Bob Shelor told me he felt the best he had felt in six months, which said a lot for an 80-year-old with a damaged heart and other maladies.
What did Bob do when he had that six-month feeling? He mowed our lawn.
That might not sound like such a big deal except for one thing. Bob didn’t mow his own lawn—the lawn service did.
Yes, Bob was feeling especially spry and neighborly. So he lowered himself onto his Snapper—a faded red with faulty brakes and a flat tire—and he mowed our steeply sloped back yard, which was in a mild state of neglect while we vacationed for nine days in Seattle.
I thanked him profusely when we got home. Bob shrugged, as if it was nothing.
My family lives in a Shelor house, built circa 1953 by Bob’s brother, P.L., and P.L.’s wife, Pauline. We’re the second family and the first not named Shelor to reside in this 60-year-old brick home near the elementary school. When folks ask me where I live, I often say Pauline Shelor’s house. It makes perfect sense to say we live in her house because no one knows us the way people know Shelors, who have lived in these mountains for more than two centuries. We’ve barely been here a moment, a scant dozen years.
Not only did Bob and his brother live side-by-side, their businesses were side-by-side on Locust Street in downtown Floyd. Upon his return after the Second World War, Bob opened Bob’s Radio and TV with one new television to sell. His training and service in the Navy while stationed in Norfolk prepared him well for his new venture. After enlisting, Bob became an electrician who repaired and refurbished battle-damaged aircraft such as Hellcat fighter planes.
Bob could fix anything, and Bob’s Radio and TV turned into a long career. Jim Casteel told me Bob was a genius. Jim would know; he worked alongside Bob for 42 years. Bob sold enough products for RCA that he earned trips with his wife to Italy and the Caribbean. And, as the newspaper said, “He was friends with all his customers.”
Despite mowing my lawn as an octogenarian and dispensing other kindnesses, Bob was convinced that he didn’t measure up as a neighbor. He was always saying so, and would often tell me that he had never helped us in any meaningful way.
“Can I do anything for you?” Bob would ask.
“No,” I would reply. “But thanks—I appreciate it.”
He never seemed satisfied with my answer.
Actually, Bob was the best neighbor any person could hope for. When our family moved to Floyd in 2003, I selfishly thought, “I hope he lives next door forever,” despite his health challenges and advancing years.
Bob knew more about my house—the plumbing, electrical, everything—than I probably ever will. He also knew everything about Floyd County dating back to his childhood before the war. Bob would entertain me with stories when I joined him in the small den at the back of his house. Sometimes his memory failed him, but what he remembered was interesting and usually included a colorful anecdote or two.
I also wanted Bob to live next door forever because he was the kind of neighbor who brought my daughters ice cream when they were sick or dropped by with stuffed animals for no reason whatsoever. One day when my daughter Beth passed by on the way home from elementary school, he slipped her a few dollars for getting good grades on her report card.
The last time I saw Bob was at the Christmas parade in 2005. It was two days before he died in his den, sitting in his favorite chair, watching television. He had walked the parade route with fellow members of the American Legion. He didn’t notice my daughter Caroline and me standing on the opposite corner of East Main Street and Barberry Road. I wish I had crossed the street and said hello.
“I knew him for a long time to be one of the friendliest and most honest men around,” said veteran Connie Wood in the newspaper. “He went out of his way to help a lot of people in Floyd County.”
We miss our good neighbor.