Meriden locksmith known for cracking safes, jokes remembered

Meriden locksmith known for cracking safes, jokes remembered


MERIDEN — Phil Hobbs got his nickname “Drill Bits” after he successfully cracked a bank vault called the “Mosler Monster” at the former Permanent Savings & Loan on Colony Street.

The 83-year-old founder of Phil’s Lockshop Inc. was also a practical joker and the “Yogi Berra” of the First Assembly of God, the Rev. Mark Sharnick said.

Hobbs died Friday after spending a lifetime helping others unlock doors, crack safes, share a laugh, and understand God.

“His most recent project was the vault at the building at 1 W. Main St.,” said his son Dale Hobbs. “He drilled in, put in a scope, viewed the combination wheels and opened it.”

Hobbs also had a repertoire of one-liners like “I’ve got a photographic memory but I’m out of film” and “I’m in great shape for the shape I’m in,” Sharnick recalled.

Hobbs also liked gadgets, and once terrified a doctor with a fake syringe that he used to pretend to draw blood from his ailing sister. After his shock, the doctor asked where he could get one for himself. Hobbs also enjoyed soldering a nickel to a nail and pounding it into the floor to watch people try to pick it up. He owned a chocolate bar filled with water, and a book titled “The World’s Best Jokes” that fired caps when opened.

Hobbs loved people and founded the first Royal Rangers program for boys in the Southern New England District, his son said. The program was similar to the Boys Scouts but for Assembly of God churches. He was also a religious instructor at the Paddock Avenue Church and at the Connecticut School for Boys in Middletown.

“He came to Meriden in 1954 and he was here building the (church) building,” Sharnick said. “He’s had every position here but pastor. All people were important to him.”

Hobbs was born in Maine and attended Farmington High School, where he held the state record for pole vaulting for 11 years. He was a football co-captain in high school and participated in other sports. While serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he also played softball.

“He was a very athletic, strong man,” Sharnick said.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years Barbara, their three children and their families. Dale Hobbs and his family continue to run Phil’s Lockshop on Hall Avenue.

Sharnick recalled going to Miller Memorial with Hobbs for therapy recently. He was instructed to do 10 repetitions but would do 11. Barbara Hobbs explained it was Hobbs’ nature to do more than expected.

“He would say, ‘if you’re going to do a job, do it right,’” Sharnick said. “He was pushing himself right up to the end.” (203) 317-2255 Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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