Russell Retter, An Everyman

Author: Retter Hofbesitzer / Labels: , , ,

Grandpa Russ Retter was the first bus driver for Bethel School and eventually head of maintenance and scheduling for the bus fleet. He farmed 86 acres and was a field representative for Grange Insurance. I remember him as just as warm and jolly as you'd expect if he had a big white beard and red wool suit trimmed in white fur - my own personal Santa. My son has his name.

Russell "Russ" Retter
"Grandpa, can I go with you to check the barn damage for that Granger person?" "Ask your mom, Denny," he would say and off we'd go in the '35 Chevy Standard Sedan, the chassis of which is now a hay wagon in the barn. Good times are too short, just like summer vacation... 

Former passengers on Russ's bus recall that he would occasionally reverse the route he took because he felt some of the students always had too long a ride home while other always had it short.  Concerned parents wondering where their children were understood his logic and did not make too much fuss with administrators who would say, "Don't do that again," then look the other way the next time.  Doing the right thing for kids back then was possible.  My goodness, a child with a headache or fever might even get a free tablet from the teacher without an Act of Congress. We are the victims of our modern selves.

My grandma, Jeannette Romainia Retter, gave him no end of grief, she being raised in a Dayton city house until she was 18. Country mud and animal droppings on knee boots don't mix well with city-trained housekeepers, but they were married 'til death they did part and raised three great girls into snappy-dressing ladies and wonderful wives.  I learned politics on my Grandma Nettie's lap watching the '52 and '56 conventions; she's still right as rain in 2014. A victim of "shaking palsy" she struggled to keep up with world events through the Dayton Herald, Dayton Journal and later, the Journal-Herald (all now long gone, just like beautiful Nettie.)

Nettie would likely have perished in the "Great Dayton Flood of 1913" if she had not left home to come to the farm before the flood.  The Eickhoff house was in an area where many were drowned as was her brother, Henry, the eldest of the sons in the family.  She passed along her fear of water, swimming and drowning to my mother, Pauline, who rarely went in the water even to wade in a shallow pool.

Grandpa had a good death -- 4 months of living alone after Nettie passed, he died doing just what he loved most, herding animals in the pasture on a gorgeous spring day devoid of clouds. Surely it was a sign of what awaited him. He fell and never got up, not knowing any of what hit him. Blessings for the good ones are found in the worst of moments for other family members.  Forty-three years later my father died not 100 feet and 23 hours removed from Russell's death.  Dad did get to say "goodbye" to us all before he left, after asking me to take care of Mom. I did for the 8 more years of her life after Roy..