I attended the memorial for Robert Busby yesterday at Lansing Community College's Dart Auditorium. 500 people filled the auditorium and there were six or seven overflow rooms which had closed circuit televisions for viewing the event. In all, approximately 1200 people showed up in the middle of a work day to pay their respect for a wonderful human being. Seeing so many people gathered for the tribute was, in a way, surprising. Not surprising that Robert could have so many friends and admirers, but surprising in that he was such a quiet, unassuming person; he wasn't a showboater or publicity hound. He very quietly went about turning a vision into a reality — a prime example of the proverbial pebble at the center of an unending series of ripples in the water.
Lansing's Mayor Virg Bernero proclaimed March 6, 2007 "Robert Busby Day" and spoke rather eloquently of Robert's contribution to the growth of Lansing's Old Town. I've not ever been much of a fan of Bernero, but I give him credit for having gotten this one right. He has done well to honour Robert in the week since Robert's death, and I have gotten the impression that he has been as stung by the murder as many others who have known Robert.
The remainder of the memorial was a nice mixture of laughter and sadness, with stories from a lifelong friend, his brother and a niece. A mutual friend, poet Ruelaine Stokes spoke, in my mind, for those of us who did not have a turn at the microphone. "He wasn't a saint," she said, "but he did a darn good imitation."
In the car, on the way home, my daughter mentioned that the newly rebuilt bridge which crosses the Grand River in Old Town was to be named after Robert.
My son remarked, "Fitting."