Whether it was solving a crisis at work or at home, whether you needed someone who would listen or someone who would bring food to your house when you were ill, Chris was there.
“He was one of those guys that always made things better,” said Rob Hirsch, a coworker at Bay Area Air Conditioning. “Someone at his memorial service said Chris tried to always leave it better than when you got there — that was Chris. He was 100 percent dedicated to whatever he was doing.”
At the prime of his life, Christopher Earl Hines died of a sudden heart attack March 15. He was 55.
Born and raised in Tallahassee, a graduate of Florida State University, Hines began his career in commercial real estate. For a number of years he and his wife, April, and sons Griffin and Michael, lived in Mount Dora.
“After almost 30 years, we moved back here to Citrus County, where I’m from,” April Hines said.
They returned to work in the family business, Bay Area, owned by April’s father, Dave Hutchins. The plan was for Chris to eventually take over the business.
“Chris was very excited to move here; he wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” April said. “He fit right in. He was learning every aspect of the business, and the techs were very good about teaching him the technical side so when there was a problem, he could understand."
Hirsch said when a son-in-law comes into a family business, there’s sometimes conflict, but that was never true about Chris.
“He never pulled the son-in-law card. He knew these guys were here for him, and he wanted to learn from them,” Hirsch said. “He was not a micromanager, and we were all really, really looking forward to him being our boss.”
April Hines, who also works at Bay Area, said her husband was “excited about his next chapter and putting his own stamp on Bay Area in the future. He had a real bond with everybody and he was very proud to be a part of this business."
“He loved to tell people where he worked and was just starting to get involved with the chamber — he went to Legislative Day in Tallahassee and met a lot of business people. It was his intention to keep joining stuff. He wanted to be involved in the community,” she said.
Dave Hutchins, Bay Area owner and Chris’ father-in-law, said Chris was “very smart, very capable, very dedicated” and “truly a really, really nice guy.”
But more than that, Hutchins said, his son-in-law was an example of what a good father should be for a child with special needs.
“He was an amazing dad to him,” April said. “He was patient with him; he was constantly talking to him, letting Michael think he was ‘helping’ him cook dinner. He was the one who did the heavy lifting with him — literally lifting him.
“And he was very involved in both our boys’ activities as well as our nieces’ and nephews’ lives, always going to their events,” she said.
Chris’ sister, actress Cheryl Hines Kennedy, called her brother a man of “grace and grit.”
“He was my older brother,” she said in a email. “Chris truly loved his two sons, Michael and Griffin, and his wife, April. I always appreciated watching him marvel at every sunset he witnessed. He found beauty in everything around him.
“He devoted his life to his family, including taking care of Michael, who has cerebral palsy,” she wrote. “Chris took Michael everywhere, never complained about the extra effort it took and always called him ‘Buddy.’
“We all learned patience and fortitude from him. He was always able to handle a seemingly impossible situation with grace and grit, and it’s with great gratitude I remember all that he gave to everyone around him,” she wrote.
He loved to cook, loved watching cooking shows on the Cooking Channel. His two best dishes were shrimp and grits and shrimp etouffee.
On Saturday mornings, if his sons and wife all wanted different things for breakfast, it wasn’t unusual for him to cook three separate dishes — and love doing it.
Nearly every day he took his wife out to lunch, often at the Seafood Seller & Cafe in Crystal River.
He liked old country music, Johnny Cash. He loved Labrador retrievers. He made everyone feel as if he or she were his best friend.
“He loved the beach and being out on the boat — he must’ve taken 500 pictures on his phone of sunsets,” April said. “One of his favorite places was Three Sisters Springs.”
He did everything with and for his family, and often took trips to California to attend Hollywood red carpet premieres with his sister, Cheryl.
“That was fun, but he was always glad to come back here,” April said. “He loved the slower pace of life here. He loved how people here stop and take time for you.”
April said his death was sudden and she has times when she feels like she can’t do life without him, but all she has to do think about what Chris would do.