Four days ago, my father died (less than a day after my third daughter was born, but I’ll unpack that emotional wallop another time.) After spending some time with my three siblings reminiscing about the dad we knew, here’s the way his obituary will read in the newspaper this week:
Robert Hughes Paul Sweeting, Jr. was the most interesting man in Williamsport. That statement may seem hyperbolic, but to anyone who knew the man known as Butch, Sweet or Bob, it barely scratches the surface.
While countless stories have and will be told about his local legend, we’ll remember our dad for some of his favorite pastimes. He loved biking and he was most often seen riding throughout Williamsport. One story goes that when his eldest son Lamar was born, he hopped on his bike and rode to Mount Union, PA and back just to share the good news with family. He was an avid fisherman and knew the best fishing holes in the region. We once found him knee-deep in the Susquehanna reeling in fish, stubbornly refusing to come home despite a tornado touching down a few miles up the river. His favorite conversations were with his Aunt Mamie Sweeting Diggs, with whom he’d discuss our family history and the Underground Railroad for hours on end because he believed, “If you know where you came from, you know where you’re going.” For reasons beyond us, he had a fondness for Dashikis and fanny packs, and despite our repeated protests, wore them proudly because Butch Sweeting was his own man and did things his own way. Everyone loved him for that.
Butch liked his women as he liked his fish: ones that had some fight in them. He found the love of his life in Cindy Lou Purdy, a pretty farm girl he married and shared life with for almost 30 years. He loved her feisty spirit, striking “assets” and culinary skills matched only by his mother. Between those two women, dad often claimed he never had a missed-meal cramp. Together, Butch and Cindy played hard, raised children and discovered life anew in the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the last 20 years, their passionate faith and pride in their children defined them. Cindy has lived in heaven since 2006, and our dad has longed to join her there. It brings us great joy to know they can now continue their adventures together.
Dad loved family. He was the son of Robert and Kathleen Sweeting. He was the brother to Deborah, Brenda, Kay Darlene, Monica, Vincent (Crystal), Jeffrey (Patrice), Melvin, Kevin Black and Roberta Black (deceased). He was a cousin, nephew, uncle and friend to countless people who loved him.
Most notably, his spitting image and legacy is passed on in his children: Lamar A. Brown, Justin R. Brown (Celina), Spencer E. Sweeting (Beth) and Latisha I. Sweeting. He was proud to be Papi to nine awesome grandkids: Levi, Ayden, Kamden and Justin Brown, Isaiah and Elijah Keyes, and Lucy, Josephine and Emmaline Sweeting, who arrived just one day before her Papi stepped into eternity.
Robert was a member of First United Methodist Church in Williamsport, a gifted lathe machinist and welder at Lovell & Stroble Machine Shop, and proudly served his country in the United States Navy.
Since January 25, 1952, Robert lived an abundant life. On October 10, 2013, he wiped his feet on the welcome mat of grace. We can only imagine that he’s already trying to show Jesus a thing or two about catching fish.