Helen Hampton’s story of a deep friendship and love later in life is a lesson for all of us to stay young at heart and remain open to new experiences. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
By Helen Hampton
In 1974 when I went to work for Lever Brothers, a soap factory in the city of commerce, I had a most wonderful boss. His name was Bob, and he was the plant controller. He had fifteen employees under him. He was always a gentleman, and most kind to me.
Over the years I came to know Bob’s darling wife Dottie, first through plant functions and later at dinners with Bob after work. Dottie and I became good friends. Sadly, she died of cancer in 1989.
Bob was such a gentleman that he waited one year before asking me out for a date. We dated for thirteen years, and we had the most wonderful times together.
He and I had a lot in common, as we were both busically inclined. He polayed the piano beautifully, and I sang. We went to many musicals together, and we had season tickets to the Downey Civic Light Opera and the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.
Bob and I used to drive all the way up to Ojai to the country club just to have lunch in their beautiful dining area on the golf course. One one of our trips with my daughter Jan and son-in-law Paul we stopped by a roadside vegetable stand. When it was time to leave, Bob, not realizing that all of us were not in the car, started to drive off without me!
Jan and Paul cried, “Bob, stop the car! Mama is still at the vegetable stand!” For years we laughed about him driving off without me. When I would say some of my silly remarks or act up, he would say, “I should have left you at the vegetable stand.”
He loved the beach so much that every summer we would picnic at Laguna Beach. I’d take the fixings for sandwiches, and he would bring a cooler with the wine. We would get a table only a few yards from the ocean, and I would spread a tablecloth with napkins, put out my beautiful wine glasses, and make a setting fit for a queen.
Passersby would stop and talk to us and admire our lovely setting. We would ask them to take a picture of us, and they willingly obliged.
Bob and I found many other ways to spend time together. We drove to Solvang several times for day trips. We spent many enjoyable afternoons at lovely restaurants on or near the beach.
Bob loved playing the piano, so we would drive down to Laguna Niguel for lunch at the Ritz-Carlton, where he would play the beautiful grand piano in the hotel lobby.
Bob had a lot of health problems during the course of our long-term friendship. He was hospitalized several times. He was such a proud man that he never wanted me to see him while he was in the hospital.
At first I felt badly, thinking that he didn’t love me anymore. When I told my daughters that he would not let me see him, they said, “Mama, put yourself in Bob’s place. Would you want him to see you with no make-up on, your hair a mess, and in one of those hospital gowns?” Then I understood the reason. So I called him every day and we talked.
Bob passed away in 2002. I miss him very much, and it was quite hard for me the first year and a half without him. Since we had talked on the phone every day up until his death, it was hard to believe that he was gone from my life. I went to a bereavement class at Cerritos Center, which helped me greatly.
Now I live with the wonderful memories of our years together, and that gives me great comfort. I haven’t dated anyone yet, as my memories of Bob are still so vivid and no one seems to come up to his standards. I think of him every day.