Ramble On

Monday, March 3, 2014

Herb and Odessa

Herb, with the puppy Olive.
Mary had a call yesterday afternoon that Herb over on Linden Street passed away.  Herb and his wife Odessa were some of the first neighbors we met in Alexandria’s Rosemont neighborhood, where we live.  When we first moved here in 1998, Mary would see them out every morning as she walked Gracie and Sofie – they were out walking their dog Elmo.

They were an older couple who lived in a single family home down at the end of the block, where they’d moved in the 1960’s.  He was a retired union pipefitter from the rail yards, and she a retired housewife.  They raised a “his-hers-ours” family in that little house where they still lived with Herb’s son Joe, a retarded middle-aged man that Odessa rescued from an institution when he was six – that’s how they handled things back then, but Odessa wouldn’t stand for it.

In the summer, Herb had a big garden in the backyard, a veritable truck patch, and he’d share bushels and bushels of tomatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplants with us.  I remember these incredible purple peppers he gave us one year.  He would also go to Lowes and Home Depot and visit the nursery, getting the scrawny passed over and leftover trees for a bargain and nursing them back to health.

Mary kept a watch on Herb and Joe, especially after Odessa passed away a few years ago, and she would bring over a cake when she stopped by every few weeks.  Then Elmo died, and Herb got a new dog, a rescued hound mix he named Olive.  Mary told me about their visits and how happy the dog made Herb.

Mary was planning on one of her visits yesterday, but she had a call from Herb’s daughter that he had passed away earlier in the morning.  Herb has had a couple of fights with cancer, but this time, at 85, he knew the end was near.  He was determined for it not to end at the hospital.

Yesterday morning, Herb’s daughter was visiting.  They’d gathered in the dining room, and he asked her to make some eggs, so she was making breakfast.  He passed in his chair while she was cooking.

Ten years ago, when we moved over to Masonic View Avenue, he gave us a couple of the rescued crepe myrtles he’d gotten back on their feet.  They’re thriving in the backyard now.  I’ll look forward to their blooms this summer and think of him and Odessa.

Here’s to Herb and Odessa.  A wonderful family and good neighbors.  Rest in peace.

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