A Tribute to Mary's Father, Robert P. Walsh
The Chronicles of Robert W. Walsh
We were gathered together today to remember and celebrate the life and times of Robert P. Walsh. Husband, father, grand and great granfather, brother, cousin and neighbor. Bob was many things to each of us. He was a complicated and intelligent man with a lively sense of humor that surfaced in his droll comments. You had to listen hard to hear him. Bob was a quiet man who rarely spoke in a loud manner.
He dressed in a proper fashion and was seldom seen in anything but a coat and tie when he left the house on his seemingly endless rounds making automotive parts, sales calls. There are only a few creatures in nature that just plain never stay still. Bob was one of them. He might pause for a few moments to stand and read a racing form or tinker with a jig saw puzzle, but it held his attention for but the briefest moment before he went on to the next thing and the next after that. You could never bore Bob Walsh. He never sat still long enough to be bored by anything.
Bob was a legendary tinkerer who could take things apart with the best of them. Putting things back to gether again in a working fashion wasn’t always his specialty, but hey, eveyrone has their weaknesses.
I remember once Bob turned his automotive attentions to a ratty old Chevrolet that Mary and I were driving while we were still in college. The starter worked but infrequently and every trip was an adventure. At the 55 Sunny Side Lane car laboratory, Bob diligently disassembled the starter motor and patiently cleaned the brushs on the armatures of the parts. Satisfied, he reassembled the starter motor and connected it to the ignition. Of course the car didn’t start and never would again until we had a garage replace the part latyer that day.
Unphased, Bob lined up his staion wagon behind our car and gave us a push to jump start the car and get us on our way.
It was indicative of Bob’s approach to life. He always had a positive approach to life situattions. He maybe couldn’t fix everything that troubled those around him, but he was more than willing to jump in get his hands dirty trying to solve the problem. Then, if needed, he would give you a push to send you on your way. Bob was always a good source for humorous family stories. He always good naturedly laughed at his own foibles.
My most endearing image of Bob Walsh was that of him standing under a rasied engine hood, with a very young Mark Walsh in a white lab coat patiently handing the car surgeon Bob Walsh his tools as he puttered about solving the mysteries of that ailing engine.
And no one on the planet was better with a closing line in the sometimes contentious and prologned billing disputes with the Ogden telephone company or other creditors rash enough to come calling. Raising that large a family often meant some serious financial triaging was necesary in order to get from one month to the next.
“Give me the close out figure,” he would say confidently.
“I will pay the entire bill off in the morning.”
Darned if it didn’t work too. Most companies backed off with sputtering comments about trying to catch up on payments.
Whenever you speak of Bob Walsh, you have to include his wife Marie. She was the other half of the long running comedy team that presided on the stage at 55 Sunnyside Lane for several decades. Both learned to work off the others straight lines in a humorous and loving comedy that kept friends and relatives in stitches for years. Sixty three years is a long time in the life of a marriage. In point of fact, it is a long time in just about any frame of reference.
Who would have thought, in the mid postwar year of 1946, that the raven haired beauty Marie Fenner, marrying the handsome young sailor Bob Walsh, would sire seven children, whose descendants would scatter to the far flung reaches of the United States.
Geneva, New York was a small town in those days. World War II had just ended and scores of servicemen, like Bob Walsh, were returning, from the far corners of the globe, to wed their teen-aged sweethearts.
Floyd & Gertrude Fenner and Dick and Nell Walsh were the proud parents of the young couple. They were typical of the Irish families of Geneva. Oil and water some claimed. But, time would tell how wonderful a combination it was to be.
The following year, Patricia Ann Walsh arrived and the couple settled down in Geneva. Bob started work in Uncle Jim Guinan's garage. It was to become a life long association with automobiles, that saw Bob first fix them and then sell parts for them throughout upstate New York. Soon after came Michael and Mary Ellen. The Korean War started in the early fifties and Bob Walsh was once again called into service.
After Bob’s second hitch with the Navy, Robert jr., Joanne and William arrived on the scene. The growing family was in need of more living space. In 1961, the family uprooted themselves and moved into its present quarters, at 55 Sunny side Lane, in suburban Rochester, New York.
North Chili, a "dry" and religious community, was never to be the same afterwards. The baby of the family, Mark, arrived shortly after the move. The cast was now set for the ensuing 50 years.
First Communions, Confirmations and School Graduations all passed by with the dizzying rhythm of a large Irish-Catholic Family. Holy Ghost and then St. Christopher's shepherded the Walsh Clan through the many Catholic rituals that are the rights of passage among the devout of the era. Even though it became a Walsh trademark to arrive late for services, they never missed a Sunday Mass.
