Robby Lee Edwards Wernersback, aka the World's Greatest Human, went to her heavenly home Friday, April 7, surrounded by family.

DAVID BROWN: A tribute to world's best grandmother

    As I type this, the 94-year-old woman I fondly refer to as the World’s Greatest Human is under hospice care. Since I’m desperately trying to get to her in time, I present the following column, which was published in the Lake City (Fla.) Reporter on Sept. 15, 1999.
    In anticipation of Grandparents Day on Sunday, Family First released a detailed report on “Grandparentlng: Changing Role in a Changing Society.” The report shows that grandparents are the nation’s fastest-growing population segment, and 8.3 percent of Florida’s children live in a household headed by a grandparent.
    We should thank God for that. While it’s a shame to see so many families torn apart due to death, divorce or apathy, it’s reassuring that so many grandparents don’t hesitate to do the right thing, emotionally and financially. Without them, where would our children be?
    I know where I would be: nowhere. I owe everything I have to the most wonderful person on Earth, who also just happens to be my grandma.
    We called her Bobba when I was growing up, although I’m still not sure why. Someone in the family said it was Hungarian for “grandma;” others thought it was a child’s mispronunciation. I searched for “Bobba” on the Internet and looked over 150 entries: roughly 147 focused on Bobba Fett of Star Wars fame, which has to symbolize something good.
    Today, I just call her “Mama.” To me, that signifies a special somewhere between a grandma and a mom. I love my Mom more than life, mind you, but there can only be one Mama.
    She was there for me when my Mom was a teenager and still running around, acting like a fool. She was there for my kids when I was a teenager and still running around, acting like a fool. She loved me when I brought home report cards with straight “A’s” and never stopped when l quit during my first year in college to go to Paris. (Never made it, but I did go back to school.) I’d like to think I’ve brought her much happiness over the years, although there was plenty of heartache in there, too. But no matter what, she never gave up on me. Ever.
    Her love is unconditional, not based on success or failure but simply on the fact that I belong to her – and to Mama, family always comes first.
    Her commitment to me was most often displayed on the baseball field. She took me to sign up for little minor league when I was 8, instilling in me a lifelong love of the game. When I came down with chicken pox at age 10, she sat with me in her car, parked along the left-field line in the West Palm Beach, Fla., heat, so I could watch my team play. When I was 12, I pitched a no-hitter and hit a home run, she took me to Dairy Queen to celebrate. Later that year, when I struck out three times in a game and cried like a baby, she took me out for another root beer float.
    She attended so many of my baseball games and other events that she made Grandpa Bill jealous. But the really amazing thing is she didn’t treat me any differently than her other children, grandchildren and, later, great-grandchildren. Each of us is her favorite.
    That will never change. Just this week, she sent me a check for $100 because I’m paying two mortgages. (I still haven’t sold my old home in Sebring, Fla.) Think of that: a 78-year-old woman on Social Security sending money to her 33-year-old grandson who is executive editor of a New York Times Co. daily newspaper. How can you possibly repay that kind of caring and unselfishness?
    The warmth she brings to a room is instant, her smile as contagious as a yawn. She’ll tell a story about old-timers forgetting things, remember that she has told it before, then laugh at herself. To this day I can’t stand the taste of sour cream, yet I adore her sour cream cake. When we went clothes shopping while I was growing up, we used her credit cards and sometimes even paid her back. If I needed anything – a ride to practice, a 5 spot, a ham sandwich or a hug – she was always there. I shudder to think of what the world would be like without her.
    I could go on, but like our Savior all the paper in the world couldn’t contain the tributes she deserves. We have to remind her to think about herself. If everyone had just a piece of her golden heart, we would still be in the Garden of Eden, avoiding the apple but trying to find something good to say about the snake.
    So, to Robby Lee Edwards Wernersback and all the “Mommas” like her, I say: God bless you. I love you with all my heart. Every day is Grandparents Day.
    David Brown is publisher of the Cherokee Scout. You can reach him by phone, 837-5122; fax, 837-5832; or email, dbrown@cherokeescout.com.