Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fireside Memories

I scheduled this hometown trip to coincide with St. Marys' annual Alumni celebration. I will write more on this event in the next post but this year's event was awash in more sadness than usual. Alumni weekend is always tinged with emotion as it features class reunions and occurs in conjunction with Memorial Day weekend which often involves, as it did with me, gravesite visits. This particular Alumni weekend also included the paying of respects to Warren Hall, proprietor of the Fireside Restaurant and Lounge, who passed away last week. Warren was a longtime family friend as well as a parent and grandparent. I grew up with his son Shawn and brother Scott and his sister Martha was great friends with my sisters as well. I would also become friends with Warren's daughters Michelle and Sherry.

Warren's funeral took place during Alumni and was unsurprisingly huge. We stood in a long line at the viewing on Saturday to pay our respects and attended the decidedly large service on Sunday. It was tough to see his wonderful wife Sandy and the kids so obviously heartbroken but also touching to see all of the many tributes to Warren; from the hundreds of family photos to the giant throw with Warren and Sandy's images to the beautiful florals. The casket spray itself was utterly stunning: woven into the lush floral spray was the long hand-painted saw that hung on the wall at the Fireside. The Greenhouse Gang truly outdid themselves on that spray...it was impossible not to get a lump in your throat upon seeing it.

The memories of Warren foremost in my mind these days revolve around the Fireside itself. Fireside memories have been swirling through my mind anyway as the restaurant was a central location in the last years of my own Dad's life. I've written before about my Dad's extraordinarily social nature. In some of his best days, we would spend every Sunday dinner either going to the Hi-Way Grille or the Fireside. I have warm memories of the Fireside's homemade noodles and crispy Broaster chicken. Dad would also join some of his buddies for a hearty breakfast at the Fireside. Sometimes we would treat ourselves to dinner there on the more upscale side; always trying to score a seat by the roaring fireplace in the winter. Warren and Sandy were often fixtures there and would stop by our table to say hello.

When I was older, I sometimes accompanied friends for drinks at the lounge in the back. I remember bringing a group of my college buddies through town and met Kristy there for drinks before heading down to City Lights in Parkersburg to go dancing. That bar was also the location of the one peaceful drink I shared with my sister Mona.

Last year; the last year of Dad's life; I took him to the Fireside for lunch or dinner for as long as I could. As he became more frail and confused; the visits to the Fireside became more difficult to pull off. Dad still got so much joy out of going there, though, and I found I just couldn't refuse him. He still waved and grinned at everyone that came in, even though he didn't really know many of them. Despite Dad leaving a substantial trail of his dinner around his seat, the servers never failed to make all over him and always treat him like someone special. I rarely saw Warren during these days as he had begun fighting his own health issues.

I have been struggling with returning to the Fireside for a visit as I'm still a bit raw over Dad's death and now with Warren gone; it seems almost too heartbreaking to return. I will go back, in time....not on this visit, though. Just not quite ready yet.

Rest in peace, Warren. I will always be grateful for your and Sandy's kindness toward my family and I. We'll always have Fireside memories...

9 comments:

Ali, Terry and Garrett said...

I just love reading your posts. Even when they are emotional or touched with sadness, your way with words is very inspiring and uplifting. I always come away feeling like I experienced these things with you. xo

Anonymous said...

Another beautiful post, Greg. Thank you for remembering Warren with your touching prose--it is still hard to believe that he is gone. I too, have wonderful memories of The Fireside--he and Sandy are in all those memories, too. Kudos!

Michelle Runnion said...

Greg,
Thank you so much for this wonderful post!! My mom and family will be so touched by this... I remember your dad coming in many times and also waiting on him , what a wonderful man he was as well...we truly indeed have big shoes to fill but with god's hands and our fathers looking down on us we will truly be ok! Again thank you and Love ya!!!

Michelle

Anonymous said...

Greg thanks for the kind words and tribute to dad. I just pray that I can be half the man he was and make at least half the impact on peoples lives as he did. Bless you my friend.

Shawn

Anonymous said...

Greg, Thank you so much for the beautiful words we don't realize sometime how much impact we have on other people's lives. Your Dad also touched mine he always had a hug for me every Sunday at church. I am so glad that you have fond memories to hold onto and Mom and Dad thru the Fireside were able to be a part those memories. Again thank you and God Bless.

Sherry

Anonymous said...

My dad (Joe Cross) spent many hours at the fireside with Sandy (a classmate) and Warren. I too remember spending time there with dad. Wonderful people...

Wanda

Anonymous said...

Greg,
Your way with words is wonderful. My parents would go to the Fireside for breakfast or lunch every Saturday afternoon. What I wouldn't give to have a place like the Fireside here in Denver for my children to go to every Saturday!

And your Dad was a fabulous man!
MaryAlice

Anonymous said...

WOW Thank You for your story, it touched my heart, going to miss Warren....


Dreama

Lisa Post said...

I was browsing online looking for photos of St. Marys and came across your blog - I worked at the Fireside (twice) back in 1986, and for almost 4 years prior to my new job as a reporter at Tyler Star News (in Sistersville). The blog about Warren and the Fireside is a very nice tribute - Warren was one of a kind, and much nicer to people than his gruff exterior suggested. I've seen him help many people out over the course of the years. The Fireside doesn't seem the same without him, but Sandy and the family remain strong.

Post a Comment