Did you know Chester Fobare? Did you know his personality, his passions, his real story?
We know Chet as Dot's husband, a social, light-hearted and deeply committed couple. We know Chet, a World War II veteran, a volunteer firefighter, a hard-working member of his family business who built his own house and was proud to have it in Saranac Lake. We know him as the son of Leo and Laura Fobare and the brother of Linus, Mac, Jerry and Paula. If you knew Chet, you recognized the wee bit of steel behind his crystal blue eyes. This core that allowed him to accept the curveball life frequently threw him with grace and humor. This is what I appreciate is his humor, his wit, his playful nature. As he said frequently, "To know me is to love me."
My index of images are galvanized by his famous one-liners. When I was a little girl, he and Aunt Dot were having a summer party on their deck. Adults were laughing; children were spilling food and chasing each other with water guns. In attempt to avoid ambush, my sister Polly, glasses splattered with water, ran full-speed straight through their sliding screen door. My mother jumped up and yelled, "Polly!" Aunt Dot leaped and screamed, "My door!" and the howls began. Uncle Chet casually turned to me and said, "Well, she won't do that twice."
A few years later, my Uncle Linus was convinced he had a thief. The bandit was stealing firewood. He claimed it under cover of darkness, leaving nary a footprint in November, and apparently had a very tiny wood stove; the culprit was taking one piece of white birch every few days. To help out his little brother, Chet drove out and started shuffling his pile around to look depleted. Then Mac and Jerry joined in, and every few days Linus would come in enraged. That Christmas Eve, Uncle Chet called me and asked me to wrap up a piece of firewood and write on it, "To: Linus, From Chet." Linus opened up his gift, one piece of white birch, to a roar of laughter from a crowded room. Uncle Chet called out, "I hope this helps out, Linus."
My favorite story came from one sweltering July evening in 1992 at Casa del Sol. Aunt Dot and Uncle Chet came in, mariachi music was blaring, the humidity was 100 percent, and the wait was a reasonable two hours. I greeted them, and Uncle Chet shook my hand and slid me a cool five-dollar bill as I rushed off to fetch their margaritas. Handing him back his drink, I asked, "How are you?" and with his easy wit, he replied, "Better than most, and lucky for you, we're related."
They ate shrimp chimichangas, contented as always to be enveloped in each other's company. Later that night, the bus boy said slowly, "I-met-your-Uncle-Chet." I didn't think too much of this until the next day, when I was making guacamole and the same bus boy walked by and said methodically, "Hi-Amy. Are-you-having-a-good-day?" This was puzzling. Over the course of the next few weeks, several of my co-workers were treating me strangely. People were talking gently. The cooks were SMILING. I got smaller tables, and the hostess explained, "We don't want to give you too much work." Smaller tables are smaller tips, and I was convinced I was about to be fired.
Finally, Aunt Dot and Uncle Chet came back for dinner. She gave me a perfumed hug, and he slipped me my five dollars, looking at me, a curious glint in his eye. At the end of their meal, he asked, "How has everyone been treating you?" My epiphany skipped through his words. "I let everyone know of your rare condition, and the episodes you have if you get too stressed, and I thanked them for giving you a job here." I worked at Casa for many years, and whenever Aunt Dot and Uncle Chet stopped in, he would ask, "How is everyone treating you today?"
I know Uncle Chet. I know he had a horse named Thunder and loved peanut M&Ms. I know that he gave me love and laughter in a world that sometimes can fray you with rough edges. I know he loved his family, was proud of his service and hard work, and was utterly devoted to his wife. As we recollect our stories of Chester Fobare, we hold his zeal for life in our hearts. Chet, he would want you to recall his best moments of authentic living. As he said to me many times, "Try and smile until you see my handsome face again."
Amy Cheney-Seymour lives in Park City, Utah. Her uncle, Chester Fobare, died on May 22 at his home in Saranac Lake.