The families of the Rauchey's, the DeSormeau's, the Beikerks and the Devoes all grew up along side the Walshes. Sometimes, it took an informal head count to discover who was missing for the night or, whose extra child belonged to whom.Family camping trips usually meant a rainy interlude and children running every which way, like wild Indians on the war path.
The frequent trips, to visit the Walsh and Fenner clans in Geneva, became part of the family tradition. Tales of the lengthy visits to the American Legion Post and Cooley's Bar & Grill still survive, even today, in family lore.
The sons and daughters in-law arrived in sequential order. All found shelter in the warmth of the Walsh Family. Sunday dinners were always a crowd. The food was welcomed and the affection cherished. The happy chaos of Thanksgivings and Christmas, were much looked forward to and long remembered by everyone.
The frequent euchre games ran on into the night, amidst much laughter and general derision, directed at certain partners who always held onto a trump for the last card, no matter what strategy dictated. There were conflicts to be sure, but these were usually short lived spats that were soon mended over.
Stories of adventures at Noon's Nook, The Lone Elm Tavern and "bob’s golf night" took their places in the family tradition. Fish frys, at the Oatka Grill, were fun and everyone looked forward to them.
Throughout the Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties and the Nineties, the Walsh Family spread and prospered. By now, the older generation, in Geneva, had passed on. The Walsh and Fenner clans had spread to Buffalo, Florida, Connecticut, Nevada, the Carolinas & Tennessee.
Sean & Holly Walsh led the parade of the third generation. Kristin, Nicole & Shauna Walsh soon fleshed out the tribe. Finally, one Jacob Walsh, hereafter dubbed "the Prince,” and then “The Princess,” Shea Marie Walsh and berother Zach Van Arnum filled out for now the roster of the grandchildren. By then, Cody & Lacy Walsh, first members of the fourth generation, had been delivered and the Walsh dynasty had its grip on posterity firmly fixed.
Throughout the span of six decades, Marie & Bob Walsh had lovingly tended to the growing brood. Financial help, emotional shelter and sometimes just a plain old good meal were always available at the Walshes home. Though they had little themselves, Bob & Marie had discovered early that their wealth lay in the progeny that they had sired. It was returned to them many times over, by children who came to appreciate the emotional caliber of their parents and the many blessings showered upon them by parents who loved them.
As we met one July day in Chili, N.Y., some years back, to celebrate the Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary of Bob & Marie Walsh, we were reminded of the Jimmy Stewart movie classic, "It's A Wonderful Life." Had Bob & Marie not met and married, things in the world as we know it would be very different. Let's take a look at a few of the things that might not have happened.
1.) Off Track Betting would probably never have survived the loss of betting revenue without Bob’s regular contributions.
2.) The Ground Round and Agotino’s would have closed years ago for lack of the Walsh patronage.
3.) nobody would have invented the colorful term "cigar boogers" to describe the odd ends of cigars matter collected on the driver’s side window after having been spit out the open window when the window was still rolled up.
4.) The term "war department,” to lovingly refer to one's spouse would have gone uncoined.
5.) The cellar, at 55 Sunny side Lane, would be empty and there would be an automotive used parts surplus in the Northeastern United States.
6.) The massive and holy symbol of the Walsh Family, THE GARAGE, would never have been built at 55 Sunny side Lane.
7.) Landfills, in and around Rochester, would be filled to capacity with old lawn mower parts and lawn chairs that had never been recycled by Bob Walsh's ever vigilant rounds.
Finally, the many in-laws, relatives, friends and neighbors would never have known the love, affection, generosity and decency of two people who always put everyone else's interests and welfare ahead of their own. It would be a poorer world without the existence of Bob Walsh and Marie Fenner.
Collectively, we are grateful that they met, married and gave the world the many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren that will carry on their legacy throughout the generations. The world, in a very real sense, is a better place because of them.
Thank you Bob from all of us. The golden years of your life were filled with the love, affection and warmth that you have sown these past 87 years. In the most timeless of Irish tributes, we whisper to you,
“ May the roads rise up to meet you and the wind be always at your back.”
“May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall gentle upon your fields.”
“And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”
And now at Bob's passing, when his journey has come to its end, may we all remember with a smile the humor, warmth and decency of Robert P. Walsh, husband, friend, neighbor, father, grand and great grandfather, brother, cousin and distinguished member of the community. You will be missed by everyone.
We often laughingly said God broke the mold when he made Bob Walsh. His antics were many and his comments and the predicaments that he sometimes found himself in could be hilarious. And now, Bob is gone from us but for the memories that will stay with every one us who knew and loved him. Every Christmas, Thanksgiving and family anniversary date, when any of the Walsh family gathers, Bob Walsh will live on in our memories. The colorful stories we will tell of him will keep him alive in our minds as long as any of us walk this earth.
Good bye Bob, from those who loved you.