Pop#039;s passing leaves empty booth

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 28, 2003

The corner booth at the Waffle House No. 1 is empty and a silent sadness permeates the place.

Flowers, black balloons and a brightly colored photograph mark the place where Robert "Pop" Sommerville spent most of his days for the past for nearly two years.

When the Coffee Kettle closed in Oct. 2001, Pop said he had lost his home. But, he quickly found a home and family across the way at the Waffle House.

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"I worked at the Coffee Kettle and everybody who came there knew and loved Pop," said Melinda Williams. "He was just as loved here."

Williams works at the Waffle House and watched Pop renew old friendships and make new ones from his "office" in the corner booth.

"He would come in around 8:30 each morning and he'd stay until around 2 in the afternoon," she said. "Mostly, he just drank coffee and talked to folks. It didn't matter who. He just enjoyed talking."

In the past month, Pop had been coming less frequently and he didn't stay quite as long.

Last week, he didn't come at all.

He was found lying on the floor of his home by Waffle House employees. On Sunday, he died.

"We are all so sad about losing Pop," said Williams' husband, Billy. "Everybody that came to the Waffle House knew him and liked him. He was a fixture. Now, he's gone and it won't be the same."

Waffle House employees bought flowers and set up a memorial "of sorts" in the corner booth. Customers brought flowers and all those who knew Pop paused a moment to remember him.

"Pop could talk to anybody and most anything," Melinda Williams said. "He used to work for Wiley Sanders and a lot of the truckers would go over and sit and talk to him for a while. He enjoyed talking to them and he enjoyed talking to folks he didn't know. He just liked to talk."

Pop just liked being at home with his family, Williams said. Sometimes he lingered longer than usual. "It was like he didn't want to leave. He wanted to stay here a home," Williams said.

Eric Kinniard was one of Pop's young friends.

"We talked about a lot of things - bowling, football, hockey and Jeff Gordon, he really liked him," Kinniard said, and added with a smile. "Sometimes we talked about girls. He gave me a little advice. I'll miss him, too."

Linda Schultz had known Pop for a long time and will find it difficult to adjust to his not being there.

"That corner was his place, Pop's place," she said. "Nobody will be able to take his place."

For now, for today, the makeshift memorial will remind people of a life lived there.

"We'll probably take it down and take it out to the funeral home for visitation tonight," Williams said. "Then

I don't know. Some of us are thinking about getting a place to mark Pop's place in this little corner."

"We'll never forget him. And we're gonna miss him. He was part of our family - the Waffle House family.

Visitation for Sommerville will be from 6 until 8 p.m. tonight at Skeen Funeral Home in Troy. A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Skeen.