GOD’s Garden Gnome Gone Home

A few years ago when my friend Bob Waldrop ran for local government in Oklahoma City, I had to laugh; lifelong political activist on the Libertarian front, self-described Anarcho-Distributist, founder of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House, and deep, deep festering thorn-in-the-side of any government body that oppressed the poor, Bob would have been unstoppable in public office. He was an afflicter of the comfortable in the best ways possible, and the best lived example of the absolute power of voluntary poverty in action I have ever known. Of course, he lost the election…but he gained a sizable number of new benefactors and volunteers in the process, so, you know…he won.

Bob used to be my first call when we had snotty teenagers at Gilbert House in need of an emergency education. My phone calls always began with, “Bob, I have a crisis that needs to be handled.” And his reply was, without fail, “No problem! Bring them down, let’s have some fun!” No matter how many times I went to Oscar Romero House with brats in tow and a box of Benadryl half-consumed, the overwhelming smell of sheltered alley cats in the house was enough to make even the strongest stomach flinch (just breathe through your mouth until your nose gets tired, it’ll pass). Upper walls were knocked out of rooms and beams exposed to aid in passive heating and cooling. Piles of fresh vegetables littered the kitchen table and counters waiting to be processed. A piano, an organ, a clothes rack stuffed with men’s clothing, and several computers fought for space amongst castoff furniture in the cozy sitting area of the living room which was decorated in typical whirlwind Catholic Worker fashion: handmade posters from multiple anti-war protests, peace demonstrations, prayer vigils, scattered images of Bishop Romero, Dorothy, Cesar and Dr. King hung haphazardly on every wall with old flowers, strings of peace cranes, religious icons, and notices of things needed to be done and opportunities to serve. It was perfect, and the best place to learn about how blessed poverty can be.

If you went to Oscar Romero House, you were certain to be fed a wonderful hot meal made by the servant himself, given a lengthy dissertation recital on the evils of the capitalist war machine, entrenched as it is in drugs and fossil fuels and lies about scarcity, our birthright responsibilities as stewards of GOD’s Blue Jewel, the necessities and blessings of urban permaculture and food security designs, and the merciful dignity and joy of living in solidarity with the poorest of the poor. If that experience didn’t scare you off, and especially if your parents or your college advisor sent you, you were at last offered the linoleum floor in the spare bedroom to sleep on in the late hours. “Need a pillow,” Bob would ask imploringly with a smiling mischievous twinkle in his eye.

One of the funniest stories Bob ever told me was about the week the director of a Catholic studies department at one of the Eastern Universities paid big money to send a group of students to Oscar Romero CW for an intensive “poverty immersion experience.” Bob fed the boys, gave them tours of his gardens, the food warehouse where he oversaw weekly deliveries of groceries to the poor all over the metro, played the organ for them, and took them to church for Vespers. After his usual round of Clarification of Thought, he tucked them in the spare room for the night, spent a couple of hours working on his book project before going to bed, and when he woke the next morning all those spoilt rotten middle class servants to no one had fled the coop. No note, car gone, not even a thank you card.

“Evidently,” Bob said, “The reality of the bottom majority isn’t for everybody.”

Bob used to say that Dorothy Day saved his life and gave it purpose. In her essays about working to create mercy in an unjust system, and advising those who wanted to serve to start where they are, Bob discerned his life’s vocation as the Catholic Worker minstrel, directing the choirs and playing the organ at the local parish, turning whatever lucre was offered as remuneration into comfort for the afflicted in the neighborhoods around the tiny condemnable craftsman house on the corner that stood as a living, deliberate FU (though he would never say that) to every unjust property ordinance and regulation known to man, tomatoes planted in stacks of old tires hither and yon, mulberry trees and pole beans obscuring road signs and fenced driveway blinds, “grass” unmowed because it wasn’t grass, it was veg. Bob was an entrenched, well known, well loved example of passionate, tireless faith and love in action, an impossible one man revolution in full brotherhood with Ammon Hennessy and Cesar Chavez.

A couple of years ago, Bob was treated surgically for a large esophageal tumour that turned out to be an aggressive form of cancer. When he first told me about it, my heart sank because I figured that he wouldn’t last more than a couple of months. He was a type 2 diabetic with some complications, never a fast healer, and he had chosen to submit to the cut/poison/burn method of treatment because “that’s all the poor are offered, when they’re offered anything.” I’m grateful and glad that he got to continue to live and serve for as long as he did but, inevitably, the treatment was as bad as the disease and a body can only take so much before our share in Christ’s suffering kicks in.

Bob Waldrop’s motto was, “Do what you can where you are with what you have and GOD will multiply it. Look what He’s done with me!”

Just took at what he’s done. Eternal rest, my dear Brother. I’m envious. Our loss is Heaven’s gain. I pray for you.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roy F. Moore
    Sep 01, 2019 @ 10:19:02

    Eternal rest grant unto Thy servant, O Lord. Mary Immaculate, Mother of God, pray for his eternal repose. Amen.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  2. runkelp
    Sep 03, 2019 @ 15:53:41

    A fine tribute to Bob. I hadn’t heard from him since he’d inquired about archiving his digital files in 2015. Do you happen to know whom to contact about his papers and records of his house?

    Phil Runkel

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. dorothyd
    Sep 03, 2019 @ 16:08:31

    A fine tribute to Bob. The last time I heard fromhim was in 2015, when he inquired about archiving his digital files. Do you happen to know whom to contact about his papers?

    Phil Runkel

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • MikiDaShrew
      Sep 03, 2019 @ 16:29:10

      Hey, Phil! Long time no see! I have a number for you to call. There are two volunteers taking over the House ministry, but I don’t know them. I’ll call you at the office later today.

      Like

      Reply

    • MikiDaShrew
      Sep 03, 2019 @ 17:06:11

      Oh, and Phil? I updated this post with photo files that Sean sent out regarding funeral services, in case you’re keeping those.

      Bob’s websites have all been downloaded by a Distributist friend up in New York; I will send you a digital copy of everything when I get a flash stick from him.

      Thank you for all your hard work at Marquette! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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