My Uncle Bob died early Monday. He lived in Florida with my Aunt Ann. He looked a LOT like my dad, though he was much older (89, and my dad is 73). There were five kids in my dad's family: Ruth (still living in Allentown); Bob (just died in Melbourne, Florida); Kathryn (living in Allentown); David (died recently in Allentown); and James (my dad). Now my dad is the only living brother, even both his brothers-in-law have passed away. (Another GREAT argument for marrying a younger man, thank you very much!)
One of my favorite photos belonging to my dad is a shot of Uncle Bob, home on leave from the military in 1940-something, and wearing his uniform, giving his little brother (my dad) a big hug.
Bob and Ann used to like to come to Vegas, and I got to drive them around once when I was in college. They were fun tourists.
In 1997, on our way to Puerto Rico, my roommate Dyalma and I stopped to visit Bob and Ann in Melbourne.
In 2001, Kevin, baby Joseph (then 6 months old) and I went to Orlando for an engineering conference and made the drive to Melbourne to see Bob and Ann and my cousin Linda and her family. They rolled out the red carpet, and were so sweet with Joseph. Uncle Bob had a whole room full of an elaborate train set-up and little Joe was amazed by it. Since then, Uncle Bob sent many of his trains to my dad to keep for Joe when he gets older.
Bob was a wonderful grandpa and in most of his e-mails over the years, he wrote extensively about his grandkids' activities and how he was involved. He also kept busy helping at his church and gardening a lot in the Florida soil. Uncle Bob had much of the artistic talent of the Helfrich men, and his carved wooden birds attracted me when I saw them in his home.
He died peacefully in his sleep after a pretty drawn-out and sometimes dramatic battle with many health problems. I'm sad I'll never see him again on earth. I'm even sadder that my dad's side of the family, which has always drawn me, is shrinking. At least the part I know. Our west-coast contingency of the Helfrich family is too many miles away to have kept up relationships in the new generations.
God Bless Aunt Ann, Linda, Debbie, and all the family and friends grieving for Bob Helfrich.