An Article About My Dad In The Oregonian

posted in: This Is The Life | 1
Social Several family and friends were interviewed for this featured article, including myself. They did a pretty good job, except my brother wasn’t killed standing next to his motorcycle. He was on it at the time. It was suspected that it was hit and run, but never determined.

A man with a gift for helping

Sunday, January 11, 2009


G lenn Lambert was a fixer. When he wasn’t advising people about how to fix their homes, he was helping them do it or he was on his hands and knees doing the job himself. And when people needed help repairing their lives, he did that, too.

Glenn owned Division Hardware on Southeast 37th and Division Street. The store is an anachronism in this day of behemoth, impersonal emporiums; Glenn ran the kind of friendly neighborhood business that we usually glimpse only on old episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

He knew the neighborhood, knew the needs of its old Craftsman-style houses, knew his customers. He knew how to fix just about any plumbing, electrical or carpentry problem. But when he was stumped, he had a long list of reliable people he could call.

He had a special talent for finding one solution for several people’s problems. If a customer needed something that cost too much, Glenn gave him credit. If the customer couldn’t pay him back, then he could pay him back in labor, often at Glenn’s church or for another customer who needed help. His manipulations were legendary in the community.

In the mid-1980s, he gave 11-year-old Chris Mueller credit to buy, at cost, a Greenbrier lawn mower. Mueller, now a well-known photographer who credits Glenn with introducing him to creative initiative, paid Glenn back in installments from his earnings.

Whenever Glenn had extra pallets, he chopped them up for a woman for winter firewood. A fellow parishioner lost his job; Glenn found him a position in his shop, and he’s still there, 20 years later.

Often, Glenn made quiet arrangements with contractors, so that a strapped customer never knew the entire bill. When he found young people with talent or interest, he mentored them, often finding small projects and part-time jobs, recommending them to other businesses.

A Chinese-speaking woman brought her small boy into the store to translate her plumbing problems. After a few visits, she came in alone; she and Glenn worked in the back, with Glenn laying out the pipes on the floor to show her what had to be done. Even though she didn’t speak English and he didn’t speak Chinese, she managed to replumb her house.

No job was too small. Glenn cut glass, threaded pipes and made keys. Sometimes a customer would come in to buy, say, a new faucet; Glenn would tell him how to fix the old one instead.

There was always free popcorn.

Glenn was a gregarious, talkative guy, never one to hold back an opinion. And he always had an opinion. When customers heard, “Let me tell you about this . . .” they knew they were about to hear all about it.

Glenn didn’t expect to go into the hardware business. He was raised in a railroad family, and during the Depression the family lived in an old boxcar the company supplied.

He was a sickly child, missing a lot of school, and was the apple of his mother’s eye. His father rose up the ladder in the railroad. By the time the family moved to Portland, Glenn was a strapping boy who played football for Benson Polytechnic High School. He graduated from Pacific University and seemed headed for the ministry. He married his childhood sweetheart and earned a master’s of divinity from Boston University.

He took a series of jobs in Christian education but in California became disillusioned with church politics and looked for a new career. He sold books to libraries and schools for a while and fashioned himself a bookmobile.

Tired of traveling, he returned to Portland, took a job in the store and was able to buy it in 1973.

At one time, he had a second store in Clackamas. But in 1986, tragedy struck. His oldest son, Larry, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while standing next to his motorcycle. Glenn never got over the loss or the bitterness he felt that the killer was never found. He sold the second store, which had been intended for Larry to take over. The next year, his wife, who had been ill most of her life, died.

Kathy Peterson had come into the store earlier, looking for help with a plumbing problem in the 1920s house she had just bought in the neighborhood. Typically, when Glenn realized she couldn’t do the job herself, he went out and took care of it.

A romance developed, and they married in 1988. Glenn changed his church affiliation to her Immanuel Lutheran and became active in it. They started a family of two boys — a second, much later family for Glenn. In 1989, Kathy and both his daughters from his first marriage were pregnant.

Glenn was a big neighborhood booster, active in the Optimists and the Ross Island Early Risers.

He worked hard six days a week. He inevitably fell asleep in his easy chair while watching television, and it became a family joke; his sons have a gallery of photographs of him snoring away.

He loved to cook and loved to eat, especially Chinese food. Every Thursday, he arrived at the store at 5 a.m. to unload delivery trucks. By 7 a.m., the chore done, he treated the crew to breakfast at Tom’s Restaurant.

He had the respect and love of many people. But most of all, he had two good marriages and a strong, close family. He adored Kathy.

His health declined rapidly, and he died Nov. 17, 2008, in Hopewell House, with his family around him. He was looking Kathy straight in the eyes when he died


One Response

  1. julie heidecker

    I would have liked to have met your Dad, he sounds like a very giving person. What a wonderful testimony. Our lives are really very short
    aren’t they.

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