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Honoring Papaw

After my grandfather passed away late last year at 98 years old, his “retirement job” of 31 years, named a building after him.

My grandfather died in late December at 98 years old. He was of a generation where people lived some amazing lives. He would follow his older brother to school every day to the point the school finally just let him stay. Nearly an Olympic level swimmer who served during World War II. He retired from civil service before I was born, and then the cemetery happened.

After retiring, he became the caretaker of Sacred Heart Cemetery in Wichita Falls. Over the 31 years that followed, he worked every weekday—unless it was raining—mowing and maintaining the ground and going through the work to unify and computerize the cemetery’s records.

Apparently, before his work, one of the three Catholic churches in town kept the records for some part of the cemetery. It was increasingly harder to answer some basic questions about who was buried there, which plots were purchased or not, and so on. His first computer, a 286 running DOS, became the new beginning of a computer database to have a single reference point for cemetery information.

As a kid, before cell phones, we always knew that if you wanted to see Papaw, you’d head to the cemetery between 8 and 12 Noon, Monday through Friday. I remember setting out flags with him often for one of the American holidays—Memorial Day or Veterans Day or helping him setup the altar for the annual All Soul’s Day Mass. I have birthday cards from him that he designed with his “Designed by Bob Spring” with some headstones around it on the back.

For me, while he had done many other things in his life, I learned about work ethic and dedication through his work in the cemetery.

He was very stoic and a man of few words normally, but he talked to me at length about the new workshop they were building for him at the cemetery (complete with air conditioning!). Dare I say, he was giddy about it.

After he passed away, I visited David Bindel, the pastoral associate of Sacred Heart Parish, to catch up—I knew him from when I was active in the parish in high school—and to talk about the impact Pawpaw had on both of us and those who interacted with him in his role overseeing cemetery operations over the decades. I pitched to him the idea that it would be nice to have something to note his work.

I’m proud to announce that the workshop he was so proud of is now dedicated as “The Bob Spring Workshop at Sacred Heart Cemetery“.

Robert “Bob” Spring served as caretaker of this cemetery from 1976 to 2007. In addition to maintaining the grounds, his work included unifying and modernizing the cemetery records. He is buried in the southeast corner next to his wife, Mary Rita. 1919-2017

I can’t wait to visit Wichita Falls again to see the plaque in person.

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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