Neighbors

Steve Charles—The best thing about living at 615 S. Water Street here in Crawfordsville is the neighbors.

It’s a great house—Professor Ted Bedrick’s old place, and Terri Fyffe’s grandmother’s before that. High ceilings, wood floors, open spaces, and plenty of windows to let in the light. It’s the first place I’ve lived as an adult that really feels like home.

But our neighbors make it better.

Tony and Nancy Kashon welcomed us the day we moved in.

I already knew Nancy; she was assistant to the Dean of the College. Her feigned motherly scolding, no-nonsense approach to most things academic, and dry sense of humor were one of the best reasons for hanging out in that office. A lot of students did that, too. I remember Commencement ceremonies when students grabbed Nancy to have her picture taken with them. Already the mother of four sons, Nancy picked up a bunch more during her years at Wabash. The year of her retirement, faculty, staff, students, and family all sang to her in the west lobby of Center Hall. And even after her retirement, international students still got together in her backyard for a picnic.

I first got to know Tony when he offered his help as we unloaded the moving van, the beginning of a litany of assistance and advice given and tools offered (one of those tools still lies somewhere beneath my deck). We share trips in his Dodge Dakota to pick up the family extension ladder, beers on hot days, celebratory shots of Crown Royal on holidays.

Then there’s the banter across the alley with Nancy about the College, flowers, and grandkids, or with Tony about the lawn, his hobby of clowning (and my fear of clowns), or the squirrels he’s trapped in his backyard and released across town (we disagree about the likelihood of their finding their way back).

On days when my wife, CJ, suddenly disappears from the house, I know I can usually find her in the alley, talking with Nancy or Tony across their split rail fence.

Living alongside one another is like taking a long journey together. You learn what matters most to the other folks. You see the comings and going of longtime friends, parents, grandkids. You watch them take care of their parents. You watch them be there for their kids. You watch them play with their grandkids. The house is full for birthdays and holidays.†

You hear advice—like how much fun those grandkids can be, but how important it is to attend to your own relationship. When you hear that from a man and woman who have been married for 46 years, you pay attention.

You see that building a deck, or a garden, or a garage, is really about creating a space for those you love. For all those rituals and celebrations of being family.

If you’re lucky enough to live next to wise and loving neighbors like Nancy and Tony, you can learn something.

In the past few months they have taught us how love perseveres in the face of adversity. Nancy was diagnosed with cancer last year, barely into retirement. I was moved when they took time to tell us about this in person so that we “wouldn’t have to hear it from others.”
Another lesson in being neighbors.

In the months since then we’ve learned how a woman faces a terrible disease with courage, hope, and faith. We‘ve learned how a man cares for and stands firm for what’s best for the one he loves.

Nancy died Wednesday morning. Knowing time might be short, the whole family had gathered last weekend. A picture of everyone together was taken.

The last time I saw Nancy was on Tuesday. She was being carried to the ambulance through their backyard, the place where her children and grandchildren played, under the tree her grandsons climb, through the gardens she and Tony tended, the lawn Tony always mows several days before I get to mine. That space they had created for those they love. She was sitting up, looking forward, the sun on her face.

In the cold of winter this year after one of her chemotherapy sessions, she’d admitted how tired she was of the cold, how she couldn’t wait for spring and summer and those warm breezes.

“And I want to see that grandson of yours running around your backyard,” she said. I was touched that he meant something to her, that she was looking forward to a milestone in his life. I kept that in mind this spring as I churned and chopped up the soil and planted bags of seed to get grass to grow in our previously mostly barren yard.

She couldn’t see him, but as the paramedics wheeled Nancy to the ambulance, our grandson Myca was sitting on a blanket, his first time really playing on that new grass. From where I stood on the deck I could see both Nancy and Myca. It’s an image I am holding in my memory by writing this, an image I’ll recall when I watch Myca play, certainly on the day he first runs there. A reminder to tell him that the best thing about the house he lives in is the neighbors.

Note: Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, June 23 at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. Friends may call from 6-8:00 p.m. Sunday evening and from 10-11 a.m. Monday morning. Online condolences can be sent to huntandson.com.

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7 Responses to Neighbors

  1. kelly barton says:

    nancy taught me that being a woman is about family, being strong and self assured. she knew that i sometimes struggle with past decisions made – she told me that i was good and to this day,
    that voice is in my head when i think i am less, that what i really am. nancy’s voice – a gift i cherish.
    to me nancy was a bit of a katherine hepburn. strong, wickedly funny – yet dry, she was what a woman needs to be. and for this little irish girl she was not only my dear friend, she was a blessed gift in my life.
    kelly barton

  2. Marcia says:

    Thanks so much for writing this. You got it just right! Nancy was the best and together Tony and Nancy were great.
    Best,
    Marcia

  3. Roger Neal says:

    I will always remember Nancy and of course Tony for their dedication to the Newman Center while I was a student at Wabash. The annual hog roast put on by Nancy and Tony at the Center was something the whole campus always looked forward to. She was a great lady and will be missed by all.

  4. Roger says:

    Very touching. I didn’t know her, but my heart goes out to those who did; I’m very sorry for everyone’s loss.

  5. Haris Amin says:

    I am very sorry to hear the loss of Nancy. To international students, the Kashons were nothing less than family. From the moment we arrive at the Indianapolis International Airport till graduation time, the Kashons have reminded international students that though we may be far away from home, we need only look towards them in need. I personally did not know Nancy very well, but I do know that she had been very caring and involved with many other international students at Wabash. I did see Nancy and Tony and many international students events.
    I particularly remember Tony and Nancy mingling with us, (Tony laughing and making balloon animals for kids) at the summer picnic that is usually held after graduation. Suffice to say Tony would remember you from the first time he picked you up at the airport regardless of how well you kept in contact with him. And then he would say to Nancy “Oh this kid he came a day before the first class, he had no idea where he was coming!” Tony I also remember you helping me out in building my musical instrument for class, you were always willing to go the extra mile to help us out and so was Nancy. Tony I sincerely mourn your loss, as should all of Wabash especially the international students. Nancy you will be dearly missed.

  6. Terrie Hall says:

    Nancy,
    Is a woman I admired, always looking beautiful every Sunday monring in church, always making the readings sound more beautiful. in her silent beauty she touched a lot of hearts mine included, you will be greatly remembered.

  7. Kunga Choden says:

    I will always be greatful to Mrs. Kashon for helping us international students find a home away from home. She was a motherly figure to all of us as our host family coordinator and also as a host parent herself. I will always remember the cookouts at the Kashon house, and the dinners I was invited too. Those were the times where I was able to bond not only with my fellow international Wallies, but also with their host parents from the crawfordsville community. Because of her, I have met so many wonderful people. We are very greatful for having met Mrs. Kashon. Us international students will always having a place in our heart for her.
    Sincerely,
    Kunga Choden and International Wallies