Russell F. Swartz
1908 - 1996
There were always animals at Uncle Russ's. Rabbits, raccoons, deer. The beagles, his hunting dogs, were usually in their pens down the long driveway, past the zoo. The zoo was a fenced-in area up on a hill and was home to a host of different animals. Our favorites were Poncho and Chicita, the burros.
Best of all was the junk pile. There were big chunks of metal, all kinds of wood, plenty of wire, and all kinds of strange gizmos. My brother and I would prowl contentedly through all this stuff, while our Dad was talking to Uncle Russ. And we invariably got to take something home - a thing with dials, a nifty spring - always something wonderful.
Uncle Russ had the box of photos. Old family photos of our great and great-great grandparents and old cards with German printing on them. Photos of the Swartz boys in Cramer Hill - playing ball or hiking up River Road. Photos of other Swartz's we had never met. Every once in a while my Dad would borrow the box and we would spend hours at home just looking through the treasures it held.
It has been a long time since we played at Uncle Russ's. He moved from his home on Route 38 many years ago and the house was later demolished - all but the front steps. For years I would see those steps sitting along the roadside as I drove by, and fond memories would float through my mind. It was only a few years ago that they finally disappeared.
Uncle Russ is gone now, but there
are still the memories - the scent of cigar permeating the air around him,
the khaki work clothes he always wore, a picture of him on his tractor
- and the joy he gave us.