by Glen Herbert
Skip Vetter was a lot of things to a lot of people, but here’s one thing of which many of us were unaware: he designed clocks. “That’s where I make my money,” he once said to a local reporter. “Cheap, low-end clocks, the kind you see in Wal-Mart.”
One of them was a 10-inch wall clock, with a green plastic frame, a white face and black numbers. “It’s just a cheap clock. At the last count they had sold 19 million of them,” he said, lamenting that he wasn’t paid through royalties. “Just a penny a clock would have done it,” he said. “That would have been the last clock. But they already know that, apparently.”
In addition to the clocks, he was a veteran of Vietnam, he photographed wildlife, painted, toured the eastern seaboard in his RV. He was a father, a husband, a dog owner, train spotter, wood carver. He painted birds, including the ones on the covers of the two Carolina Scrapbook Vol. 2 disks. And most importantly, he was a friend. Each year I arrived at Merlefest to see that he was already in residence in the campsite that a number of us shared, awning out, sitting under a plastic, rope-lite palm tree.
For the past five years he has also survived cancer quite spectacularly, not just because his treatments were so effective—his cancer was a devastating one, in which a survival of just one year post diagnosis was beating the odds—but because he kept on doggedly living his life. Not just breathing, but really living. He was always there at Merlefest, though some years not feeling so great; he also toured with the Kruger Brothers, most recently to Banff for the premiere of “The Spirit of the Rockies.” His photography continued, something that he loved, and his last post to his Flickr site (he made more than 1000 posts, all of which are worth a look) was a photo of a spider he found on a holly bush in his backyard. The date of the post is December 12, and the photo was taken after he had already spent time in hospice.
He simply refused to stop living, seeing friends, attending Kruger Brothers shows, spending time with family, no matter what the scans might have showed. For Joel’s wedding he took out boat tours for the guests, this at a time when he had just come off yet another round of chemo. Likewise, he attended the first Kruger Brothers Music Academy in 2012, enrolled as a bass student, right in the midst of one therapy or another. He wanted to be there, no matter how much he disparaged his bass playing, so he ponied up and went.
I don’t mean to suggest that he was a hero. If he was, he was a hero in the way that all of us try to be: we try to meet the challenges of life not because we choose to, but precisely because we have no choice. While we’re here, we try to give a little back, to do some good, to have some fun, and to spend some time with family and friends. And that’s exactly what Skip did.