By Bonnie Brown
Most of us don’t think about how quickly time is passing until we get to around age 50. Then we do a quick assessment of where we are in the financial and social realms. Is our plan for retirement adequate for our golden years? Is our circle of friends ones to be proud of? Can we rely on them? What is the status of those primary goals that we set for ourselves in our early 20’s?
The dash between the year of our birth and the year of our death represents our time here on earth. It tells the story of our life. Oliver Burkeman, the British author who penned the book “Time Management for Mortals”, maintains that we mortals have 4,000 weeks if we live to be 80 years old. Does that sound like an adequate amount of time to accomplish what you’d like to do in your allotted lifetime?
A former neighbor from my childhood recently passed away at the age of 96. His name was Orville Kelly Reiser, but was known only as “Bud.” I have to believe that Bud surpassed his 4,000 weeks simply because he was busy doing for others in our little community of Friendship, Ohio, nestled in Shawnee State Forest.
Bud contracted polio at the age of 16, but survived. However, it left him with a paralyzed throat for more than 30 years until he and Dr. Heimlich (yes, that Dr. Heimlich) became good friends. Dr. Heimlich was able to surgically correct his throat, which allowed Bud to once again swallow and enjoy food.
Bud was a Scoutmaster for more than 50 years, joining the Boy Scouts at age 11 and achieving the distinction of Eagle Scout at age 13. He was a guiding influence for many young men and women throughout his life. Bud was the youth director at our church and connected so easily with all the different youngsters and adults. He received his master’s degree from Marshall University and started teaching in 1950, then came to Portsmouth West High School in 1953 and was there until he retired, spending 65 years in the public education system.
Bud was a wonderful neighbor. He was always willing to help his neighbors, such as forming a community volunteer ambulance service. He was always inspiring others. He lived the quote by John Glenn, “To me, there is no greater calling. If I can inspire young people to dedicate themselves to the good of mankind, I’ve accomplished something.”
One story I want to share is the time Bud helped my younger brother Fred (whose nickname is “Bugs” to me). Our dad loved to garden. He was always eager to dig in the dirt and could hardly wait for spring to arrive so he could begin planting. My mother, two younger brothers, and I were the farmhands. Our dad worked in construction and also drove a concrete truck. He was a hard worker often the first on the job site and the last to leave, so tending the garden was mostly left to us “farmhands.”
My dad assigned my brother the job of digging the potatoes. And it wasn’t a small job. There were 9 rows of potatoes, each row being about 50-60 feet long. Fred was about 12 at the time. He was smart and did well in school. So, he thought about how to get the job done in the most efficient way in the least amount of time. He decided that this called for sacrifice on his part. And the sacrifice was cashing in his “pop bottle” money. For those of you who are old enough to remember, all the drinks were bottled in glass bottles back in the day. These bottles were relatively expensive to make so as an incentive, there was a “refund” when you returned the bottles to the store. The soda bottles were worth 10-cents each, while beer bottles were worth a whopping 20-cents each. Fred had already saved a little money, but knew it was worth the effort to try to go in search along the highway for more bottles. He quickly found enough bottles to have an amount with which to apply to pay for the potato digging.
We had the equipment we needed to garden—hoes, rakes, shovels, rototiller tractor. But we lacked a big tractor. That’s where Bud Reiser came in. Fred jumped on his bike and peddled up the road to Bud’s house and asked Bud if he could plow the 9 rows of potatoes and asked what his fee would be for doing so. Bud replied that he would do it for $5. Done! My brother excitedly biked home. Bud showed up shortly afterwards and set about plowing up the potatoes. Fred followed behind the tractor picking up the potatoes as quickly as they revealed themselves from beneath the dirt the tractor was turning over.
When Daddy arrived home from work that evening, he asked my brother how he was coming along with digging the potatoes. Fred responded that the job was completed. My dad walked around to the garden to inspect and saw the tracks made by the tractor. He looked at my brother and said, “There’s no way you could have gotten all of the potatoes out.” Fred told him he had enlisted Bud’s help with plowing them out and had followed the tractor and gotten all the potatoes out. My dad chuckled and said, “Wait until it rains, and we’ll see how many got left.”
Sure enough, a few days later it rained. Fred walked out to the garden afterwards and was taken by surprise. There were so many potatoes still in the ground that were now revealed by the rain! He couldn’t believe it. He quickly grabbed several five-gallon buckets and commenced picking up the newly-surfaced potatoes.
My brother went on to coach little league teams in several sports. He loves the games and still follows the Cincinnati Reds in spite of their dreadful record. Like Bud, he saw the value in mentoring boys and girls and teaching them good sportsmanship.
There are probably hundreds of stories like this to share about Bud Reiser and how he helped in small and significant ways.
Bud received many awards during his lifetime. His greatest impact was his ability to nurture and positively influence thousands of lives. Yes, he exceeded his 4,000 weeks and most assuredly, he used that bonus time to continue good works. The dash between the year of his birth and the year of his passing, 1926—2023, certainly tells Bud’s story of a life well lived and that he most definitely left this world a better place.
Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. For questions or comments, email her at email@example.com.