Tribute to a former neighbour

The neighbour down the hill from my parents’ property, Mr. Greer, stood between me and my junior high school.

He was the kind of neighbour we want — solid, upstanding citizens who care for and tend their house and grounds.

Except when you’re a kid who wants to take a shortcut to get home from school.

Mr. Greer mowed his lawn twice a week and kept twigs/sticks to a minimum, desiring little in the way of rambunctious boys trotting through his manicured grass.

I mowed all the lawns around his — the lady next-door who was elderly and enjoyed fixing cold glasses of tea/lemonade for me after I mowed; the busy father of three infants who was willing to pay the local lawnboy for basic mowing but expected grass raking and bush trimming for free; my parents who insisted that a low payment for mowing our lawn was an incentive to find other work to pay for my hobbies.

I never knew Mr. Greer personally, except with the shouts of “Hey, didn’t I ask you not to walk down my driveway?,” “Next time you mow along my property line, be sure you get the grass clippings you shot over into my yard,” or “While you’re raking the leaves of the tree in your yard, you can rake the ones that fell on my property, too, if you don’t mind.”

He was just that guy we kids talked about or made up stories to fill in blanks of a mysterious personality.

The older he got, the less he talked to my parents when they were working in the vegetable garden while he was picking up magnolia tree seedpods a few feet from them.

Good fences make good neighbours — so does the silence of respecting each other’s privacy when suburban backyards abut but do not hide meditative moments alone with our thoughts and our therapeutic yardwork.

This morning, my mother informed me that Mr. Greer had died.

She pointed out a few interesting biographical details of his obituary worth mentioning here:

[Mr. Greer] was raised in Dayton, TN. He was a young child when the Scopes Monkey Trial took place in Dayton. Part of the trial was held outside and he could vividly remember the big wooden stand outside the courthouse window.

During the Depression, Howard moved with his mom, dad and sister to Kingsport where his dad ran a lunch counter in downtown Kingsport.

In the Fall of 1941, Howard went to work in the Tenite Division of Eastman Kodak. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, young men in Kingsport were required to sign up for the draft and Howard received his draft notice in the mail August 1, 1942. After basic training, he discovered he would be a US Army Air Corp instructor on a teletype machine – a machine two months previously he barely knew existed. After the war ended, Howard used the GI Bill and took Eastman’s apprenticeship program in Industrial Instruments. He later worked for Dr. Bill Kennedy in the Research Division and completed his career with many years service in the Engineering Division.

He is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years…

Mr. Greer, thanks for being a great neighbour to my parents all these years. May others proudly follow in your footsteps!

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