Let’s hope Bob Crowley found some contentment and a measure of companionship through reading books and watching sports.
The 88-year-old Sylva resident died Nov. 27. His possessions were meager; namely, those books. Volunteers with the Jackson County Friends of the Library told me about Crowley. After his death, they collected 500 books or more from his rental house.
He didn’t have a wife or any living family members. He seems to have outlasted everyone he loved. I find that disturbing. No one seems to know how Crowley felt. Perhaps he enjoyed his solitude.
Some kindly soul at the funeral home, in compiling Crowley’s obituary, noted he was “a very intelligent gentleman.” Then, somewhat optimistically, added: “Bob was a wonderful man to be around. He is survived by his friends here in Western North Carolina. A private memorial service will be held later.”
I don’t think that memorial service is likely to occur. If Crowley had friends, I couldn’t find them. Here’s what I did find out:
He was born in Chicago. He graduated from Loyola High School and Loyola University. He served in the U.S. Army and National Guard, receiving a check each month through the veteran’s administration. He voted Republican.
His death certificate says Crowley once owned a distribution business. I know he visited England often, perhaps related to work, perhaps not. For bookmarks, Crowley often grabbed used plane tickets and other trip mementos, such as restaurant menus (specialty of The Barley Mow on Duke Street in London: “sausage and mash, served with creamy mashed potatoes and delicious onion gravy”).
Crowley seems to have made his way to Sylva from Florida. Why he chose to live out his final years in this community is a mystery.
In court papers, his landlord wrote: “Has rented from me for 12-plus years. I have been contact person (emergency) each of his admissions to hospitals and nursing homes and home health.”
Crowley’s case – a man truly alone – sent workers at the Jackson County Clerk of Court’s office to the statute books. “I’d never seen this. I had to go look up what to do,” Pat Cable, who retired this week from the Clerk’s office, told me.
About six years ago, the state of North Carolina adopted legal requirements for these situations, when no one benefits from a dead person’s estate. The law requires landlords post affidavits of the deaths. For Crowley, the notices were placed at the Justice Center and on the door of his rental house off Cope Creek Road.
Then his landlord could legally dispose of his tenant’s belongings. Crowley mainly read biographies and books on sports and history. He seems to have studied World War II, and in many of those books, he placed between the pages related newspaper clippings.
When it came to sports, he loved baseball best. Crowley read, among other essayists, the books and pieces by the best baseball writer of them all, Roger Angell, stepson of E.B. White and son of The New Yorker’s first fiction editor, Katharine White.
Crowley’s rental house came furnished. Other than books, he owned a three-piece bedroom suit, refrigerator, television, pants, shirts, shoes, watch, CD player and CDs, telephone and movies.
Crowley’s estate owes $14,800 in medical expenses, according to court papers. He suffered from lung cancer and died from pneumonia. In the file, there’s an invoice for his cremation, $941, and an invoice from the care center where he died, for $788.99.