It’s with a heavy heart that tell you of the passing of my neighbor Bobbie.

I called her the Queen of Juniper Street and she was quite a character. Everything I’m about to tell you is told with great love and affection.

She was born in 1935, she was stubborn, she was strong and she was nosy.

And she was my friend.

I got to know Bobbie when I moved over to Celanese. I remember very distinctly the first interaction I ever had with her. I was moving boxes and furniture into my house one day and here comes Bobbie walking down the street. She stops in front of my house and yells from the street “You movin’ in?” But she didn’t say it in a warm, welcoming way. She said it in sort of an accusatory way. So I dropped what I was doing and ran to the street so I wouldn’t have to yell across the yard.

Here’s our exchange:

Me: Yes ma’am, I’m just now moving in. My name’s Severo.

Bobbie: I know who you are. You work for the newspaper.

Me: Yes ma’am I do. I’m an editor at the Rome News-Tribune.

Bobbie: Lemme tell you what I hate about the Rome News-Tribune. Y’all print that scandal rag and it embarrasses families.

And with that she turned and walked down the street. Oddly enough, I wasn’t put off at all by it. I thought it was funny. I guess I could tell right away that she was a no-nonsense kinda lady and I liked that.

As time went by I learned a little more about Bobbie. Every day she’d patrol Juniper Street. You could see her walking up and down the street a couple times each day. One time I asked her why she walked so much and she said “On account of my sugar.”

But in my mind, Bobbie was just making the rounds on HER street. I considered it her street and she just let us live there. And I loved that she walked that street because I felt that it was just another layer of security. Not a thing happened on that street Bobbie didn’t know about. And she was quick to alert you if she thought there was something you needed to know about.

My friends got to know her through my stories about her. I’d tell them of all my interactions with Bobbie and they loved it. They always wanted to know what was going on, on my street, and what Bobbie had to say about this or about that.

And she made it her business to know everything that was going on. So if there was something I wanted to know, I’d wait till I saw Bobbie walking past and I’d run out there and ask her about so-and-so or about what was going with that house over there.

And nine times out of ten she knew EXACTLY what was going on.

My neighbor Lacey is a nurse and depending on her work schedule she might be home or away from home at unpredictable hours. That didn’t escape Bobbie’s eyes. Even though Lacey has lived on the street much longer than I have, it seems Bobbie didn’t know her name or didn’t care to use it. She called Lacey “that one.” She’d see me outside and come over and say “that one didn’t come home till late last night.” And I would laugh and say Lacey had been on call and not to worry because Lacey is very responsible and a great neighbor.

But my favorite times were when Bobbie and I would just stand out there on the street in front of my mailbox and she’d just tell me a million stories about her past or about her family or her friends.

Of course she told all this to me in the way I loved — with sass and a little bite to it. She didn’t hold back when talking about someone she didn’t like, but she also made sure to tell me about the people she truly cared about.

She told me that she worked at the bank. She was proud of that. I later found out that she was an operations manager with National City Bank and First Union Bank. She would say to me “I worked hard and I worked my way all the way up from the bottom to the upper level at the bank. You can’t do that these days.”

Many people who drove down Juniper Street might have caught a glimpse of Bobbie walking down the street or sitting on her porch with her little dog Molly by her side. If the neighborhood was quiet enough you might hear Bobbie calling or scolding Molly, depending on the dog’s behavior.

One time Bobbie knocked on my door and asked me if I’d help her grandson move a shelf from her daughter’s house (next door) to her house. I said of course and I went over there. Well the shelf turned out to be a whole wardrobe but we got it moved in. That’s the first time I went inside Bobbie’s house and I saw that her living room was filled with angels. She collected them. There were dozens and dozens all over the living room in a variety of forms. So last Christmas I gave her a little ceramic angel and she seemed to like it very much and said she would add it to her collection.

She liked to eat at Stanley’s Restaurant (on Broad Street) and we’d often tease each other that we were coming over to the other person’s house for dinner because neither of us liked to cook.

I liked to make her laugh. She loved to hear stories about my family and friends — the stories I can’t publish in the newspaper. It made her laugh when I’d tell her about something or someone that had made me mad.

Bobbie was a character. She would say what was to her mind even if it wasn’t completely politically correct or if it was the polite thing to say or not. And I absolutely loved her for it. She loved her family very much and they were all around her at the very end.

The Queen of Juniper Street is gone and I will miss her dearly.

Severo Avila is Features Editor for the Rome News-Tribune.

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