Thursday, December 19, 2013

Weekly Update

I'm going to change things up here a bit.  Instead of the Thursday Report, I feel like writing a little bit about Kevin's dad, who died this morning, just a month before he would turn 97.  

Bob Hamilton came into Kevin's life when Kevin was about 8 years old.  His natural father died an untimely death at 38, when Kevin was three, and left Kevin's mom with six young children to care for, including year old twins. That didn't stop Bob - when he met Kevin's mom, he took her and her six children and cared for them for the rest of his life.

I first met both of Kevin's parents at a Japanese restaurant in New York City.  Not only had I not met his parents, I had not been to a Japanese restaurant before, let alone one in New York.  I was terrified.  I don't remember too much about the meal, except that I learned that I didn't care for sake. 

 Over the next 33 years I shared many, many meals and conversations with the Hamiltons.  One of the more memorable took place at the famous French temple of cuisine, Taillevent, in Paris. Kevin and I were on one of our early vacations from the Ironstone Cafe, taking a road trip through France, mostly Alsace, with a side trip to meet up with his folks in Paris, who were traveling in France as well.

Dinner was one we will none of us ever forget.  Partly because it was delectable - my first pommes souffles - but also partly because it almost didn't happen.  Mr. Hamilton had a bit of a hearing issue.  We had been seated in the restaurant's dining room and the amuse had been put on the table when the maître d' sat a large and loud group of men very near us.  Before Kevin could even get near one of the hors d'ouerves so close at hand, his dad rose from the table and insisted - rather vehemently - that we be moved a more quiet spot, that he could not hear with that loud group so close by.  The shift to a new table, however, was not successful. It was still too noisy. Before we knew what was happening, Mr. Hamilton threw his napkin down on the table, stood up and said "We're leaving".  As you can imagine, Kevin was crushed. However, with barely a word, the situation reversed itself. We were escorted to a small private dining room, just the four of us, and soon we were drinking lovely wine, eating lovely food and hearing every word, with Kevin's dad the epitome of graciousness. Our time together in Paris was an experience we all reminisced about for years to come, and Kevin's dad remarked many, many times that it was one that should be repeated. 

It was in 1986, while visiting with Kevin's folks up in New Jersey, that the talk eventually came around to what Kevin was going to do with his future, and the fact was, Kevin's dad was as much the instigation for us to open our own restaurant in Chestertown as anyone.  It was something we hadn't really discussed too much, partly because we had no money and no way to get any from the bank, since neither of us were what you would call "bankable" at that age, but there was no one more enthusiastic about the idea than Kevin's dad.  He was all over it, proud of Kevin and suggested immediately that he loan us enough money to get us started.  He had so much faith in his son.  And Kevin didn't let him down.  We made our monthly payments religiously to the Hamiltons, and paid off the loan, with interest, much to Mr. Hamilton's delight.  He was so delighted, in fact, that he offered to loan us money again, when we began the Kennedyville project.  

Kevin's parents were regular visitors to the Ironstone Cafe, always very pleased to get the Maryland specialty - crab cakes - and whatever other treat their son would make for them.  Often when we went up to New Jersey for a visit, Kevin would bring crab cakes to make for lunch.  Other times we would go to the Hamilton's favorite local restaurant - the Black Forest Inn - to have lunch at Heinz's place.  Kevin's dad would barely be seated when his Tanqueray martini would be brought over to the table, and generally the menu would be "whatever Heinz thinks is good today".  We would all sit back and relax, while the service staff treated the Hamiltons like the royalty that regular guests of a small restaurant are.

Here are a few photos -

This was taken at the Ironstone Cafe, at that round table in the corner, at the restaurant's eighth anniversary party, so 1994.

More recently, while on a trip visiting in Florida, Kevin took this selfie with his tablet.  Physically age maybe got hold of Bob, but nothing held him back mentally.  He could offer concrete advice anytime you asked, and, of course, sometimes when you didn't.  You would usually be smart to follow it, no matter what.

Here's to you, Robert Hamilton.  This Tanqueray martini, up with a twist, is in your honor.

Peace out.


  1. Oh Barb......what a wonderful tribute you have written. I was reading thru tears. My sympathy to Kevin.......sounds like a life well lived.....but still there is never a "good time" to lose our parents. Shari

  2. Very moving post - everyone should be so lucky to have a dad like that! Sorry for your loss, our thoughts are with you...

  3. What a great guy Mr. Hamilton was. It's so sad to lose him, but Kevin can take comfort in knowing he is a great son who didn't disappoint his Dad. Kevin for sure lived up to his Dad's hopes and expectations. Some parents don't have the luxury of kid like that. We send sympathy and a hug for Kevin and thank you Barb for a beautiful tribute. Old ConnieG.