Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I Read The Obits Each Day

I used to joke that I read the obituaries every day just to see if I'm in them. Or, said another way, to make sure my name isn't there, i.e., I'm alive for another day.

It's a habit I've formed. On the days I don't recognize any names of the recently departed, I'm grateful. On the days I do, well, that's when the memories come.

Yesterday it was the name of a well-known business man in my home town, 'Frannie' Mack.
Everyone knew Frannie, as evidenced by all the comments on Facebook. He was one of those people who made you feel like you were someone when he spoke to you. He always remembered your name, which, because he was an important member of the community, made you feel as though you had worth, too.

I knew Frannie my whole life. My earliest memories of him where from going into the Curry and Mack Hardware when it was still on the west side of main street. I was still very young, i.e. with one of my parents and not yet roaming the streets on my own or with my sis.

My memory is of being there with my Dad and being impressed by the way Frannie greeted him: "Hi Lou! How are you doing? What can I do to help you?" As a country kid, I had the feeling the town businessmen were somehow better than us. Yet here was one of them treating my farmer father as though he was the one who was important. Only years later did I come to understand the symbiotic relationship.
The times I was in his store with my mother, his greeting was just as friendly but maybe with a slightly different warmth. Frannie was one of those men who liked women and made them feel special without any overtly intimate overtones.

When I was a little older and had the freedom to wander the streets on Saturday night, I felt like it was safe to go into the hardware store because Frannie knew who I was because he knew my parents. And why did I want to go in there on my own?

Because they had a water cooler similar to this one. I always had to have a cup of water if I was in there with my parents. I was fascinated by the way the water 'burbled' and the fact that it was cold. Even if I wasn't actually thirsty, I loved getting a paper cup of water. The other gentlemen in the store might frown at my sis and I as we helped ourselves to free ice water, but Frannie only smiled and asked how we were, or, if he was busy with a customer, he would look over and give us a wink. I have other memories of him, like how he always played taps at the funerals of Veterans, but the hardware store and the water cooler are always at the forefront. RIP, Frannie. You will be missed.

Today, reading the obits in the Des Moines Register, I learned of the passing of another old friend.

Ron Shoop was well known in the city as a sportscaster on radio and TV. By the time I met him, he was a sales rep for a paper supply and printing company. But I knew him best as an actor at Charlie's Showplace, one of the first dinner theaters around.

Then, when I started working for the owner's of Charlie's Showplace in the recording studio they owned, I saw even more of Ron when he came in to do voice overs on the commercials recorded there. Like Frannie, he had a way of making women feel appreciated. He was friendly and funny and a good actor. Someone I am glad I had the opportunity of knowing. RIP, Ron.

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