A longtime “cornfusion” (our family word for confusion) surfaced Thursday. First came the obituary for Walter Herman, former Roland Avenue neighbor, News American writer and relative to my sister by marriage. He was legendary in the ‘hood and lived many years two blocks away on Roland.
When my husband told me of his obituary before breakfast on Thursday, I was startled. I thought I had seen him driving on Roland Avenue early in the week, so I asked the date of his death. March 2, the previous Friday, my husband reported. I could have sworn I’d seen him driving his car this past Monday. I normally have a decent memory, so I attributed that confusion to how fast time seems to speed by these days. Still, it puzzled me.
Late in the afternoon I walked down Roland towards the Rotunda. There, in the 4200 block, was the big blue and white 70’s car I’ve long associated with Mr. Herman. It was always parked in front of his building on Roland Avenue. When I approached it, I saw the back of a man’s head in the driver’s seat and wondered who on earth could be driving the car so soon after his death. As I passed, I saw the man I have long thought was Walter Herman sitting behind the steering wheel. I stopped. I turned again and looked, and there he was. Not a replica of man. Not a cut out, but the man himself.
After I walked home by another route, I picked up the phone and called the reporter at The Sun whom I thought had written Walter Herman’s obituary. He had, in fact, not written that obituary, but he listened patiently to my report and said to call back when I tracked down the man’s identity.
The only person I could think of who might have recently seen the man in the car was the rector of St. David’s Church. I have seen that man sitting at the back left side of the church on the few occasions I attend a Sunday service. I often see him driving south on Roland after church on Sundays.
“I don’t know Walter Herman,” said the rector when I asked if he knew of Herman’s death. I also described the man I’d seen in the car and described the unmistakable blue car that travels up and down Roland Avenue. The rector then said emphatically that the name of the man who drives that car and sits at the back left side of the church is NOT Walter Herman.
When I opened the church directory to the name of the man the rector gave me, I saw that his address, sure enough, was on Roland Avenue, right where I saw the man I thought was Walter Herman sitting in the blue car on Thursday.
Then I had to say my “mea culpas.” I phoned both Sun reporters who write obituaries, explained the mix-up and apologized. Surely, they’ll dine out for weeks on my calls and on my “cornfusion.”
What seems to have happened is that over the years, I’ve mixed up Walter Herman with another gentleman who rented an apartment in Herman’s building on Roland Avenue.
Proof positive of my serious case of visual “cornfusion” is that when I look at the photo of a younger Walter Herman in the obituary, I still see a resemblance to the elderly gentleman in the blue car late Thursday afternoon.
This is just why folks in the judiciary often do not consider eyewitness testimony completely reliable.