Friday, April 12, 2013

Missing Bob

I am not good about keeping up with old friends.  I’m not even very good at staying up with my brothers and sisters.  That is a terrible fault of mine.  Milestones happen in the lives of old friends and relatives and I miss out on them.  Relationships begin and end, babies are born, grow up, move away.   Weddings, new career opportunities, illnesses.  It’s not like I am not happy to reconnect with old friends.  Last summer I saw an old friend from high school that I haven’t seen in over 30 years.  We fell right back into our old banter and chumming style.  Seeing his face after all those years was a blast.  But I am really bad at maintaining relationships.  It’s my fault.  And if you are an old friend and you just happen to wander by…  I am sorry.  I do miss you. 

I lost an old friend last week.  Rather, he passed away about a year ago, but I just found out about it. 

Bob Lusher and I were neighbors for three years back in the mid 80’s.  And he was one of the nicest, sweetest, most sincere men I have known.  It was when Heidi and I were living in southern Indiana.  Heidi was going to graduate school.  I was teaching about an hour away.  We lived in a tiny town called Beanblossom.  We lived in a sweet little house in the country on Freeman Ridge Road,  just off of Greasy Creek Road. 

Bob was a country lawyer.  He never did any lawyering business for us, but I got the impression that he was good and fair and did people right.  He seemed quite old to me at the time.  I was about 25 or 26 when we met.  He was probably just about the age I am now.  I guess 55 is pretty old to someone who is just a few years out of college. 

He had this big old garden.  Bob lived with his wife and daughter and both of them were sort of shut-ins.  But he had this garden that was pretty close to ¾ of an acre.  He grew so much more than they could ever eat.  He plowed up that land behind his house every year and rotated his veggies just the way he should.  And it was bountiful.  When tomatoes were coming in, just about everyone on Freeman Ridge had bags of toms dropped off on their doorsteps once a week or so.  And beans and squash and cucumbers and even sweet corn.  I never tasted better. 

Bob’s dog, Thatcher, was one of my first best-friend-dogs.  Thatcher just wandered up the ridge at some point, Bob seemed to think that tourists just dropped her off.  Thatcher took up with the Lushers, but you could never quite say that she belonged to them.  She was a classic “block dog” and hung around the ridge and mooched off of everyone.  But she was pretty close to Bob.  She was some kind of spaniel mix, white with feathers on the backs of her legs, black spots – almost like freckles across her face, lean, as pretty a dog as you would ever want to meet.  And super friendly.  Just like Bob. 

Whenever we went for a walk, Thatcher would find us and run ahead and lag behind, and circle all around.  She loved being with us on a woods ramble.  She would chase squirrels and rabbits and generally smile that good-dog smile that said life is pretty good.  Bob and I talked about local stuff mostly.  He was an outdoorsman and knew all of the flora and fauna in those southern Indiana woods.  And he was a good teacher.  Never one to lord his knowledge over you, Bob invited you into his world, made you curious, made you want to know what that flower was called, when it was safe to put your plants outdoors, how deep the frost went there.  He was a little guy with a great big spirit.

Thatcher was a thief.  Bob was forever apologizing for it, but that dog would take whatever she could find and carry or drag it to Bob’s house.  He had a big box of stuff in his garage that Thatcher plundered and would regularly carry the more valuable items down the road asking if this coat or that fishing rod was yours.  Once we left out our camera case in the backyard.  When it turned up missing I went next door and asked about it. 

Bob brightened.  “A camera case?  Why sure! I was hoping someone would come by and claim that!”  He dug through mittens, boots, a pair of waders and umbrellas and finally came up with a leather camera case.  “Here it is.  Just happy to get it back where it belongs.”  It wasn’t ours.  It was similar, it almost fit – but not quite.  What are the odds?

So I was thinking about Bob Lusher the other day.  I’ve thought about him many times over the years.  But I Googled him on the off chance that there would be some news.

There was.  It was his obituary in the Brown County paper.

Robert Lusher

Robert W. 'Bob' Lusher, age 88 passed away Wednesday evening, March 7, 2012 at Caretel Inn Nursing Home in St. Joseph, Michigan. He was a long time resident of Nashville, Indiana.

Bob was born May 6, 1923, in South Bend, IN to the late George William & Mabel Lee (Wines) Lusher. Bob grew up in South Bend where he graduated from James Whitcomb Riley High School in 1941. He went on to attend Indiana University for two years following the outbreak of WW II. He then joined the United States Marine Corp in January of 1943. Bob served two years as a Corporal in the South Pacific where he participated in combat with the enemy during the Battle to Liberate the Marianna Islands from the Japanese, and for all, but the first four days of the Battle for Iwo Jima. After serving his country, he resumed his education at Indiana University and received a B.S. in Finance & Business Law, followed by his Doctorates Degree in Law.

Bob practiced law in South Bend with The Associates Investment Co. for 18 years, was "of counsel"  for the Logansport Firm Hillis & Hillis, and retired in 1998 as a practicing consultant for the Raymond Gray Law Firm in Nashville. After 60 continuous years practicing Law, Bob still was writing Wills and Contracts for a few select clients in his later years.

He was a 40 year member of the Morgantown United Methodist Church, 50 year member of the American Bar & Indiana State Bar Associations, and a 31 year member of the Indianapolis Bar Association. He enjoyed fishing, gardening and reading.

It figured that Bob did wills and contracts for his friends in his later years.  He was just that kind of guy.  He was a good man.  He never spoke to me about his service in World War Two.  We mostly talked about the here and now, about animals and books and gardening.  We talked of the changing seasons and the birds on the feeders.  I’m sad that I didn’t keep up with him.  He taught me a lot. 

If any old friends happen to stop by and read this, forgive me for not keeping up, OK?  I’ll try to do better. 

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