Mom always said, “He’s such a handsome man.” Every time we’d get together with Bill and Candy. Dinner or bbq or neighborhood chitchat. “Such a handsome man.” To me, well he was just Bill.
He and Candy bought the little store across the street from our home in 1978. Candy was as sweet as they come, a little naive about the ins-and-outs of running a neighborhood market, and soft-hearted. Oh she learned! But to start with...well we worried about her. But Bill was an old hand at dealing with all the riff-raff. He had an outwardly curmudgeonly approach, giving the stink-eye to any rebel-rousers. He had a great voice that demanded to be obeyed. And the kindest heart around. You needed anything? Both he and Candy made sure you got it.
Bill loved gadgets. He and my dad got along so well; they could compare gadgets. He loved trains that ran around the Christmas tree. And beer. He liked having ice cold beer on tap in the reconfigured refrigerator he had in his garage.
I started working for Bill and Candy at the store the summer of 1979. I had just finished my freshman year in college and my job at Portland Public School was finished for the season. I asked if they needed any help. I think they felt I might as well get paid as I was over there visiting all the time. I started working from 3p to closing at 11p.
Not long after I started working there, we hired Nellie—she lived across from me—to work the weekend days, me on nights. Then Shirley—she lived next door to Nellie—started throwing freight on Wednesdays. All our kids were hired as bottle kids. Bill and Candy became an important part of the neighborhood. They became family.
And they took wonderful care of us. They paid above minimum wage. There was a time that I could not afford to pay my water bill. It wasn’t much—maybe $10–but just one too many bills that month. They paid it for me. They hung a filled stocking when I opened the store on Christmas Day. They made sure I had a ham or a small turkey for my kids on Thanksgiving. They co-signed small loans for me in order to build up my credit and so I could get through humps and bumps.
Fourth of July was a great time to hang out at their house. Lots of noisy bangs, sparkles, flying stuff. One year the man I was dating and I went to their house to play with them and their family. Unfortunately Scott's wheelchair ramp on the van broke right when we arrived. It wouldn't go down, so Scott couldn't get out. Bill took out time, trying to fix it so that my fella could get out when we got home. Didn’t work, so we decided to just go with the flow and celebrated the holiday anyway!
They celebrated with us at my sons’ high school graduations, my college graduation. They mourned with us my father’s death. They celebrated my son’s wedding, my wedding. Together we celebrated their kids’ ups and outs, Candy’s mother’s wedding. Our lives were all intertwined in a glorious and loving way.
I worked for them until 1998 when I took a teaching sabbatical. Even as I stopped working, Shirley stopped, and then Nellie, we continued to get together to celebrate our friendship by having summer potlucks at the park, Christmas dinners at the buffet. As time went on, our dinner gatherings became smaller. Shirley passed in 2015; Art, her husband, the next year. Nellie’s husband Bob and Bill’s health declined. Bobby passed Christmas Day in 2018. Candy would join us for lunch or dinners but Bill was too fragile to come along.
Rest In Peace, my dear friend. Know you are loved.