Friday, March 02, 2007

Robert Busby

Robert Busby owned the Creole Gallery in Lansing, in a part of the city called Old Town, of which he was sometimes called “mayor” because he encouraged and invested in it more than anyone, including art galleries, restaurants, boutiques, specialty shops, a jazz festival, wine festival and countless other community endeavors.

Two years ago I took part in a poetry reading at the Creole. Last year my son and his musical partner joined David Mead in a concert there. Mr. Busby invited the artists up to his refurbished loft apartment for a glass of wine and a visit before the show.

He was the loveliest of men, full of energy and enthusiasm for his community. His gallery has been a small, charming venue for artists of every type for years. I loved reading my poems there, with the old hardwood floors, distressed brick walls with paintings hanging, an eclectic artistic attitude and an audience that appreciated it all.

I don’t know what will happen to it now.

Robert Busby was beaten to death Tuesday in the basement of his gallery, apparently by his handyman, a man whom he had helped out for a long time. No motive has been discovered, nor may it ever be, since his alleged killer took his own life after the police chase.

Thank you for spending a moment with me in gratitude for a man who blessed his community with his presence, resources, time, energy, kindness, and love.

Thank you, Robert, for everything you did for us. For who you were. For who you are.
Both photos borrowed from the Lansing State Journal.


Ginnie said...

My heart just broke when you told me about this tragedy on Friday, Ruth. It's one thing when these senseless things happen but quite another when it happens to someone you knew.

I'm so sorry for the loss to everyone in your community, even those who didn't have the good fortune of tasting his kindness.

Thanks for your tribute to a saint!

Expat Traveler said...

That is a very sad story but there are beautiful memories behind it..

I just had to visit because you enticed me with your most beautiful new profile pic..

Can I stare at it for hours???

Nathalie said...

I was extremely moved by this tribute you paid to a wonderful man. Everything you said about him is everything I believe the world should be. Why is the world so difficult sometimes? I'm with you.

Ruth said...

Ginnie, thank you very much. You want someone like Robert to live long and have his legacy live on and on. But now his life is overshadowed with a violent end, and rather than rejoicing in his life, in shock we stutter forward and wonder who will continue what he began. I pray we can get beyond this.

ET, thank you so much for your visit! I'm glad you like my profile pic. I think trees are my favorite thing, and this one got me out of my car on the way to work when it was surrounded by a sunrise. The energy was electric!

Nathalie, I love what you wrote here, and on my flying blog. Robert was exactly what we long for in a citizen, and beyond. I pray for all of us to get beyond his violent end to the essence of his amazing Self that touched us.

Nathalie said...

Ruth I've just put a link to this post on my blog today.

Ruth said...

I am so moved at how the love Robert gave has spread as far as British Columbia and Sydney and Germany. Love is greater than hate, and it always wins.

Thank you, Nathalie.

Despondent Darwinian said...

Life has its sad moments, but even sadder is our failure to address the evolved realities of our species' nature, and the fact that sometimes our well-intentioned attempts to bring about a "better world" can have the opposite effect?

Stewart Sternberg said...

This is a horrible story. It touches us not just because Robert Busby was obviously such an important influence on the community, but because the senseless violence that ended his life so easily and quickly is able to touch anyone of us. Robert Busby should be remembered as an individual but his loss will be felt because he was one of us.

Rauf said...

A touching tribute Ruth, such people deserve a peaceful and dignified end to their lives, Gandhi for that matter. Sad to hear that. Punishing the guilty do not heal the wounds.

Kate said...

Life can be full of joy but it also has tragedy, as we all know. When it is senseless violence, it is hard to be serene. The world has lost someone gentle and creative; doesn't seem quite fair, does it? Your tribute is moving and I mourn your loss with you!

Kala said...

a truly beautiful man - its heartbreaking to read about stories like this - the taking of a life in such a violent manner - I hope others will carry on the work that Robert Busby started - may they both rest in peace - thank you for sharing a heart felt post.

photowannabe said...

Oh my Ruth, how very tragic and such a senseless thing.
Your tribute to him is very moving and the entire community has lost a valuable person.

