Monday, November 20, 2006
Happy Birthday, Bob!
Happy Birthday, Bob!
Here are the four Dwyer boys, my big brothers: left to right, John Joseph, born March 17, 1922; Robert Mark, born November 22, 1924; Paul Francis, born August 9, 1926; and Eugene Edward, born May 11, 1929. This picture was taken on the front steps of our house at 4906 Sigwart Avenue, Omaha, Nebraska, on January 8, 1933. That means John was 11 going on 12, Bob was 9, Paul was 6 and a half, and Gene was 3 and a half. I did not come along until December 1, 1936.
Bob is #2 in the family and 2nd from the left in this photo. With his blonde hair, he resembles my mother's side of the family. Gene is the other blonde of the four boys, and he also looks like Mom's family. Bob is tall--6'--also like some of my mother's relatives. He's shrunk a bit since then, but hey, he'll be 82 years old this week!
Bob served in the Army Air Force (AAF) (as did John and Paul) during WWII. Like the other boys, he never left the USA. He was in OCS--Officers Candidate School--and the AAF sent him to places like Harvard University, Spokane, and Pocatello, Idaho. It was in Spokane that he acquired a pair of skis that I wrecked the first time I went "skiing" in Fargo. Since there are no hills in Fargo, the only way to go downhill was to find a ditch. Some friends and I went to the river bank, where the ground cuts down to the Red River of the North. I buckled on the skis and went straight downhill into a tree, which broke the tip off one ski. Bob never said a word, although he may not have noticed, anyway. He was seldom home after he left for the Army.
When the war ended, he and John both entered the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis thanks to the G.I. Bill and didn't return to Fargo except on vacations. During this time, they sent their laundry home in a big, green box, and my mother washed and ironed their clothes, and mailed the box back to Minneapolis. On their birthdays, she would bake an angel food cake and frost it with seven-minute frosting and include that in the box, too. (I don't want to think about those clean shirts riding next to those big sticky cakes, but I never heard any cake vs. laundry disaster stories.)
Bob lived at the Alpha Tau Omaga (ATO) house in Minneapolis. ATO was the fraternity he had joined before the war at North Dakota Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University) in Fargo. He was president of ATO at one time, although I don't know whether that was in Fargo or in Minneapolis. Bob has always had a wonderful friendly personality, and with his brains added to that, he's always been an impressive person. I remember staying overnight with my friend Jane, whose house was right behind the ATO house. We'd turn off the lights in her bedroom and watch the goings on in the fraternity house, where they never pulled the shades or even had curtains. Most of what we saw, however, were various young men in t-shirts and khaki pants crossing in front of the windows on their way from hither to yon. We lived in hope of seeing something juicy and scandalous, but we never did. And Bob, by this time, was far away in Minnesota.
Bob's major in college was metallurgical engineering, a field in which he spent most of his adult life and virtually all of that at Honeywell. He later became a values engineer, and he has a plaque that declares him "Values Engineer of the Year." He received this award sometime after 1954, when they moved into the house in Hopkins where Bob still lives, and 1976. He continues to be a popular guy with many longtime close friends.
Bob married Gertrude "Trudy" Ann Schleck of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 18, 1953.
Here is Trudy in their living room on Christmas Day, 1972. The little blonde guy is Tom. She always had the most wonderful laugh and warm, outgoing disposition. Trudy died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1993, and she is still sorely missed by all. She and Bob had just come back from two weeks in Paris with Trudy's college roommate and her husband. Trudy bragged about how adept Bob had been at guiding them through the Paris Metro.
Bob was one of the "many" older brothers (i.e., John and Bob) I knew I had when I was a small child although I didn't quite know WHO they all were. John and Bob were in high school when we moved to Fargo from Omaha, and they both had jobs before and after school. All of the boys worked for the Nabisco cookie factory in Fargo at one time or another, and at least one of them also worked for Newberry's Department Store stoking the furnace before the store opened in the morning. Since I got up with the daylight and was put to bed immediately after 6 p.m. supper, and they left at 5 a.m. and didn't get home until 7 or 8, I never saw them. Paul and Gene were still in elementary school and kept hours more similar to mine.
When Bob and John both graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1950--John in medicine, Bob in metallurgical engineering--Mom, Dad, and I drove to Minneapolis in our green 1947 DeSoto sedan for the graduation ceremonies. We stayed at Trudy's place, since she lived in a house with several roommates. After Bob and Trudy were married in 1953, they moved to Prospect Park near the U of M campus. Mom, Dad, and I visited there in 1950, also, and we met Bob and Trudy's future landlords. We had Italian spaghetti for dinner in their big dining room that night, and it was the very first time in my life I had ever eaten it. Our meals at home were based largely on fish or game that my dad had caught or shot himself: walleyed pike, mallard ducks, and the fabulous ring-necked pheasant that my mother canned in big glass jars. Mom and Dad grew all our vegetables themselves in our big victory garden on 1st Street North in Fargo. Our basement shelves were stacked full of jars of peas, green beans, and beets. Carrots stayed fine if you kept them in sand, and that’s what we did. We picked potatoes from the fields in Moorhead after the potato growers had harvested what they wanted. We filled several burlap sacks and carted them home in the 1936 Plymouth, our first car after the war.
On the day I entered the convent, September 8, 1954, Bob cooked lunch, my "final" meal in the "world": liver and onions and boiled potatoes. It's one of my favorite meals still, although I rarely eat it any more. He knew I would need something solid to carry me through the day, and it did.
All the while I was in the convent--one month short of five years--Bob and very often Trudy, when she did not have to stay home to care for a sick child, came to visit me on every visiting day, which was one Sunday a month with time off for Lent and Advent. That's certainly beyond the call of duty, and I thank him for it.
Bob and Trudy produced six wonderful children: Ellen, Bob, Jr., Mary Frances, LuAnn, Gretchen, and Martha. Ellen is a nurse; Bob Jr. a school teacher; Mary Fran a pharmaceutical sales rep; LuAnn, a CPA; Gretchen, a retired home economist for General Mills; and Martha...I don't know what Martha is doing right now. She was a pharmaceutical sales rep, then a manager for that company, and now I think she and her husband have started a coffee house franchise (not Starbucks, but another one).
Anyway, Bob has been a model son, sibling, friend, husband, parent and grandparent, and values engineer in his long, productive life. He is a wonderful brother, and if I have mixed up some of the facts, it's entirely my own fault.
Happy 82nd birthday, Bob. Nobody can replace you in our family. I love you.
Here I am several years later with Mom on the front steps of 4906 Sigwart (notice the house number?). Notice that everyone is always bundled up. Welcome to the Midwest.