Der Kaffeeklatsch

For the last few years I was a member of a very small but remarkable group that met once a week at a local coffee shop. In fact there were only three regular members of this group, with my 61 years roughly equalling the age difference between the other two: my friend Bridgette, who is in her early 20s and expecting her first child and my long-time friend Bob Redden who died this week at age 96.

I would have called this group a coffee clatch, but I think that Bob would have appreciated that I googled the term to find the correct spelling and came up with the original German for the title which translates as “coffee chat.”

Bob was many things but most of all a scholar. He had a PhD from Syracuse and was chairman of the Geography Department at SUNY Buffalo before coming to Geneseo in the 1960s to eventually become Dean of Instruction. Although I liked to kid him by telling him that most of his knowledge was “out of date,” the fact was that he read voraciously, particularly in the areas of history and foreign policy.

On Friday mornings he would stop into the cafe for a short visit while his wife was having her hair done next door. The three of us would sit down to solve the problems of the world over a cup of coffee.

We never did solve all those problems but we did share a great deal of fun and both Bridgette and I benefitted greatly from Bob’s long perspective and his gift for friendship. We were even able to reconvene our group a few times at the County Nursing Home  where Bob spent his mercifully short, final days.

I can attest that Bob’s mind was remarkably sharp right to the end, but sadly, he lost the will to live after having to give up his home of many years on Westview Crescent. He knew the end was near and died peacefully in his sleep last Sunday night.

There will be a memorial service today at 11am at the Catholic Church in Geneseo. It seems appropriate that it should be on this day and time because that was the day and time of our weekly coffee klatsch.

So Bob we will meet one more time before you move on to that Great Coffee Klatch in the sky. Save us a seat!

BTW I know I have spelled Kaffeeklatsch four different ways in this short piece but, as Bob would no doubt correctly quote, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Bob’s was certainly not a little mind. In fact he could probably tell you not only who said that (Ralph Waldo Emerson), but also what a Hobgoblin is.

Bob saw the great sweep of life in this world for 96 years and despite growing up in the Depression, experiencing prejudice against his Irish Catholic roots and seeing the horror of war in WWII, he maintained a great and abiding faith in our country and the ability of good to triumph over evil. I hope you were right Bob!

One response to “Der Kaffeeklatsch

  1. This is beautiful, Corrin. Makes me wish I had known him. Your last paragraph could have been written about my late maternal grandmother whose parents and siblings were from County Clare. She grew up in Bridgeport, CT. She was stoned coming home from school but ended up being the best patriot you ever saw. During WWII she reported suspicious activity on the part of a renter in an apartment on her street. It turned out he was a German spy. (I think they kept many of them in what look like upscale Quonset huts at Wide Waters on the corner of Culver and Monroe.) President Roosevelt wrote her a letter. For decades afterwards she was afraid of German retribution! This age group also kept us in touch with an era of less tech and how fast things changed between their time and ours. Grandmother remembered the tall ships of her era – the tea clippers – breaking through the fog to land at the docks. She said it was the most thrilling site and as I related this to a cousin as we drove over the Newport bridge during Operation Sail 1976, one broke through the mist. It is thrilling. The Irish are always poetic. We have lost an important link in Bob. Jean in Geneseo.

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