" Glenn's simple happiness and contentment in life, always smiling in spite of all life's hardships, of which he had many, became an inspiration to all. "
In the late 1970’s, Stan worked as a projectionist at the Lyric Theater in downtown Salem, showing classic black and white film noir. His assistant was a diminutive middle-aged man named Glenn who always began and ended his brief sentences in a timid chuckle. Hunched, unshaven and often unkempt, Glenn might have seemed destitute when he really was one of those extraordinary human beings that few ever take the time to recognize.

Glenn never knew what to do when a movie reel jammed except to look at Stan and timidly smile. Nothing ever seemed to bother Glenn. Stan saw Glenn as a Quasimodo of the Lyric, ever present, ever vigilant, ever smiling, keeping the old place tidy, hobbling around in the shadows, lunching on hot buttered popcorn and Dr. Pepper.

Glenn didn’t know that Stan was a journalism major at Willamette University. But he was fascinated with Stan’s aura, witticisms and mannerisms. The gregarious Stan was something entirely new to Glenn, who led a quiet, sheltered and simple life.

At the same time, Stan felt an attachment to the ever content and peaceful Glenn and always looked after him like he was his younger brother.

Glenn often inquired about Stan's welfare. He would ask how Stan was doing, and if Stan had another new girlfriend, as someday getting himself a girlfriend was on Glenn’s bucket list, albeit a goal that he never aggressively pursued.

One hot summer afternoon after Stan and Glenn met up and Glenn presented Stan with his usual question, Stan turned the question back: “Glenn, do you have a girlfriend?”

Glenn nervously chuckled in response then explained that he didn’t have a girlfriend but that he was going on a date that very night with a woman who worked part time at the cannery. He wanted to take her out but would not admit that he could not afford a restaurant. Sensing this, Stan took Glenn to the downtown Thriftway grocery store and bought him a frozen Totino’s pizza. To top it, he bought a can of mushrooms, a can of olives and a couple tomatoes. “Girlfriends and dates absolutely love this stuff,” Stan explained. "And she will be impressed that you know how to cook."

Stan then walked Glenn to the discount clothing store to get fitted out for the date. They found a snazzy knitted shirt for $1.99 to replace the yellowed one that Glenn wore every day. Glenn later decided on an aperitif for the evening and went back to Thriftway and bought an inexpensive bottle of fortified wine for two bucks.

Stan crossed paths with Glenn a couple days later and asked how the date went. Glenn replied in a nervous chuckle, “Oh, we had a good time, but it was Friday and we have to eat fish. She had a coupon for Skipper's so we went there and had fish instead." Glenn punctuated the conclusion with an additional chuckle.

Always walking with a limp and with a stray dog or cat tagging alongside him, Glenn was a regular fixture on the streets of downtown Salem each morning. His home was a studio apartment in a rundown motel near the fairgrounds where he took in seven stray felines. After morning Mass at St. Joseph Church, Glenn would do his shopping at the Metropolitan Discount store where he could get a loaf of bread, cookies, canned goods, toothpaste, soap and toilet paper for a quarter a piece.

The store owner knew and admired Glenn. Each Monday morning before Glenn came into the store, the matronly clerk was ordered to put aside a large bag of cat food for him, marked down to 50 cents. She said of Glenn, “The poor boy can hardly feed himself and now he feeds seven little house guests! But that boy is always happy, always content. God bless him!”

Glenn's simple happiness and contentment in life, always smiling in spite of all life's hardships, of which he had many, became an inspiration to all.

On one visit to Salem several years after I lived there, I saw Glenn downtown, hunched over, walking with a cane, a stray dog and cat on his heels. I still don't know how he managed all those pets, but assume he was a St. Francis of Assisi of sorts.

As if we hadn't missed a day, Glenn asked me in his timid chuckle if Stan had a new girlfriend. Then we talked about Stan.

Van der Hout, a graduate of All Saints School, attends St. Pius X Church and Mount Angel Abbey.