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More Than a Handyman

More Than a Handyman

"Uncle Bob" Keatley works on crafting children's tables and chairs at the Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix, Ariz. Photo courtesy of Pat Dellisanti.

An elderly man headed for the dining table where three other elders were also headed. When all were seated he asked, "Do you mind if I give thanks before we eat? No one objected. The prayer was short, but it was apparent that it was sincerely meant. That sincerity and deep faith are attributes consistently expressed in the life of a man called "Uncle Bob." Not only his niece, Sandy Williams, but many friends also think of him as "Uncle Bob."

Tyrone, Pennsylvania was home to “Uncle Bob” Keatley and the place where he retired after 35 years of service as Superintendent of Mails. It was there that he had met and married his high school sweetheart. They were married for 65 years. Now he carries a beautiful photo of Bettie which he will show to anyone interested. He will also tell about his very successful son and his family, and about his experiences in the Army Air Corps during World War II. But talking is a very small part of what this 94-year-old man is about. "Bob knows everything there is to know about wood," another resident of the retirement home has said. That is likely one of the reasons Bob devotes so much time most days working in the wood shop on the Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix, Ariz. where he lives. That is where he builds children's tables and chairs and makes repairs involving wood.

Widowed ladies make up the largest percentage of populations residing in retirement homes, and there is a need for someone to respond to the "honey-do's” that these ladies had been used to asking their husbands to do. Putting up a shelf, fixing a chair leg, painting a chipped item every apartment seems to have one-time needs that would have formerly been taken care of by a husband. In helping out these ladies Bob soon found himself a very busy man. One lady said with gratitude, “You are the best handyman ever, Bob!" He gently corrected her, "I am a bit more than that; I built my own house," he said. It is not an easy task to build a house, and for a meticulous workman, it was not a fast process. Going into the second winter he still did not have the shingles on the roof. He asked a friend for help, and they finished just before 3 inches of snow fell.

When Bob sells the new items he has made, such as the children's chairs and tables, he donates the money to the Shriners Hospitals for Children. This man, called Uncle Bob, is a special friend to many people. Although he lost one eye in an accident many years ago it has not stopped his desire and ability to help others. No complaints, no bragging, no quests for power or recognition -- he goes to the wood shop and quietly accomplishes his goals, interrupted only by requests of "Bob, can you? Will you?” The answer is almost always "Let me take a look and see if I can fix it."

He usually can!

Una M. Thomas

Una M. Thomas says she enjoys "writing about family and special people I meet, and those special people are usually veterans."  

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