox show was a favorite, as were Madison-Bouckville, all three Brimfields every year and the Elephant’s Trunk in New Milford, where, even until a few weeks before his death, Bob and Loretta could faithfully be found every Sunday morning.
In 1998, after traveling the famed Route 66 — of course antiquing the entire way — Bob and Loretta were married at The Little Chapel of the West in Las Vegas, Nev. First making their home in Pleasantville, they moved in 2003 to Loretta’s hometown of New Milford and bought an 1880s Queen Anne Victorian on the historic village green.
They volunteered their time to the community and were especially known for lending their antiques expertise to benefits aimed at preserving the town’s history.
That passion for the past also led them on the journey of restoring their home. Bob and Loretta have both laughingly said it’s a project still in progress, but what they’ve accomplished is impressive. After the first task — converting the house back to a single residence from the three-family dwelling it had become in the 1940s — they furnished it with authentic-to-the-era antiques found in their travels, original pieces that had been left behind and their own eclectic collections.
That care and attention to detail won the Kretchkos and their home a prized plaque in 2010 from the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation.
While the house may have been home base for the business, it was also where Bob spent some of his happiest times, whether it was taking off with Loretta and their granddaughters on camping trips in his vintage Volkswagen Rialta, walking his dogs Tallulah and Isaac or watching classic movies, among his favorite pastimes.
And just recently, Bob got the chance to see the other side of the camera when he was cast as the character “Bronco Bob Dawson” in the movie Law of the Badge, an old-time Western currently in production and slated for a 2020 release.
As an antiques dealer, Bob was known not only for the depth of his knowledge, but for the way he dealt — whether it was selling to a new or longtime customer or buying from other dealers, show vendors or just a neighbor having a tag sale. Keenly aware that reputation is everything in this business, Bob dealt with everyone exactly the way he hoped they’d deal with him: honestly and fairly.
One of the best examples of this happened once some years ago when an item he’d bought sold for considerably more than he’d anticipated. Though he’d paid the sellers exactly what they’d put on the price tag — with no haggling — Bob tracked the sellers down and gave them a percentage.
He also realized that while competition in the antiques world is a given, it also has consequences — in other words, there’s a time and a place. One local dealer, reminiscing on their encounters at estate sales, illustrated how well Bob knew the difference. While other dealers furtively clutched their numbers as if they were Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets, Bob would amiably chat with everyone, betraying no anxiety over his place in line or worry about who’d get what when. There would always be another sale, but the chance to catch up with fellow dealers and friends? Maybe not.
Bob did have an enviable talent for finding what would sell, but it wasn’t just the money an item earned — or didn’t… he’d be the first to tell you that if a dealer says he’s never made a mistake, he’s lying — it was often the story behind it, what it meant to someone, where it was found, etc.
And while Bob particularly loved the thrill of the hunt — who doesn’t? — he was also excited and open to any method of selling, embracing the sea of online sales platforms while still managing to juggle shows, auctions and private transactions.
The only thing Bob admitted he didn’t have — at least when it came to selling — was patience. Discussing the tendency of some dealers to hold on to items until they’re coated with dust and the price tags faded to illegibility, Bob once said, “No way. I’m too impatient. If something doesn’t sell after a few outings, I sell it for what I paid and move on. And hopefully I’ll buy something better.”
And in some ways, that impatience served him well when he received his devastating diagnosis this past July. Bob wasn’t about to let something like that slow him down. He was still scouting the Elephant’s Trunk in October, and if there was an estate sale, guess who was first in line. At one, in September, he responded to a friend’s well-wishes with a matter-of-fact “Oh, I’m going to beat it.” Then that Kretchko smile lit up, and he added, “You think I’m letting you get all the good stuff!”
Pre-deceased by his parents, Edward John and Kathleen (Marafino) Kretchko, Bob is survived by the love of his life, Loretta (Haddad) Kretchko; his stepsons, Myles Collins and his wife Tamara of New Milford, and Ryan Collins and his partner Samantha Kazlauskas of Warren; his sister, Janine Danzi of Manchester, N.H., his grandchildren, Alexis Collins and Gisela Collins; his sister-in-law, Tina Oviatt and her husband E. Buck Oviatt; his brother-in-law, Paul Haddad; his niece, Lauren Skrabal; and many cousins and close friends.
A memorial service was conducted on November 17 at the New Preston Congregational Church. Burial will be private and at the convenience of the family.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Regional Hospice and Palliative Care Center of Danbury, the New Milford Historical Society and Museum or the Children’s Center of New Milford.
To place online condolences or light a memorial candle, please visit www.cornellmemorial.com. — Submitted by the family
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