Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten - A Tribute to Uncle Robbie Easson
brother Dick, cousin Tom, sister Jean, and friend since childhood Elizabeth Zapp pay a tribute my uncle Robbie.
Dick calls him a "giant," Tom sees him as an inspirational
Mr. Fix-it, Jean salutes him as "the Most and the Best," and Elizabeth reports on "Our Neighborhood Uncle."
Uncle Robbie Easson is our mother's brother. He lived (and still does) in Valley Stream, near us. It would be absolutely impossible to explain in mere words what Uncle Robbie has meant to the Dick Van Family. In the early years, Dad had to work out of town, leaving Mom alone with four kids for a week or two at a time.
It was uncle Robbie who taught me how to: Fly a kite, send Morse code, radio, electric trains, drive a car. He assembled a set of electric trains for me overnight on Christmas Eve around 1948. The wiring had to take 14 hours, with automatic switching, and a geared down engine that could pull 20 cars.
His love of music was instilled in us from the start, even if none of us could ever hope to match him in talent. He could make beautiful music out of any instrument he ever picked up.
Christmas was an experience all of itself. I'm sure Tom remembers his dad not bringing his kids to our house on Christmas Day, because Uncle Robbie kind of went overboard. Try to imagine your most greedy wishes for Christmas, then double it. Believe me, it was done out of love, and did it spoil us?? (no comment) .
Your dad, Laurie, was Uncle Bobbie to us. He was, and still is, a real cool guy. But he lived in Brooklyn (25 miles away, no car), and we probably only saw him 10-20 times a year, and he did not dedicate his life to us four kids, exclusive of all others.
Incident: Somewhere around their 10th birthday, Uncle Robbie hosted the annual party for John and Jean (twins, remember), complete with movies, ice cream, toys, the works. After the party, uncle R and I walked two little kids (also twins, Bonnie and Bobby Merkle) to their home, about two blocks away. When their mom asked them how the party was, they frowned and said they got no presents. While their mom tried to shut them up, Uncle Robbie found out that it was their birthday too.
"GET EVERYBODY BACK!!!"
We had another party, with movies, ice cream, and lots of presents.
A giant walked in those shoes.
I too remember Robbie with this great heart and love for the four of you. What I remember most was his ability if fix and repair anything. He was a great engineer, though stigmatized by not having the big degree; he knew the engineering about everything. He inspired me in many ways even today. He also influenced me to not get caught in the "you-need-a-degree-to-do-that" in life as I got my electrical engineering degree when I got out of the Air Force. (It opens doors that would have been closed to me without it.)
Thanks for being...Robbie!
Uncle Robbie always did the best parties for us, got the best movies for us, and bought the most presents for us.
We think nothing today of renting a movie but, when we were growing up (those were pre-TV as mass media days), renting a movie was a major project. You couldn't just stop at the local Block Busters on your way home and pick up a rental. There weren't any. We never did know where or how Uncle Robbie was able to get movies for us, but he always got the best. And he had to rent a movie projector too.
I remember many of the parties. Bonnie and Bobbie's birthday is February 23rd, the day after John's and mine. Who could forget the cartoon Little Grey Neck [Greyneck] that uncle Robbie always rented for us for each birthday party?
Little Grey Neck was about a little duckling that is too weak to fly south for the winter and is left behind to survive the harsh winter in the forest with the evil fox always lurking about looking to catch the young bird for his dinner. With the help of her forest friends, little Grey Neck survives and flies to the comfort of her mother's "wings" along with her two siblings when they return in the spring.
The adults at these parties had to mop the floor after the teary reunion scene. I think I remember Bonne Merkel being carried home sobbing her eyes out. We always had an Our Gang movie and another cartoon called Puddy, the Pup.
For our 9th birthday, Uncle Robbie asked John and me if we wanted a party or bicycles. We opted for the bikes knowing, I believe, that a party would still be held in our honor. We got the "wheels" and a party. We were pretty smart kids. John and I had the best birthdays ever!
And our birthday parties were only two months from Christmas when we were absolutely showered with gifts from Uncle Robbie. Maybe we were "spoiled", but what great memories.
I'm not exactly a VanderPutten but Uncle Robbie was always the neighborhood kids' uncle too. I was there for the Little Gray Neck movie too and cried with the best of them.
One story I can relate took place shortly before Christmas when I was a young teen (Jean and John too). We were shopping for Christmas gifts and were in Sam Goody's record store in Green Acres. I saw a record album (remember them?) I just needed to have. I knew my parents would never buy it for me and was very likely moping about it.
Uncle Robbie could never stand to see a kid in distress and so he decided that he would buy the record and go to my mom to let her know it was just what I wanted, then they could "surprise" me with it on Christmas morning. Boy did I act surprised!
I thought you'd enjoy another little story about our neighborhood uncle! There are so many things I remember, not the least of which was his letting me keep my Camaro in his garage for a full year when I was unable to drive ....just so I didn't have to look at it everyday to remind me! He was quite a guy!