By Marion Webber
This article was originally published on April 13, 2017.
How does one go from being a Detroit Police Sergeant for 35 years to an Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and Bozo? Robert Webber, known as “The Web” grew up in Detroit, near Gratiot and Harper behind the Better Made Potato Chip Factory in a little house, like most people back in the day. His grandfather, Jillian Lambrecht managed an apartment complex for 40 years. Everyday he would go out and sweep the streets, wash down the stairs, and make sure the place was spic and span. His Grandfather lived in the basement of the complex with his wife Madeline (Grandma,) The rules were strict, pay your rent or you were out! Robert would go over and learn from his Grandfather’s work ethics and how to paint, which he still loves to do to this day. Robert had been very involved in painting the last five years at St. Mary’s Grade School in St. Clair. He painted the classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, offices and the gym! No, he’s not for hire!
Robert became a police officer after working at A & P, the normal thing to do in the Webber family. His father, uncle, and Grandfather all worked there for 40 years, unloading box cars! Finally there was a police recruitment going on in Detroit and a friend asked him to go with him. Not really sure if he wanted to be a policeman, he went anyway. At the end of the recruitment he decided it was better than unloading box cars and his career took an abrupt turn!
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During his career Robert walked the beat, worked a scout car and worked in the Organized Crime section. He later became the Detroit Police Secretary/Treasurer of the Lieutenants and Sergeant Association. Robert also was part of the Detroit Police Clown Troop in the early years. He had a pet skunk and always loved to make people laugh after they got over the shock of the “stuffed skunk.”
When he finally retired, he came to work with me in the greenhouses. So much for retirement. He worked harder than ever! From a desk job, (I called him a Kelly Girl) he had to find out what the real world was like. One Christmas he decided to dress up like Santa, since we sold tons of poinsettias, and other Christmas items. He bought a cheap suit and wore his work boots.
It was a pathetic suit! I told him if he wanted to be Santa he needed a “real” suit. The next October for his birthday I got his first “real” suit. He made the best Santa I had ever seen. He had the deep voice and he was a real hit! That led to volunteering at many other locations, all for the fun of it! If someone did want to pay him he would tell them to make a donation to K.I.D.S. in Distress, a local organization that helps kids in need in our area. Since one of the things he also does in his spare time is to take Communion and visit with people in Nursing homes and to home bound people he decided to be Santa there as well. Robert then went from banks, to McDonald’s, to Schools, parties and private homes throughout the season.
Behind every good man is a good woman of coarse, being Mrs. Santa and having to be there every time he needs to get dressed is another story! It is always exciting to start a new season, and always good to be done, late on Christmas Eve!
While visiting his daughter in Atlanta one year, we visited a town called Marietta. They had a very unique costume store! There was a BOZO custom. Of coarse, Robert had to have it! We all loved Bozo back in the day. The days when clowns were friendly and fun, unlike today, sad to say. Bozo again took the routine established when he became Santa and entertained anyone he could find! Last year we went to the KOA Campground in Port Huron. They have trick or treating throughout the park during the day. Everyone of age had to have their picture with him, remembering the days gone by when life was much simpler. It was a really great time. On Halloween children and teens would come trick or treating to our house and you could here them saying, that’s the “Clowns House.” Many kids were afraid to come to the door, as their memory or clowns is so different then ours. The parents would say, “Oh, it’s just Bozo.” That was not enough to convince some of the trick or treaters especially the teens. They were convinced it was “It.” We finally realized “It” was from a scary movie where the clown was not the good guy! How sad when even a simple clown now is someone to fear. The grown kids, now are bringing their kids to “see the clown.” Yes time does go by!
After Bozo wore out his shoes we made another trip to Georgia! Once again we had to visit our favorite little town, Marietta. Going to our famous costume shop we spotted the “EASTER BUNNY!” Here we go again! Yes, now the Easter Bunny has joined our family. Back at home the rounds continued to all the usual places and even a few more. The bunny can really make tracks!
The Police Man, Easter Bunny, Bozo the Clown, and Santa also won the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2016, for the State of Michigan for the Health Care Association of Michigan and Michigan Center for Assisted Living. He was named by Medilodge of St. Clair and it was the first time the St. Clair Medilodge had won this award.
Of all the years working at the Police Department and working the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade Robert never actually was in the parade. So finally when we were in town for the last Thanksgiving Day Parade, and he volunteered. He was a clown that helped the “Big Head People” walk down Woodward Ave. Robert said, “It was one of my dreams and I finally did it!
But what makes a police officer desire to do all these things? Robert said “After seeing the hard, cold crimes committed day after day, to him it was a chance to bring joy into people lives. From seniors, who are “locked in” some rough situations, to young kids and teens alike! We all can relate to times when life was so much simpler. Hat’s off to Robert Webber, or should I say “heads off.” Congratulations on your continuing to serve others in your day to day life! You go “Web!”
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