Lumpy – it all comes down to love
Let’s be honest – not many of us, in our passing, are going to get an editorial. Almost none of us are going to get two. But every rare once-in-a-while, someone comes along, and then leaves us, who deserves it. And Lumpy Williams, it turns out, was a two-editorial kind of guy.
It helps, of course, that Lumpy moonlighted as Santa. Had he, for some whimsical reason, adopted the Easter bunny as his alter ego, he would have been no less endearing but perhaps not quite so deeply embedded in our hearts.
We didn’t set out with the intention of double-dipping Lumpy in the editorial inkwell. Writing the first one was painful enough. But then we attended the Saturday memorial event at the Sebastiani Theatre and realized the record was incomplete. There’s just so much more to say, now that a theater-full of friends have expressed their love, told their stories, laughed and cried together.
So let’s let them tell it.
Roger Rhoten: “This is a very special community and Lumpy was a very big part of it … He was an icon, he embodied the spirit of Santa Claus, he was probably chosen by the big man himself. Nobody did it like him, he’s leaving some big shoes to fill.”
Ricky Russo (Lumpy’s best friend from high school): “Lumpy was class president, he was the most popular kid in the class, he had an infectious personality … We had a lot of successes and some failures. The most creative failure, we planned to throw a massive house party with girls from the local girls school. We had it all set up, we forged chaperone letters from his parents, but the girls school called to confirm the chaperones, and that was it … Lumpy was a liberal and a Red Sox fan. I was a conservative and a Yankees fan. But we stayed best friends. This is an amazing, but not a surprising, celebration.”
Billy Philadelphia (piano player and longtime Lumpy friend): We’ve been told Lumpy had an enlarged heart. This is not a surprise to me. I’ve known him for 30 years and I’d like to have half his heart.”
Billy Philly had show business connections and one of his greatest joys was introducing Lumpy to Frank Bank, the actor who played Clarence “Lumpy” Ruthorford on “Leave it to Beaver,” the character from whom Lumpy got his everlasting nickname.
Diana Rhoten (putting on a Santa hat given to her by Lumpy): “When Lumpy was at the Boys & Girls Club, he sucked us into doing after-school programs. He came up with the idea of a ‘Safe & Sane Halloween at Witchiepoo’s House.’ We just finished our 32nd year of Witchiepoo. He wrote most of the scripts and was MC.
“He always had a joke, most of them dirty. I used to say, ‘You dirty old man.’ And he would say, ‘Hey, I’m not old.’”
Jim Griewe: “Everybody thought Lumpy was their best friend … He had such an incredible compassion for people. I once sat on Lumpy’s lap for an Index-Tribune photo. The photographer said, ‘You look about 9-years-old.’ I felt 9-years-old. It was the most wonderful feeling, it was so comforting.”
Don Hobbs (cycling executive): “Lumpy loved people, people loved Lumpy.”
And, in the end, it’s that simple. A marvelous man’s whole life comes down to those few words.
One more time, Lumpy, we all love you.