An Obituary for an Old Friend

I am not sure when my fascination of hoarders began, but I definitely remember where it first interested me. My grandfather owned an appliance store in a small town in the midwest. He was unique in the fact that he would allow people to buy appliances and/or televisions on credit, if they would make minimum monthly payments. He seemed to like being to give this option, although he warned me of three types of people who were difficult to deal with: the military, pastors, and teachers.

He would tell me a lot of interesting information, as I was growing up with my grandma and him during the summers. I was an inquisitive young person, he was someone who would answer most of my questions about life and how his business worked. He has a lot of regulars around the shop, one of my favorites was Robert Ray. He walked with a limp given to him by a train engine accident, he also spoke with a speech impediment. He would often turn j sounds into d sounds, so it made for colorful conversation.

He liked to give my grandpa a hard time and he subsequently had a difficult time paying his bill. One time, I remember that Robert Ray finally moved out of his house into an assisted living situation. My grandpa piled my brother and I in the car to go to Robert’s house to pick up some things for him. My grandpa picked up the items that Robert asked for and Grandpa told us that Robert owed him some money, so we could pick out some things from his home to help settle up with Grandpa. I picked up a tool chest, a lot of tools, and some other various innocent bric-brac.

Our next stop after loading up Grandpa’s truck, we stopped by Robert’s home and gave him the items he needed. Robert and my grandpa talked about what all we had, they inspected it together and decided on a fair amount to take off his bill. My brother and I sweat it out, as we were hoping that he would not inspect too much.

Robert Ray was once a really strong and sharp guy, my dad told me years later. Robert Ray had a lot of promise working on the railroad, one work injury changed his life drastically. He was lucky to be alive, but his life would never be the same. As he shuffled into our store on many occasions, he was a reminder of potential and impervious injury. He was an example of someone making the best of a life that he never wanted. My grandfather was always kind to him, often spending many minutes having a conversation with him, sitting in the waiting area of our store. Robert was a welcome face during a normally mundane afternoon, but after he went to the assisted living home, we rarely would see him. He passed away in 2009. This is all his obituary said about him…

Robert was born on November 1, 1941 and passed away on Sunday, March 22, 2009.

Robert was a resident of Herington, Kansas.

There was much more to his life than this simplistic obituary, he made an impact on me. He served in the US Navy, though I can not remember any of his stories. Not sure how to honor him, than writing this simple story, saying how much he meant to us. He helped my brother and I learn how to treat people with many difficulties, to face them with grace and understanding, much like Robert had to give himself after his injury.

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1 Comment

  1. When I was kid growing up on E street, Robert lived just across the street with his parents. This was in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I remember Robert as a Fonzie looking tough guy, with a pack of smokes rolled up in his white tee shirt sleeve. Back then we called those tough looking guys “Hoods” blue jeans, black shoes, white socks and white tucked in tee shirts. I was afraid of Robert at that time because of our age difference and his tough guy look. Robert was probably a good guy then but I was looking at him through my childhood eyes and could only see what I thought he was. I got to meet and talk to him years later after his railroad accident and could hardly believe that he was the “Hood” that as a child I was afraid of.

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