Icarus said...

Ruth, I came here via Nathalie. This is a terrible, too terrible event. It would be in any case, whoever. That you describe Robert Busby in the way you do, conveying his wealth, his value, his gift and everything that he was just senselessly, wickedly wiped out makes it almost unbearable. Another one of those we need most gone. I wish you strength and healing.

Ruth said...

I'm very touched by each of you who took time to leave a comment reflecting on Robert's life.

I want to share a radio essay I heard today on NPR that I hope you'll take the time to listen to or read. In it Yinong Young-Xu talks about how each of us has the potential for brutality:

Ginnie said...

Ruth, I tried to go to the NPR link but when it pulls up, it says "Page Not Found." Don't know if there's anything you can do about it?

Ruth said...

Thanks, Ginnie, for the heads up. This looks like the same URL, but let's try it again. Try cutting and pasting it. If it doesn't work, and if you're interested, please go to, search "this i believe" and look for "A Potential for Brutality."

rachel said...

I am also heartbroken by the story. I grew up in Old Town. As a child I would hang out at the five-and-dime. Do you remember the little old lady on the corner who had a zillion dogs in cages that she took care of? You could smell them a block away in any direction. But she loved those animals and didn't want them to be put down. I watched Old Town turn into an art district. I have seen people move in and out trying to make their businesses fly. Old Town is symbolic of gay pride, also. Mr. Busby's murder is an assault on those memories I hold dear.

Ruth said...

Dear Rachel, I knew this would have that affect on you, dear sweetie. It's just so horrible.

I hope this tragedy will cause a new birth of investment in Old Town to rise up out of the ashes, to honor Robert.

lesleyanne said...

this is tragic. thank you for sharing in his memory. i'm sure it will live on forever in the lives he touched. i'm surprised i didn't hear of this before now.

Henrique Bertulani said...

It´s has been over a year since the death of Mr. Busby. Only now did I find the strength to leave relevant comment and my personal thanks (which I had in his life time done many times personally, thank God).
My Grand father Jairo, on my families arrival to Lansing for the first time in 1992 was also beaten to death as he was a cab driver in the nights of a brasilian Capital city. So my mother returned only to catch him in a deep coma and watch him pass away. All had warned him not to work at night for the danger it represented. Nevertheless a cab driver in Brasil doesn´t earn much and working nights are a necessary risk.
Busby very similarly was also a night worker, after all the Creole Gallery Space was (and I hope it still is) a beacon of light in Old Town cold winter night as also in every season. The best die young they say, but why is this the case? Why of all people him? Envy is perhaps an explanation, yet if one were to conspire against art they sure did strike a low blow, for even if Old Town continues to be a place for the Lansing Artist, few places allowed (foreigners) me to hang anything anywhere and when I did it was through Busbies consent. My exhibition at the Grand Café (across the street) or at Spiderhouse (down the block) (God bless Todd) were only possible due to his overwhelming eye, for art this guy knew talent, after all if I started at the Creole and then painted the International Center and the Cyclotron (God bless Walt), it was his initial blessing in a Student Faculty and Alumni Exhibit for MSU and LCC that made it all possible for me in a cold (VERY COLD) winter day.
The eerie resemblance of their deaths and appearance, broke my heart in such a way that like his family I feel the loss as one of my own.
On the bright side: it was he who was the first who trusted me to hang my art in his gallery many times, then came all others. I thanked him the way I could, and now looking back, I wish I had spent my money better by going more often to his Jazz gatherings, but I was always a broke pizza boy and cafeteria worker at MSU. Nevertheless after the Creole I painted the International Center the Cyclotron and other 30 murals in Lansing of which I have no idea how many remain...if I EVER return to Lansing, I wow to donate a mural in his name something that I only do for the ones I love, for when I walked in his gallery it was always (HENRRRRIQUE GREAT TO SEE YOU…thank you Mr. Busby wherever in heaven you might be watching over us, my truest condolences and support will always be there (after the dust settled), my e-mail is I live in Rio de Janeiro and would donate a painting at the spot if the family were ever to do an exhibition in his name(wherever)it might be.

Anonymous said...