Don Wilper, passed away last night. He was 88 and lived in the house next door for 60 years. We are sad for his children and friends, and we celebrate a life well-lived.
We bought our Calftown house in 2009 and made friends right away with Don. He was quiet and friendly and had a lot of great stories about the neighborhood. He kept to himself mostly, but we'd see him out on nice days and he liked to putter around the yard. Every year Sheryl trimmed the Rose of Sharon bushes his late wife planted along our fence many years ago, and we kept an eye on him, as did our other neighbors. He bragged that you couldn't kill those bushes even if you tried.
Don liked our dogs. That meant Sheryl liked Don, who would lean over the fence and greet our often excited canines and pet them.
We got to know his daughter, Donna, who lives in town and frequently checked on him. She would buy Sheryl wine for some small help she had given. We hardly saw Don in the last year as he grew less mobile. Donna said he was fine and just liked to "hibernate" when the weather turned colder. Sheryl would bring a bag of our fresh tomatoes to his door every Sunday, and Donna sent us a photo a few weeks ago of Don enjoying them for dinner.
There was another character who lived next to Don for many years. His name was Jim, and there are all kinds of stories about how competitive they were and how they tired to outdo each other. The garden wars were quite fierce with them and Don blamed one of his strokes on pulling out tomato plants one year. Jim passed away a few years ago, and one of my last memories of him was sitting with Don drinking coffee in the backyard. Two old friends, just watching the world go by.
Now a young couple with a toddler lives in Jim's old house. We wonder what will happen to Don's place, and we hope whoever buys it treats the house with the respect and love it deserves.
Ironically, Don's house just got a new roof, and the roofers were there again this morning working on the gutters, back porch area and garage. Don kept the house and the property in great shape.
We love our block. It's quiet and we keep an eye on each other. The neighborhood is about the people who live in the houses, not the actual buildings. But whoever buys Don's house is getting a beautiful, sturdy and historic Calftown dwelling, and it's a great place to live.
Farewell, Don. I'm sure you and Jim are up there and starting a contest to see who grows the biggest tomatoes. Sheryl will keep an eye on your wife's Rose of Sharon and we'll smile when remembering you puttering around the yard and garage.
And we'll count ourselves fortunate to get another neighbor like you.