Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 20, 2013

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Editor’s note: Bill Wolcott’s column was cut off in Sunday’s edition of the US&J. That entire column appears here today. Tom Valley’s column will return next Thursday.

You probably won’t find Robert B. Wolcott on Google or Yahoo — not my Robert B. Wolcott. Mostly he was just a husband and father.

He was a Christian, farmer, miller, craftsman, volunteer fireman, friend, trusted role model and other things. Each of his eight kids probably saw him in a different way.

Robert, as he was called by his siblings, was one of 10 kids. He was born on a hilly farm in Wyoming County. Somehow, his father John Wolcott built a handsome home, with a big red barn across the rocky road. I’m guessing the Wolcotts did more than scratch out a living, working dawn to dark, but grandpa was kicked by a horse and died of pneumonia in 1929. Dad didn’t talk much about it. Robert was 13 or 14 when his father died.

John Wolcott had 10 kids. All the descendants of Henry Wolcott, who came over on the boat in 1630, had lots of kids. Henry, Henry, Samuel, Samuel, Samuel, Elisha, Elisha, Daniel, John, John, John and dad had an average of eight kids. There’s thousands of Wolcott cousins all over the place, some in Niagara County.

I have three children. If dad and mom stopped at three, I wouldn’t be me. I was No. 4. There would be no John (Billy), Marjory, Richard, Michael or Patrick; only Mary, Monica and Bobby. There would not be dozens of nieces and nephews, probably not a dozen.

It was normal to have big families in the day. Dads today wonder how dads of yesterday supported them.

Robert Braithwaite Wolcott (We don’t know how my grandparents came up with dad’s middle name) moved to the city in the middle of the Depression and somehow got a job. He was good at what he did and smart. We heard from family members that he could have been a doctor. I think he worked at Dunlop Tire and Rubber in Tonawanda before he got a job as a miller at Buffalo Flour Mill.

Dad had good hands, strong enough to free any frozen bolt and sensitive enough to tell the grade of the flour. He was intuitive enough to wrap up grandma Pankow when she broke her ribs, sensitive enough to take a sliver out his granddaughter’s finger. Heather still remembers there was no pain.

Dad got up for work at 6 a.m. and didn’t get home until after 6 p.m. He worked Saturdays and Sundays for overtime and on his vacation to support us. He enjoyed cheese sandwiches for lunch every day — every day — and liked it. I never heard him complain or ever say he was tired.

Once I asked him if we were poor. He answered “no,” so I asked him for a nickel. He reached in his pocket and gave me a nickel. I was rich.

A mechanic, plumber, electrician, painter, paper hanger, carpenter — the farm boy did many things very well. However, he wasn’t much of a teacher. He would plan a job in his head as I waited for the action to start. I had no idea what he was thinking, but soon the job was done. It was done right and lasted.

I wish he would have talked more, but he measured this words. Nothing would come out that shouldn’t have. Once the words are out there, they’re out there. You can’t bring them back.

I wish dad would have taken me to more Bisons games and taken us to more family picnics, but he had a full life. He was president of the Winchester Fire Co. for several years. He never campaigned, but brother volunteers just liked and trusted him. A convert and member of the Holy Name Society, he knelt down to say his prayers at night.

He woke up my big brother and I for nocturnal adoration of First Fridays. Most of the time our shifts were in the middle of the night and sometimes our teenage friends would join us. They made my father their acting father and I was proud of that, proud of my father.

Dad died near Father’s Day in 1990 and there was a death notice, not an obituary. There was no need for an obit or the Internet. Robert B. Wolcott filled his life, and his family remembers.

Bill Wolcott is a Union-Sun & Journal reporter.