Family and friends all agree that he was a people person, a caring man who would help anyone in any way at any time.

Robert B. Washington, a retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Department major, died August 10, 2011 at age 82.

“Wash” was a native of Marlin, Texas, and attended the Allison School of Boot Making before enlisting in the Army. PFC Washington accidentally found his mate at Virginia State College when Eleanor Jones answered his call. He was phoning an aunt’s friend, but was immediately sidelined.

Wash and Eleanor wed in 1952 and welcomed sons Michael and Robert and daughter Karen.

“I’ve been answering his phone ever since,” Eleanor said.

Gave shoes to the needy

The family moved to Charlotte in 1955 and Wash worked for shoemaker Ben Favell at Ben’s Fifth Street shop. Wash later operated for 20 years Washington’s Shoe Repair on Statesville Avenue, right across the street from the Double Oaks swimming pool.

“He gave away as many shoes as we made money from,” Eleanor said. “He was so kindhearted that he told the nearby school principals to send children to him who needed shoes.”

Wash taught the shoe repair trade to his sons, both of whom have since died.

“He was very professional in all that he did,” Robert’s wife, Juanita, said of her father-in-law. “It had to be done a certain way.”

She recalled their first meeting: “He was very friendly, smiled and joked a lot. He related to a lot of people who knew and respected him. He welcomed me into the family and was genuinely nice to people. He was a role model in the neighborhood.”

Observers learned how to treat a wife by witnessing his behavior toward his own beloved Eleanor.

He’d help you work it out

Daughter Karen Robinson said, “He was a wonderful person, always giving and caring. If you had a problem, you’d go to him and he’d help you work it out one way or another.”

Wash applied and was accepted into the Sheriff’s Department in the 1970s, He retired in 1994 as courtroom coordinator.

“He saw to it that 32 court rooms were staffed with judges and deputies; everything had to be covered,” his wife said.

Juanita said, “He loved the Charlotte Observer so much that he went to work there after his retirement. He read the paper every day and kept up with the economy and politics, and talked about those issues that affected his community and his country. He had a lot of sides to him.”

Wash worked the security console at the Observer and was one of the first people visitors saw. He was there only four years, but his impact was felt building-wide.

“He was indeed a very special person,” Observer editorial writer Fannie Flono wrote in his online memorial book. He was “knowledgeable about many things, thoughtful and with a great sense of humor. This community was privileged to have him here among us, and so were we at the Observer.”

Community leader

Reporter Ann Doss Helms wrote, “The old-timers here have been swapping fond memories; he always seemed to know and care about us as individuals.”

“He was a friendly, kindly man who cared about his family and his community,” said retired community police officer Chuck Johnson. “He and his wife were community leaders along the Beatties Ford corridor. They were major players in saying what the community wanted. People knew, respected and appreciated him.”

Bob Ervin, who was a young lawyer when he met Wash years ago, wrote, “We need more people like him.”

There’ll be no argument there, Bob. None at all.

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