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Mr. and Mrs. Reinkemeyer lived across the street from us. A couple in their mid-80’s, they were in terrific health and were always outside doing something in their yard.
My wife and I moved into our house in late 2006. Mr. and Mrs. Reinkemeyer were quick to welcome us to the neighborhood. Mr. Reinkemeyer retired in 1992 from the same organization where I was working in Hannibal. Mr. Reinkemeyer had had quite the positive reputation, often referred to as being “a real prince of a gentleman.” This assessment was quite accurate.
Mrs. Reinkemeyer had been the secretary at the public school some distance outside of town. A gentleman I worked with said she was the only woman who ever scared him as he was growing up. Mrs. Reinkemeyer was not mean; she simply didn’t tolerate any degree of foolishness.
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About a year after we moved in, Mr. and Mrs. Reinkemeyer purchased a new ’08 Lincoln Town Car. The only time it sat outside was when Mr. Reinkemeyer was washing it. He also owned a ’99 Ford Ranger that was as immaculate as the Lincoln and their house.
Yet as time never fails to do, it caught up with Mr. and Mrs. Reinkemeyer. In the summer of 2010, Mrs. Reinkemeyer fell down the stairs in their home and broke her arm quite severely. Soon thereafter, Mr. Reinkemeyer developed pneumonia while being treated for a bad gall bladder. He was then placed on oxygen.
As Mr. and Mrs. Reinkemeyer had a split-foyer house, the constant need to navigate steps was taking a toll. In early 2011, Mr. and Mrs. Reinkemeyer placed their house up for sale and moved to a new, single story condominium.
At this point in time I was frequently checking on them due to their ailments but under the pretense of keeping Mr. Reinkemeyer abreast of the downsizing where I worked. As he had hired many of the people who worked there, he still had a vested interest in what was taking place.
One day during that time period they had a moving sale. When moving the loveseat I had purchased from them, I asked if the pillows went with it. Mrs. Reinkemeyer said, “you can have whatever you see; it’s just that much less I have to move.”
“Okay,” I stated. Pause. “Mrs. Reinkemeyer, here’s the title for your Lincoln. Where are the keys?”
“Jason Shafer, you are so full of yourself,” Mrs. Reinkemeyer laughed. “You almost had me on that one.”
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In August of 2011, Mr. and Mrs. Reinkemeyer had moved and were no longer neighbors to me and my wife. I had helped Mr. Reinkemeyer move the last few odds and ends to their new place a few blocks away. When we learned in September of 2011 that my skills and talents were needed elsewhere, Mr. Reinkemeyer gave me a Ford Ranger full of moving boxes.
Soon after that Mr. Reinkemeyer fell ill. He died in December of 2011. The day he gave me the boxes was the last time I saw him alive. I attended his visitation that cold, dark December evening and was sad that a good man had passed away.
Life has an interesting way of keeping one humble at times. As fate, circumstance, and the local real estate market in a town of 17,000 would happen, my house has been for sale since October of 2011. With having to check on the house with some degree of frequency, I went back to Hannibal earlier this week. Realizing I had not seen Mrs. Reinkemeyer in some time, I dropped by unannounced to see how she was doing.
“Jason Shafer! Shame on you. You caught me in my nightgown.”
“That’s okay, Mrs. Reinkemeyer, it happens to all of us.” I just didn’t mention I had seen her in her nightgown countless times when she would inspect the weather from her front door.
As we went in and sat down, we caught up on the variety of events that had been going on. One she told me did not surprise me in the least.
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“Well, Jason, did you know I swapped off the Lincoln? I got myself a Ford Fusion.”
“No, Mrs. Reinkemeyer, I did not know that. What color did you get?” I asked.
“Well, you come tell me what color it is,” Mrs. Reinkemeyer said as she got up and shuffled to the garage. As we got to the garage, she opened the overhead door. She was still in her nightgown.
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“Dang, Mrs. Reinkemeyer, you got a good one. I do like this metallic black,” I said admiringly. And, the 2012 Ford Fusion is my favorite of them all; the 2013 models look too much like a slightly bloated Focus. Mrs. Reinkemeyer’s Fusion has more options and equipment than I have ever seen on a Fusion. It is loaded.
“Yeah, I like it. I never did like that Lincoln – it was too big and you have to park the stupid thing somewhere. I sold Raymond’s Ford pickup, too. My son didn’t want it, so I just gave him the money. It was a ’99 and only had 42,000 miles on it. I sold it in less than a day.
“Open the door and sit down. The Ford dealer here in town were happy to see me in that Lincoln,” Mrs. Reinkemeyer offered.
