Always our sunshine, you will be missed

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Six brothers I have been blessed to know … all sorts of sugar and spice, every single one ornery and nice. This band of brothers — and all of us who are lucky enough to be married or born into this great crew — has been blessed to be together all these years.

Our hearts are heavy with the passing of the first-born (of twins), Bob, who will forever be loved and so missed. Much has been said in this past week about Bob Sutherland’s service to his country and his county, retiring as deputy chief of the Huron County Sheriff’s Department after 34 years.

A front page article in the Norwalk Reflector chronicled his career. The number of people from far and wide who came to pay their respects, the honor guards, the presentation of the flag, a 21-gun salute, all made up an unforgettable, impressive tribute.

Memories

Many memories have been sent our way which say so much about a life well lived, a kind presence in a tough job. One, sent from several states away, stood out to me in its sentiment: “I remember when I was about 5 years old he came out to our house for something, and I was scared so he picked me up and carried me around till I calmed down. I carried that thought with me my whole life, I’m 49 years old.”

One night a good man helped a scared little girl, it taught me to always have compassion for others no matter how big or small their fears or problems may be.

Among my own first dear memories of Bob was the Christmas my daughter Caroline was a tiny newborn. Sutherland get-togethers are always high-spirited, filled with happy chaos, the large basement brimming with laughter and fun.

Caroline, 7 weeks old, was fussy and needed some peace and quiet. I took her upstairs to a bedroom, tried to soothe her, but she had reached that place of total unrest, crying inconsolably. I was tired and frazzled, as a mom of a 2-year-old, a baby and Christmas festivities thrown into the mix.

Bob tapped on the door, then asked if he could help. I nodded, close to tears myself, and he came and so sweetly swept the swaddled baby into his arms. He walked up and down the hall, he whispered and rocked.

I went to the kitchen to get a drink of water, paced around a bit, and realized I no longer heard a frantically crying baby. Bob was sitting in his father’s rocking chair, holding Caroline so that she was looking into his eyes.

You are my sunshine

He was softly singing “You Are My Sunshine” and she was softly cooing. He sang every verse, and she settled. Then he hummed, rocking gently, until she fell asleep in his arms. It was a sweet moment, and one I will never forget.

Caroline and her Uncle Bob shared a closeness throughout her life, and this memory was the beginning of that bond.

It was with heavy hearts we said good-bye to this sweetheart of a man this past week. He lived a giving life, an Army veteran, with three years served overseas, and a lifetime in law enforcement, retiring in 2009 as chief deputy to his twin brother, Dick, who was Huron County Sheriff for many years.

Over those years, we were often asked, “Sutherland? Are you related to the Sheriff Department Sutherlands up north?”

Then we might be entertained with stories from their high school days, or the ways in which they tricked the unsuspecting with their identical looks and goofy charm and quick wit. It was clear that there was respect, no matter on which side of the law a person found himself.

Bob took more than his share of childhood punishments that were actually due his twin brother, “and he took it like a man!” Dick chimes in if given the chance.

The ornery streak started with the twins, but it did not dilute a bit with the four to follow. Every get-together became a party, and a chance to make great memories. So many cherished photographs of the six brothers shows a vibrantly happy crew.

Bob loved being a father to his four children, and it was with sheer joy he welcomed grandchildren. His youngest, Sophia, 2, one recent evening laid her head on his chest and sang “You Are My Sunshine,” and had every lyric right, echoing the song he had sung to her many times.

Just a few hours later, Bob was gone from us. You have always been an angel of a guy, dear brother. Fly free.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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