Over the years of writing for various publications, I would use friends who lived in Jefferson as characters in my stories if I need to get a point across. In the last few months I lost two of those friends and I think they are worth mentioning again.
Al Dely, was the owner of Hilltop Exxon on Route 15. He came off as an old curmudgeon, like me, but he had a heart of gold and if he liked you, he would talk to you all day. I used Al’s knowledge of life because it showed me that most problems had a simple solution and it was our generation that complicated our lives. He was from part of the “Greatest Generation” that did not panic at every little problem that passes by us in our lives.
“People just don’t use the common sense God gave them,” he once said to me. He was right.
When I moved to Jefferson, 30 years ago, Rich Perry was the fire chief. He said he hated the job because all he did was go to the funerals of the other past Jefferson fire chiefs. Rich and I worked in the facilities group of R.J.R. Nabisco and we had nothing in common but I could make him laugh at a drop of a hat. About his laugh, it was a loud booming laugh that could be heard throughout the halls of Nabisco and was infectious. He laughed and that would set off a chain of laughter all around him. Rich was the man who would set up Nabisco Family Day at Christmas time, put up the ten Lionel train sets in the lobby and along with his men, built a full size working carousel for the two day Christmas event.
When he heard that I was moving to town he first said, “There goes the neighborhood!” but was at my house the first day to assure me that it was a good house.
He saved my house by showing me where the main water shut off valve was as the pipe in my shower broke off and water was going into the living room. Hey, Bob Vila I’m not! All he could do was laugh as I stood in the bath tub looking like a scared drowned rat.
I found out that I had acrophobia when, I climbed on the roof of my house to repair something and could not come down. I didn’t think I was so high up and looking down the ground got farther and farther away. About an hour later my wife noticed I was not down yet and finally came out to see me hugging the chimney. She did try to talk me down but when that did not work she called Rich. Now to add insult to injury, Rich pulls up with a fire truck, gets on the bullhorn and starts laughing! After a half hour of “what goes up must come down” jokes he finally got me to take the first step down the ladder. That was Rich Perry.
The town of Jefferson lost two sons and me two friends.