“Mrs. Reinkemeyer, your Lincoln couldn’t have had too many miles on it – that day I backed it out of the garage for you, it was remarkably low. Why, I bet the dealer owed you money,” I was probing.
“That Lincoln had 21,000 miles on it. Lincoln’s do depreciate, you know. But let’s just say my checkbook never saw the light of day and nobody expects old women to negotiate. A dealer will work with you if they are sufficiently motivated,” Mrs. Reinkemeyer stated quite matter-of-factly.
“You know, I think I negotiated too well. I had to get myself a new cell phone. When I told the dealer I wanted a bluetooth in the car, I didn’t know my phone was too old to be compatible. Live and learn. I took it to get the oil changed a few months ago. They guy said ‘This thing doesn’t need an oil change – it’s only got 1,500 miles on it’. I told him the deal was to change the oil at least every six months and he was going to do it. He said I didn’t have enough miles on it. I told him to think again. So what if I don’t have any miles on it? It will last me – unless I hit something. If I do, I’ll just go get me another one.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as Mrs. Reinkemeyer told me this. When I had opened the door, the odometer read 3,068 and she has owned it for nearly a year.
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“Jason, you know I looked at a Focus. That’s just too small. I’m not going to be cramped after being in my Lincoln.
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“I also looked at an Escape. Those things are awful. I didn’t want all that garbage. Besides, I wanted black…..
“When Raymond and I got married, we bought ourselves a black ’41 Ford. That was our first car. I figured for my last car I wanted black. You start with a black Ford, you should end with a black Ford. It just seems to be the right thing to do. I don’t expect to go car shopping ever again….”
Mrs. Reinkemeyer had a tear in her eye.
“Jason, you tell your wife I said hi. Have a safe trip back to Jefferson City.”
This is a really sweet story. It’s great that you befriended them and were able to help them out. She mentions a son — does he live far away? I wonder where their children were in all of this. All this reminds me more than a little of my own mom, who’s 86 and still has a ’97 Cadillac Deville. She only drives during the day to places close by that my sister who lives nearby can’t take her (store, doctor’s office), and never on the freeway. I live halfway across the country, so I’m limited in what I can do. The car keeps needing repairs (the latest is an intake manifold for $800) and she asks me if she should just get a new car. It’s a tough decision, at 86, whether to get a new car. I’m going to try to visit soon and help make sure the car gets what it needs. It’s a little big for her to handle, but it’s still nice, and even an $800 repair seems to make more sense than getting a new car for someone who drives so little. She loves the Cadillac (her first, after a long line of “lesser” GM cars), but she mentioned she likes her friend’s Camry, which surprises me because my parents NEVER had a foreign car.
Mrs. Reinkemeyer, on the other hand, seems very sure of herself and knew exactly what car she wanted. Good for her, and more power to her (as long as she’s safe to drive.)
A great story. And a funny coincidence after this morning’s Cadillac reminded me so much of Curly & Lois who lived next door to me. They were well into their 90s when we moved in, and were a wealth of information on the history of the neighborhood.
He had been a WWI fighter pilot, had been active in aviation, then claimed to have been the oldest pilot in WWII. He continued to go up in an airplane every year on the anniversary of his first solo flight.
We invited them over for a meal a time or two, and they had us over for dessert and to play cards. They were delightful people and I miss having them as neighbors. If he had owned something other than that early 90s Cadillac, I might have made him an offer on a car.
Car-wise, this reminds me a bit of my own mother. I do not believe that her 06 Buick Lacrosse has 20K on it yet. It is such a shame that I hate the thing so much. I used to kind of like it until I spent 6 weeks living with it a couple of years ago. Someday it will make a great car for one of her grandkids.
Very nice. My parents’ cars accumulated more dings and scrapes than miles in their last few years on the road.
My Dad’s vehicle as well. I sold it back to the dealership for a remarkably fair price given that all four fenders displayed different scrapes of color. Sadly true of most of my friends’ aging parents’ cars. The “when is it time to give up driving?” experience is not pleasant for either side.
Good story, Jason. It is encouraging when a surviving partner is able to move on in such a sensible way as Mrs. R.
Great story. Thanks for sharing Mr. and Mrs. Reinkemeyer with us. We should all be so lucky as to have them for neighbors.
Sweet and heartwarming article. Old people are charming until discussing race, religion or politics LOL. My dad picked up a nasty habit of using the “N” word in casual conversation after living in Sarasota a few years (a remarkably segregated city in modern times)……..he got a good talking to! At some point the parent becomes the child. It wouldn’t go over well while visiting San Diego, a very diverse homogeneous city where it isn’t an issue. He was a good man, not a mean bone in his body. He never ever spoke like that as I grew up. And I never heard it again. I chalked it up to his peer group…..just like kids do. He seemed to appreciate the “schooling”, limits need to be set ya know! (we’re Minnesotans after all 🙂 His last car was one of the Nissan/Mercury minivan duos. He barely drove it, sold it when he realized his vision was going.
