News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Honoring veteran Bob Grooney

Bob and Claudia Grooney were enjoying a quiet afternoon at home last Saturday, November 9, when about 15 people trooped into their house with a special gift. The 90-year-old Grooney is healing from a leg fracture that occurred in September.

The Heartwarmers, who make cut-and-tie fleece blankets to be given to those who may need a little comfort and support, received a donation of fleece from the Assistance League of Bend. Among a variety of patterns was some red, white, and blue fleece with all things Marine on it. They whipped up a blanket using the fabric and then knew they had to find a Marine to receive the blanket.

A chance encounter at Bi-Mart between local Navy veteran Earl Schroeder and Heartwarmer volunteer Lori Chase led to Grooney’s front door. Schroeder knew Grooney was a Marine Corps veteran who served in World War II. He also knew Grooney was recuperating from having broken his leg. And he knew that November 10 marked the 244th birthday of the Marine Corps, a date remembered every year by all Marines.

Arrangements were made for Schroeder and several other local veterans to join with representatives of Heartwarmers and members of Grooney’s family to surprise him with the special blanket, right before the Marine Corps birthday on the 10th and Veterans Day on November 11.

Grooney joined the Marines at age 15 in 1944 and trained in San Diego before being sent to Maui as a private in the 4th Marine Division. He came ashore on Iwo Jima the second day of that famous battle in which 7,000 Marines were killed. He was there for 26 days until the battle ended.

Grooney returned to Maui before coming back to Camp Pendleton and eventual discharge. After eight months working for Warner Brothers as a standby driver for the stars, he re-enlisted, spending a total of five years and nine months as an active-duty Marine. At the end of 10 years in the Reserves, he had attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. In 2005, Grooney returned to Iwo Jima for the 70th anniversary of the battle.

Born at Hollywood Hospital and growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Grooney worked in the grocery business in Southern California for Ralph’s Grocery chain for 27 years. He and his wife, Claudia, were married in Hawaii on April 17, 1972 at 5:10 p.m. by a judge who was just leaving his office when they arrived.

Having driven through Sisters on the way to visit Claudia’s relatives in Prineville, the Grooneys were captured by Sisters’ magic, thinking it would be a nice place to retire. They purchased 10 acres in the Indian Ford area and in June 1979 they moved north, but retirement wasn’t in the cards. One month later, they rented commercial space and opened a natural foods store. After an interim move to a bigger space, they moved across Elm Street, where their merchandise changed from natural foods to gift items.

In 1984, Grooney was awarded the retail sales liquor license in Sisters providing a shot in the arm for their business. In September 1989, they moved the business to its present location at 111 W. Cascade Ave. Claudia was responsible for ordering gift items and other merchandise while Bob managed the liquor orders and sales. Retirement finally came in the spring of 2018 after 39 years of owning and running The Gallimaufry. Their grandson Spud Shaw has worked at the store for 19 years and been the manager for 11 years, so the store is still in the family.

People often ask, “What is a gallimaufry?” It is a Gaelic word that started out meaning a bunch of leftovers (food) but has morphed into meaning a jumble, hodgepodge, or bit of everything.

“It was the perfect name because, when we started in business, we weren’t sure what we would sell and we didn’t want to be limited to one particular specialty,” Grooney explained.

Aside from their business, Bob and Claudia have both been actively involved in the community life of Sisters.

Bob served on the Chamber of Commerce Board for 26 years and was the president for a period of time.

He’s been a Kiwanian since moving here in 1979 and served as president.

He was the chairman of the Sisters School Board and instrumental in bringing a high school back to Sisters.

He served in a number of other capacities, including as a founding member of what is now Sisters Park & Recreation District.

He was also involved in early economic development efforts.

For his years of service to the community, Grooney was presented with the first-ever Chamber Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

Claudia’s love of gardening led to her involvement in founding the Sisters Garden Club and later the Quilts in the Garden tour during Quilt Show week.

Bob was surprised and pleased by his new blanket. In addition, Schroeder presented him with a number of military medals and ribbons that had belonged to another veteran, in recognition of Grooney’s service to his country.

 

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