A gifted friend ©

Last Friday my wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. All five of our kids came together along with the grandkids who could sit still long enough for the affair as well as some in-laws and long standing friends. It was a delightful occasion and we’ve had so many friends from all across the USA and Canada comment on Facebook re the pictures that were posted. Each of their commentaries has brought back the special relationship we’ve shared with them over the years. Some of them go back more years than I thought were possible.

My thought for this column this morning was to share with you more of the details re that celebration. But just moments ago, I was sent the obituary of a very gifted friend, Robert Fudge, a lifelong resident of Perry.

I first met Robert in 1971 when we moved from Detroit to go to work at Blue Bird. Robert, who started as a draftsman there, had already been promoted to manager of the drafting department and was a stickler for details and organization. His hand printing looked as though it had been type set at a print shop.

We bought our first house just a few blocks away from where the Fudges lived and quickly became close friends and even car pooled to work for awhile. Because I was paying to send my wife to Wesleyan to finish her degree, finances were tight at our house so I was driving a very used VW Beatle at the time. Robert despised that car for more reasons than one; when he drove, we rode in his hot rod 396 Chevy Chevelle with a four speed gearbox. A few years later I bought that car from him. I think he missed it but not his wife, Carol, because it had “Armstrong” (manual) steering!

In 1980 our career paths separated us when Blue Bird sent us to Quebec where the average snow fall was eleven feet per year! My wife and I often wondered if that was in response to her comment of “I’ll never go back to cold country” after moving from Detroit to Perry back in the 70’s.

But then in 1997, fate brought us back together again when Blue Bird asked me to come back from Canada to direct the engineering department where there were several urgent crises brewing at the time. One of those was a recall the NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) was pushing us to do on a large number of All American school busses. It could have been an incredibly expensive recall to do on all those busses already in service across the USA and Canada were it not for Robert Fudge.

He designed an elegantly simple reinforcement for the fuel tank safety cage that made the fix easy and very cost effective. I remember celebrating with Robert on that one after the successful crash test which proved his design at the Transportation Research Lab in Ohio. Designing simple solutions to complex problems was a hallmark for Robert which earned him the right to finish his career at Blue Bird as Senior Project Engineer.

RIP, Robert, and thanks for the memories as Bob Hope was so fond of saying! I hope we can go motorcycle riding again when we have our reunion in Glory land! Heartfelt condolences to Carol, Jim and Cathy.

Thanks for reading All About Seniors,…..see you next week!

Bill Milby is a Director of Visiting Angels® of Central Georgia, a non-medical, living assistance service for seniors. If you have questions or comments about this column you can reach him at william.mercylink@gmail.com

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