Today is always such a hard day and one I certainly wish never happened. Ten years ago today, the world lost a beautiful soul. Robert was just getting back into town from visiting his family in the south. We were supposed to have lunch and talk about installing a sculpture in Old Town. Instead, I started to get phone calls from Meegan and Ena asking if I had seen him that morning. Usually he would poke his head in the office with his coffee cup, but not that terrible morning.
While I will forever hate February 27, I will always love the days and years that came before and after. In the years prior, I had the special treat to get to know a quiet, unassuming man who was so much more than I’d ever imagine. He was the keeper of all things. You needed a six-foot pole made of aluminum? Hold on; Robert had it. You needed 17 blue rubber balls? It was in the basement.
He also made everyone feel like they were his best friend. After his death, people came out of the woodwork to talk about how he helped them with their first show or bought their first piece of artwork or somehow knew when they needed an ear. He was known as a friend, neighbor, business owner, artist, restorer of old buildings, builder of community, Mayor of Old Town, partner, Daddy, Poppy and more. He also had an amazing sense of humor, which was such a treat to see. In the years that I knew him, I only saw him angry or say something negative about someone else once.
In the ten years since his death, we’ve had fits and starts in our community. Many people said his death would be the death of Old Town. I’d be lying if I said in my deepest, darkest moments some part of me didn’t believe that. I’m so glad I was wrong. Today, we are strong. We are a family, like he taught us. We welcome people and work hard to make our neighborhood a better place. We know that if we want to see something done, we need to do it. It might not be done with the fanciest of materials, and it might appear in the dark hours of the night, but that’s the Old Town way! I can only imagine what he would think to see the Scrapfest sculptures on the streets or now several restaurants bringing people to Old Town at night! I can only hope he would be proud, but I think he is.
Today, I’ll also see members of my Old Town family Robert gifted to me. For that, I can’t thank him enough. His influence gave me a career path, lifetime friends who I consider family, a beautiful home—that although I shake my fist and curse at now, I can’t wait to share with everyone in a few weeks—and a community that is unlike any other. When someone asked me if Robert Busby’s memory is still alive today, I can tell you that I am so thankful for him every day. Thank you, dear Robert. We miss you today and always.
– Jamie Schriner-Hooper is the OTCA Board President, Org committee member, Old Town resident and property owner.
Extra: Judy Putnam, LSJ columnist, wrote a profile in honor of Robert titled “Mayor of Old Town’s presence still felt in Lansing’s arts district.” Read the story here.