“And, the 2012 Ford Fusion is my favorite of them all; the 2013 models look too much like a slightly bloated Focus.” Oh no! Man I think they are gorgeous. All the “Aston Martin for the masses” comments are true.
I have (or had) relatives in Audrain County. Going up to Hannibal (or Quincy) was a “big deal.” My Grandmother passed on in a rest home in Hannibal in ’07 at age 94 (almost 95). Beth Haven. In her declining years, I’d visit as often as time allowed. The low-mileage, very nic big car story is so typical of the small-town Midwest. My Aunt is still around, mobile and drives the ’02 Grand Marquis, the last new car my late Uncle purchased. from 1994 until he died in 2002, he’d trade for new Grand Marquis each and every year.
I really enjoy this site. My favorite thing is how the simplest car gets a mention here and is appreciated for being a survivor. Or in the case of the Reinkemeyer’s what pride in ownership of any car is all about. My Mrs. and I intend to be in this spot in another 30 or 40 years. If it is me I’ll be buying a red GTI just like my first car I bought new in 1984:) Thanks for the great story.
This reminds me of my grandfather who after five years fianally gave up on his passat wagon in the mid ninties and got himself a new legacy wagon. The next morning he woke with less than half his vision. After an emergancy room visit and a battery of test later he was diagnosed with macular degineration. He and my uncle returned the car to the dealership, my grandfather never put a single mile on his first new new car. He was relegated to the lawn tractor for a few years until he truly could not see anything.
Best wishes from one Ford family to another
Jason, that really is a truly heartwarming and touching story. You have a wonderful way with words, too. The Reinkemeyer’s sound like wonderful, wonderful people but you sound like you are equally so. When you mention Hannibal, I assume the famous Mississippi River town.
On our USCG River Tender Scioto, we would moor for the night in Hannibal on occasion. Most times we steamed from Keokuk, Iowa down to our most southern limits on the river; the first few years it was Clarksville, MO but later extended to north St Louis. We then would work our way back north, setting the buoys right after either flood or towboat set them off station…. I recall one time in Hannibal we were desperate for gasoline for our outboard powered boats, those being used for retrieving loose buoys lying along the river banks or in shallow water too close for the big boat to snare.
The marina across from Hannibal was out of fuel. At that point, the options were limited as that area of the river is void of small boat marinas. Next stop would have been upriver in Quincy, Il, too far away. The marina operator reached in his pocket and gave me the keys to his pickup; “Just head on over to Hannibal. Take your time as the brakes are a bit touchy. If you guys need to go anywhere else, feel free to do so. We’re glad you guys are out there workin’ for us.” That’s the welcoming feel I always got while on the river. My second engineer in charge though, did have a run in with an old town drunk down river in Louisiana, MO one evening. Seems the old man chased poor Matt all the way down the street until he was able to sprint onto the boat! I laugh every time I think of that memory and an out of breath Matt running onto the boat!
This is the very same Hannibal where everything (it seems) is Mark Twain themed. I only lived in Hannibal for five years; it is an interesting town that comes alive with tourists in the summer and especially for Tom Sawyer Day’s around July 4. It’s also fairly ripe for CC’s as I have found many of them there. I have yet to capture the rusted out ’69 Charger R/T somebody is still driving frequently.
What a great story Jason. It reminds me of our next-door neighbors when I was a kid, Bill and Marian Ohlweiler. Truly nice people. They bought their house when it was brand new, in the late ’20s, and never moved. Marian was so nice to me when I was a kid, and Bill kept an absolutely wonderful garden, with beautiful flowers. They never drank alcohol, their preferred drink was Dr. Pepper, and often they would sit in their screened porch and relax. During my youth they had, in succession, a beige Fairmont, beige Fox-body LTD, and a full-zoot circa-’89 Taurus LX in metallic brown with the lacy-spoke alloys. Marian passed away in about ’99, and Bill followed in about ’02. I used to see his car at the post office downtown. We moved away in ’95, and I regret never going back to visit. They were truly wonderful people.
Thanks for triggering my memories.
Great article, Jason. I visited Hannibal around 1988 and there were a considerable number of CCs around there. I especially remember seeing an immaculate Studebaker pickup-I believe it may have been a ’59 or ’60. I now wish I had taken a photograph of it.
Really nice story Jason. Warmed the heart on a Saturday evening 🙂