Monday, March 24, 2014

Remembering Norman "Jerry" Roberts

Last night, we lost our beloved Jerry Roberts - Mom's only sibling and my only uncle, and a long-time resident of Montpelier, Vermont. He is at peace now after a long battle with a rare illness. Fortunately, his devoted wife and family were there for him all the way. Mom visited just last week. Jerry leaves behind his wife, Elaine, sons Kenneth and Scott, three grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and his sister Dolores Haropulos.
Uncle Jerry in 1971. This is the way I'll remember him.
Jerry and I shared the special bond of the same birthday, October 27. I will remember him for his good, patient nature, his sense of humor, and his hearty laugh. He was the rock of his family, and I am painfully sorry for the void his passing leaves in the lives of his immediate family.

Born in 1934, Jerry and big sister Dolores shared the experience of the lean years of the Depression. They enjoyed a modest but cultured life in Manchester, NH, as well as time with their maternal grandparents and childhood friends in rural Vermont. Along with his parents and carpenter grandfather, he helped build the home my mother now lives in on Belmont Street in Manchester. During the Korean War, Jerry served with the Coast Guard. His career was spent in the insurance business, where he had extensive experience in claim investigations. Most recently, he enjoyed his retired life with his wife. The children and their families were close.

Ron and I will be leaving for the funeral in Vermont. It will be good to see my cousins and to pay our last respects to a wonderful uncle.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Over But Not Out

Today is the 5th anniversary of my Runaway Boomer weekly blog. With this, I’ve published 262 posts on a rambling array of subjects. This has been a wonderful way to express myself; allowing me to explore what’s in my head and share thoughts and feelings with friends. Feedback has been rewarding and heartwarming.

My weekly self-imposed deadline was established to contribute some structure and discipline to my personal schedule after retirement. Given that our post-career life has evolved into a full, busy mixture of routine and spontaneous fun, I no longer feel the need for this weekly ritual – in fact, I am beginning to feel a bit stifled by it. My creative juices flow on their own schedule…not necessarily over morning coffee on Thursdays.

Runaway Boomer will continue – but postings will be less frequent and predictable. You will hear from me when something is on my mind that causes bubble and flow. I will write when, if I didn’t, my head might explode.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog over the past 5 years. Most certainly, I have! I’m not sure what’s next… I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I’m not convinced that I have the required attention span. Maybe Twitter is more my style. I’m open to where circumstances take me.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Close Encounters

I had a handful of opportunities to meet celebrities while working in the hotel business. For several years, the Hilton in Skokie, Illinois hosted entertainers performing at the nearby Mill Run Theatre. After that time, the occasional business trip to Hilton's headquarters in Beverly Hills put me in places where I would have sightings of famous people. Here are a few stories about my favorite close encounters (with photos of how they looked at the time).

In the late 70's Burt Bacharach was leading orchestras that played concerts of his remarkable popular hits. Rehearsals took place in our rooftop lounge. Burt gave me tickets to the show, and invited me backstage. He also asked me to play tennis and to go out for a burger, but I was working and couldn't take him up on his flirtations. At one point when we were chatting, I asked how he felt when he heard one of his songs as "elevator music". His response? "That's not my music."

The Osmonds booked an entire floor in our hotel. They were all polite, charming, funny, and fun to be around. We had hoards of Donny and Marie fans hanging out in the lobby at all hours. Between rehearsals, the guys got bored. My front office staff met them out on the lawn behind the hotel to play touch football. Somewhere I have a photo from the game that appeared in a local newspaper.

I checked Chita Rivera into the hotel and told her I had been a fan since seeing her in the original run of "Chicago" on Broadway. Later, I walked through the hotel coffee shop. She was at a table alone (incognito in a scarf and a lack of makeup) and asked me to join her, because she didn't like to eat alone. What a lovely lady.

Lou Rawls had an amazing voice - whether speaking or singing. When he stayed in our hotel, I would gather his messages and scurry to meet him in the lobby to deliver them. He would say, "Well, thank you, dear" in that VOICE. I was so sad when I heard of his passing in 2006. A kind and talented man.
Remember when Mac Davis had his own TV variety show in the 70's? While he and his band stayed at the Hilton, they were friendly and charming. His guys challenged us to a softball game, while Mac was off doing an interview. Our hotel team won, and on Mac's returned he demanded a rematch. His team won the second game. Mac gave me front row tickets to his show and winked at me during one of his songs. Lifelong fan.

For several years, the Chicago Bears stayed at our Hilton on nights before home football games. I met many great football players, but Walter Payton has always been my favorite. He was polite and soft-spoken. The team had a curfew, after which we could not accept phone calls to the players. Walter asked me to put through calls from his girlfriend, regardless of the time. I had to say no. I felt terrible about it. Rest in peace, Sweetness. Your signed photo has a place of honor in our office.

Oh my, Harrison Ford! To make a long story short, I met Harrison Ford on his front porch in Beverly Hills. (A friend knew the address.) I have shame, but I did get to look into those blue eyes from just a few feet away. Although a bit disconcerted about my appearance, "How did you get here?", he was gracious about chatting with me for a minute, and provided an autograph. My partner in crime, my sister Althea, drove the getaway car.