My Pop was a pip.

A true character with a few unenviable quirks not condoned by life coaches, they somehow made him funnier in retrospect. Ol’ Alf kinda fancied gossip and sister Wanda and I would roll our eyes catching him listening in on our rural neighbors’ phone conversations.

If you’re long in the tooth, you recall the old “party line” and dialing 0 to tell the operator, “I’d like to make an expensive, long-distance call to a town five miles away.”

During grocery shopping trips, I’d often slip a pack of baseball cards into the cart, hiding it under Dad’s National Enquirer. He swore by those gossip rags, with headlines like: “Woman abducted by aliens returns eight months pregnant,” “Talking dog tells owner, ‘You want it so bad, you fetch it,’” and “Man finds son’s contact lens in park, lost the previous night during frisbee football.”

Actually that one is true, and the concerned, eagle-eyed father was Dean Beemer, who now surely rests in peace. Dean Christie and I were part of that nighttime, frisbee toss when Dave Beemer realized his contact had popped out at some point, at who-knows-where. “Beemer” was blind as a glaucoma bat without his lenses and we had an important Legion baseball game the next afternoon.

So ol’ Dean – likely after, “Jeez David, again?” – goes down to the park bright and early Sunday morning and, defying all possibility norms, found that tiny contact in the dewy grass. My Pop the pip only came to one of my high school baseball games (brother Jess was home and took him), but Dean and his bride Betty never missed one of our games.

I spent endless teenaged hours at the Beemer Stampede house, and not just because his older sisters Dena and Diane were gorgeous. Youngest Beemer, Donnie, or “LP” as Mom “BJ” called him, was also on the team and the happy family dog was “Yipper.”

As the decades passed, it was always a true pleasure to kibitz with Dean at Beemer gatherings and of course every Fourth of July, City Park picnics after parades. The Beemer extended family, commandeering a sizable parcel of said park, was as traditional as the Blough family’s groundhog feast every Thanksgiving.

Ah, but I kid the Bloughs. But seriously, in years past before Mr. and Mrs. B were committed Christians, I often evoked Dean’s name during theological debates with Dave. I would say, “All I know is if your dad, even though he may not be ‘born again’ died, something is really wrong if he didn’t go to Heaven.” If God judges the heart, I knew Dean was in like Flynn.

In these later years, Dean would light up as he greeted me in the foyer after church, always smiling with something endearingly sarcastic to say. I felt proud that any dementia did not preclude remembering his kid’s buddy Doug. Almost every time I’d ask, “How’s Yipper?” His grinning reply was always, “Oh, he’s still in the backyard where we buried him.”

What a treasure we’ve lost. Al Simpson and Barney Voerding: Keep your powder dry and stay with us for many years to come.

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