Sunday, September 14, 2003

Robert K. Mister gave to others

Clifton window washer shared time, talent, tunes

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mr. Mister

CLIFTON-Robert Keen Mister was a fixture in the Clifton community.

For about 35 years, Robert, known to many as "Mister Mister," walked the neighborhood's business districts, carrying buckets of supplies to clean store windows, maybe even singing a few country songs while he worked.

He never forgot a name or a face, or a chance to share the vegetables he grew in his backyard garden.

Mr. Mister died Sept. 4 at his Clifton home. He was 61.

"Heaven to him was Harlan County, Kentucky," said his brother, Matthew Mister of Liberty Township. He said Robert dreamed of living in the small town he first visited as a child, with his father, who also took him the Grand Ole Opry many times.

"He was just a beautiful man with such a love for life," said Greta Martinez, who employed Mr. Mister to clean the windows of her Ludlow Avenue shop, , The Hansa Guild, for 19 years.

"What I remember about him most is him singing a song while at the same time giving my daughter fresh vegetables from his garden."

Last year, Mr. Mister suffered a stroke and was placed in a nursing home.

At first he was told he would probably never be able to wash windows again, but six months later he was back on the job.

"I admire somebody like that," said Sitwell's owner, Lisa Storie. "He was defiant. He kept on going."

Columbia Savings Bank manager Jackie Henderson also noticed his determination.

"It would be 10 degrees out there and there he'd be - all bundled up and washing the windows," she said.

Raised in Over-the-Rhine and Clifton Heights, Mr. Mister worked for many years as a janitor and window washer at Ohio National Life Insurance Company.

He lived by himself in an apartment in Mount Auburn until 11 years ago, when his brother bought a house on West Martin Luther King Drive and had it renovated for Robert.

There, Robert enjoyed working in the backyard garden, and playing one of his three guitars.

"He loved flowers and wanted everything to look nice," said his upstairs neighbor, Maria Georgiton, who also knew Mr. Mister through her family-owned restaurant, Papa Dino's, in Clifton Heights.

"He would come home with toys from Subway for my nephew. And I would say, 'You didn't have to do this for him,' and he would answer, 'But I like making people happy.' "

Mr. Mister was a member of the Asbury Tabernacle in Mount Auburn, where he often sang with the church band.

Services have been held. Burial was in St. Joseph New Cemetery, Price Hill.

Memorials can be made to Asbury Tabernacle, 11 E. McMillan, Cincinnati 45219.


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