Today is July 8, 2004. It's 7 AM, much earlier than I usually rise, but I couldn't sleep. Yesterday, I lost a very good friend. In high school, we called him Bebo. I don't know why. I think his family stuck that name on him when he was young. We only did it to aggravate him, because it really was a childhood name ... I think.
I only knew Ross in high school. That picture above is the only Ross I ever knew. Don't recall if we ever got together after graduation. I think I first met him at Cobb Junior High in 1954. Don't remember too much about him, even in high school. He was a good friend, but not a really close one. As we progressed through high school, we got involved in different things, but I do have a few scattered memories of Ross. He was a great guy, a loyal friend, and someone I've always admired.
Seems like he was with us the night we threw a cherry-bomb under a young couple's car parked in the dark in one of Tallahassee's many "parking spots." The young man we were harassing got a bit upset and started chasing us. We ran like hell, got away somehow, and decided that wasn't something we wanted to do again.
Seems like he was with us during one Spring Break, when I still had my Democrat paper route. We were in my 1951 Studebaker, heading up from Alligator Point at the crack of dawn to do my route in Tallahassee. There were 3 or 4 of us in the car, myself and Ross and who knows who else. About halfway back, somewhere out in the sticks, the Studebaker stopped. We checked and found that it was out of both oil and water. We decided to put water in and try to make it to a service station, but who was going to wander up to that farmhouse in the dark and try to rouse the owner out of bed? It was Ross who bravely walked toward the farmhouse, hollering "HELLO" every two feet, expecting to see a shotgun blast any moment. He got the water, we made it to Tallahassee, and he was the hero of the day.
My most vivid recollection of Ross in high school was the National Merit Scholarship Examination we took in the 12th grade. When the results came back, Ross, Don Updegraff, and myself had very close scores -- 273, 274, and 275 as I recall, and I don't know who had which. What I do recall is that we all got called into the office and quizzed on how we cheated on the exam! Now, they expected Ross to get a high score. He was the most scholarly of the three of us, was really involved in school activities, and was well-liked and well-respected by all the faculty. As attested by the class annual "Stage Mgr. 4; Hi-Y 4; Latin Club 1-2; Latin Honorary 2; Radio Club 1; Football 2; Pep Club 4." Don wasn't quite as scholarly, but was equally well-known and respected. His annual write-up says "Football 1-2; Basketball 1-2; Hi-Y 4; Thespian Club 3-4; Jr. Play; Thespian Night 4; Band 3-4."
But who was this Hoffman guy? He's a B-C student -- why, he even got an F in Mr. Kairis' Chemistry class! His annual blurb simply says "Latin Club 1-2; Pep Club 3-4." The only familiarity most of the faculty had about Bob was that tall skinny guy with the ducktail haircut and the cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve, who never did anything extra -- just enough to get by, never carried a book home, and never volunteered for any school activities. He roared about the parking lot in that loud, smoky Studebaker with the flames on the front, smoked in the parking lot, and was certainly not able to make that high of a NMSE score without some sort of skullduggery.
I think the whole faculty assumed that Ross had made his score, that possibly Don and I had copied him, but at the very least that I had somehow either gotten help from Ross or Don. After much investigation, when it was decided that we were far enough apart during the exam to have made it nearly impossible to cheat, they decided that maybe the scores were valid. And, if that was the case, it was about time that we all started living up to our potential! I don't know what the effect of this was on Ross and Don, but I know they talked me into going into college, taking alot of hours and hard courses during my Freshman year, and ending up with a .8 overall average (on a 4-point scale) by the end of my first year. I came back and graduated 8 years later, but this little experience really started me off on the wrong track.
After high school, I don't recall ever hearing much about Ross or Don. I heard that Ross was flying F-4s in Viet Nam, then never heard any more after that. For some reason, I assumed that he'd been killed there. I even recall searching the Viet Nam wall in Washington years afterward, in an attempt to find him. At our 20th class reunion in 1979, nobody that I talked to knew anything about Ross. I bumped into Don in 1983 in Atlanta, but he was going through a divorce at that time, so that's pretty much what we talked about while I was there. We went out drinking two nights, talked alot about old times, but never got on the topic of Ross Anderson. Until May 2004, I really thought he was dead. Then, by pure chance, I mentioned Ross to Don in an email. "Oh no," says Don, "Ross is alive and well and living in California!" Was I ever surprised and happy!
Now I feel like I lost something valuable, almost got it back, couldn't quite grab hold of it, and now it's gone forever. I emailed Ross twice since May, telling him how wonderful it was that I'd found him again, but never got an answer. I don't know if my emails got pushed into a spam folder, if he didn't check email, or what happened, but I never did get to talk to him. Now he's gone ... I haven't felt this badly since my brother died in 1976. I can barely see through my tears as I write this ...
I'm hoping to learn more about Ross' life when this sad period is over. I'm not going to the funeral, because I wouldn't see my good friend if I did go. But I really would like to know how he spent his life, about his family, and whether he ever got my emails.
I'm going back to bed now ... maybe things will look brighter when I wake up again.
Received the following email from Don Updegraff this evening:
"We lost our friend this morning, as you will see below. I helped him build that darn plane over the last 10 years. I ain't feeling too eloquent right now, but wanted you to know. Please keep him and his loved ones in your thoughts and prayers."
Scroll down for accident details, more on Ross' life, info on the Ross Anderson Memorial, and a tribute to Ross.
Small Plane Crashes into Seal Beach Home
A small, home-built airplane crashed into two Seal Beach homes this morning. The single-engine plane took off from Torrance at 8 and air traffic controllers lost contact with it 15 minutes later.
SEAL BEACH : The pilot of a small, home-built airplane was killed Wednesday when the aircraft crashed into two houses, clipping the roof of one home before plowing into the other. The name of the pilot was not immediately released, and it was not immediately known how many people were on board the plane. "It was so buried into the house," said Garry Layman of the Orange County Fire Authority. "The house was immediately on fire. It was hard to get to that level." No residents suffered serious injuries as a result of the crash or fire, Layman said. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at about 8:15 a.m., and it crashed a short time later into the residential area in Orange County about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, said FAA spokesman Donn Walker. Neighbors told reporters they heard a loud noise just before the crash. Smoke marked the scene near the intersection of the 405 and 605 freeways. Authorities said the Harmon Rocket II aircraft likely holds just two people. It took off from Torrance just after 8 a.m. on its way to Chino. There was no indication the pilot was trying to land at nearby Long Beach Airport. The plane was built by Ross K. Anderson of Rancho Palos Verdes and registered with the FAA on May 9, 2003, Walker said. Anderson, who holds airline transport and commercial pilot licenses, built the aircraft from a kit. Firefighters put out the blaze sparked by the crash in about 20 minutes. Layman said the search for survivors from the plane was "not looking good" because it had been difficult for firefighters to immediately reach the plane.
Funeral Services for Ross Anderson: Tuesday the 13th of July 2004 at 1:00 p.m. at St. John Fisher Catholic Church, 5448 Crest Road, Rancho Palos Verdes,CA.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations toward a memorial to Ross. Donations should be made out to "Class of 1963 Foundation," with the memo: "for Ross Anderson Memorial", and mailed to: USNA Class of 1963 Foundation, c/o Lowe Enterprises, Suite 100, 12020 Sun Rise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20191.