Today, John Henry Raven, was laid to rest. I was honored to write most of my grandfather's obituary, but I'd also like to share some of my personal memories of Jack Raven.
My home for my first three years was an apartment attached to Raven's Lunch. That apartment is gone, but Grampie lived in the house that is still attached to Food Stop today. To get from the store to the apartment, we cut through the room off the main store where Gramps kept his beagle, Duke, tied up.
In 1975, we moved to Greely Rd, but we didn't get cable until 1981. So, I would spent pretty much every Saturday afternoon in the late 70's watching Creature Double Feature in Grampie's living room.
Gramps gave me free rein of the store's candy counter, which really helped make me the chubby little boy I used to be. Tootsie Rolls - all the way to the left… Eventually, he would put me to work dusting shelves. I don't think I ever worked off that candy debt, though.
After he sold the store, he built a house on Greely Road right next to ours. My parents both worked, so my sister and I would frequently take the bus to his house until my mother got home. That house was a second home to me. His youngest children, Jimmy and Wendy, were like older siblings.
He loved the Red Sox and with me being a Yankees fan, we teased each other relentlessly. The only silver lining for me about that 2004 Red Sox World Series win was that Grampie lived to see them win a championship after having endured 80+ years of frustration. I felt like 2007 and 2013 were completely unnecessary, though.
One of my earliest memories is being 4 years old and going fox hunting with him. We walked around the woods and powerline after dark with a flashlight. I don't know if we were ever more than 100 yards from the house and I doubt that he had even loaded the gun. But we still had fun and he loved telling that story, especially to his big brother, Bug.
We were constantly yanking each other's chains. One time when I was a teenager, I went out behind his house and took a stick and made some fake moose tracks right in front of his tree stand. I was careful not to leave any boot prints and was really proud of how accurate they looked. I poked two holes in the back and then made larger depressions for the front of the hooves. A couple of days later, I heard him telling my father about the crazy rabbit tracks he found. He thought the rabbit was running so fast that it was putting its little front paws down and swinging its big hind feet in front of them. I confessed to making the tracks, but I think he wanted to believe his rabbit story so badly that he thought I was making that part of the story up. I'm sure he called me a “lemon”.
Gramps loved hunting. While Dad and I were hitting the woods around Thorndike, Knox and Monroe with various cousins and friends, he would patrol the roads in his Ford Ranger and his coffee warmer that he plugged into the cigarette lighter. Pretty much every time we came out of the woods, he would show up shortly to see what we'd found and swap stories. He loved a story as much as he liked eating venison. And ALMOST as much as he liked Nissen donuts and coffee cake. And 5 quart buckets of ice cream. And Classic, black chapstick. And popping out his dentures to make a kid laugh. And beginning stories with “When I was a little girl…”
Around ten years ago, I was hunting in the late afternoon behind our house in Cumberland. My tree stand was only about 150 yards from Grampies tree stand. I didn't even know he was there that day, but when I heard the gunshot I knew it had to be him. I waited a while and then got down a little earlier than usual because I wanted to help him out before it got too dark. I was shocked when I got to his little field and he was nowhere to be found. I pulled out my flip-phone and called the house, and he answered. "Where's your deer?", I asked. That's a question we asked each other a lot, but this time I was genuinely curious. He told me that he had missed a doe. That troubled me, because while he wasn't moving so well at that point… he didn't usually miss. I stayed on the phone with him while I crouched down to look under the trees and luckily… I saw a patch of white belly fur in the dim light about 30 yards past the edge of the field. I said "I found your deer". He got his boots and coat back on and came out. We field-dressed it and I drove him to the tagging station. He was happy to get his deer, but that was the point where he knew he had to hang up his orange hat. We were both feeling a little depressed and tired, but he still took the time to flirt with the lady that registered his deer. There was never a bad time to flirt with the ladies.
Thank you, Grampie, for all the memories. I can't remember a time when you didn't greet me with a big smile and a "Hey there, Jay-bird!" or "Hello young fella!", whether I had been at school for months or if I had seen you every day for the past week. I sincerely believe that if everyone tried to laugh half as much as you did, the world would be a much happier place. Love, Jason