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Howard Andrew “Andy” Williams born in the little town of Wall Lake, Iowa (Population 819, as of the 2010 Census), began as the youngest of the four "Williams Brothers" on Midwestern radio. From WHO in Des Moines, they moved on to "the nation's station," WLW in Cincinnati, where the family lived briefly before moving on to LA. The brothers broke up the act in 1953, but Andy went on to become a popular recording artist, and host of the TV variety show bearing his name. The song most associated with him is Johnny Mercer's “Moon River” from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's, which he first sang at the 1962 Oscars. The song won an Oscar, but although it became his signature number, it was never a chart hit for him. (This video includes the lyrics in Spanish. Don't ask me why.)
The Alexander family was a regular viewer of his variety show in the early 1970s, with Andy playing the straight man, a la Bob Newhart, surrounded by assorted characters claiming him to be too "weird." To hear him sing it now, reminds the listener of traveling the long, lonesome road to eternity, with only the path for company.
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Ralph “RJ” Vilardo, Sr, a longtime resident of Milford, Ohio, passed away in late November at the age of 82. He was found in his car that morning, pulled over by the side of the road, apparently tired from driving late at night. That he passed away in a car was actually deemed well-suited to him, were it not for the absence of his devoted wife, the former Mary Sue Craver. His many successful years in the automotive sales industry -- “the dealer with the heart, in the heart of Milford” -- Ralph became a "pillar of the community" and still reported to work in his eighties.
His oldest daughter Susan is a longtime friend and former school classmate of ten years, going as far back as kindergarten at Milford South Elementary. I remember her telling a story of her father's experiences serving in Korea, how one of his buddies threw himself on a grenade to save the lives of the others, including Ralph. He was surely more than grateful for the chance he had to live his life, building his own business and leading the way with numerous fundraisers for worthy causes. His legacy of giving back to the world was passed on to his children. Ralph Jr was once mayor of Milford, and is a successful businessman in his own right. Johnny has devoted his life to community service through the local Fire Department. Susan has worked for years with special-needs children. Those are just three examples that come to mind.
About a year before his demise, he and I spoke for a bit about his memories of Dad as a "straight shooter." There is more to tell about that tomorrow.
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My return to Ohio has amounted to a "working vacation," as the four of us met at the house where we grew up earlier today, to discuss the disposition of family belongings. While the details cannot be disclosed at this time, we do have a buyer for the house. My own part of the process of closing out one long chapter of this abode has begun in earnest, of going through fifty-five years of family records and other memorabilia. One item of particular interest came to my attention.
Saint Susanna Rectory
500 Reading Road
January 8, 1955
Master David Lawrence Alexander
875 Helmsdale Road
Before this letter arrives, you will have been welcomed many times. I wish to add my voice to the chorus of welcome however.
You're beginning something pretty important, and it will be forever. You've got a big job to do, and that is to save your immortal soul that the Good God has given you. Dad and mother will help you in that, and will consider it their most important duty and privilege, which of course, it is.
But God will likely expect more then usual from you. You see, you have very good stuff in you, and that makes His investment pretty heavy and serious. So you'll have to do more than most others because of your rich endowment.
But despite the fact that you mommie and pop are pretty high class folks, even they have their shortcomings. Take dad for instance. Somehow or other, dads have a way of wishing their sons were big guys before they are. And so they treat them kinda rough some times. If he gets to throwing you up in the air and catching you, just to make you rough, you better explain to him that you do not approve. The first way to do that is to cry real loud. Sometimes that does the trick; but not always. Then you have to use stronger measures. For instance, sometime when he has a nice clean shirt on, and he gets a bit rough, just throw up on that nice clean shirt. That, Davie, will do it! If even that doesn't cure him, I guess you'll have to write me for further suggestions.
And now, Davie, if there is any time that I can help you to straighten out either dad or mom, just drop me a line, and I'll be glad to do what I can for you. And be sure to give them my best regards, and congratulations too on your safe arrival.
[Father] Charles J Murphy
Wanna bet you can't wait?