Friday, March 10, 2023

Mourning a Loss

While talking to a new friend on Instagram today (about how there isn't a card shop here in town anymore), I googled the name of the former shop owner and got some news that I was dreading.  I was expecting it, since Wendell closed the shop abruptly and moved to Rhode Island to be tended to by his family.  I learned today that Wendell passed away on February 27 at the age of 82 while in Hospice care.

I came out here to the Greenville area in December 2008 to check the area out. The company I work for wanted me to see if I even liked the area prior to my accepting a transfer to this office. One of the main selling points (in my mind) was when I discovered that there was a card shop near where I would be working.

I visited said shop in December 2008, (yoy can read about it here) and met Wendell. We moved out here in February 2009 and saw him pretty much weekly until he closed up shop in 2019.  During that time, we because friends, and he treated Mal, Chris and I like family.  The photo above is from February 2015 where Wendell was teaching Chris how to run the register at the shop.  Wendell was supposedly hard to work with, but I never saw that in him.  He was definitely no-nonsense, and the couple of people who told me he was hard to work for probably could have maybe worked a bit harder.  I did, however, resist the temptation to work at the shop because I didn't want to compromise out friendship. 

Wendell was tough, but fair. He called me up one day upset because Chris had thrown darts at the dart board in back, missing the dart board completely and heavily damaging the drywall. Chris and I jumped up, went to Lowes for some spackling, and fixed the wall.  Wendell pulled me aside later and told me how impressed he was with the lesson that I had taught Chris; you fix your mistakes and don't hide from them. He said we could have easily dodged the issue and tossed a little money at it, but we fixed it. I knew he respected me before then, but after that, I sealed the deal.  I think it also showed him how much I respected him when I immediately apologized and rectified the situation.

Chris and I went on a road trip in 2019.  We stopped at the shop before we left to get some supplies.  Wendell chatted with us for a bit like any other visit, and we left.  We got home two weeks later to a note on the door of the shop saying that Wendell had sold the shop and it was now closed.  I learned months later that he had been diagnosed with dementia and his family had facilitated the sale and moved him back to Rhode Island.  Had I known that this was going to happen, I would have hugged Wendell that last time I saw him.  I genuinely loved that man and I never got to tell him goodbye. 

Still, I take a small bit of solace in the fact that when the new owners of the shop closed their location down the street, the bulk boxes of cards I got from them were Wendell's.  So, his legacy will continue to live on in a good many of the TTMs that I'll be getting back for the foreseeable future.

Rest in peace, Wendell. You were a good man and made am impact on my life, as well as Mal's and Chris's. You were like an extra grandpa for us and we will always remember you fondly.  

RIP Wendell Branch 1941-2013. Here is a link to his obituary.