ROANOKE, Va. – The Grandin Village community is mourning the loss of James Tarpley, the 86-year-old "Angel of Grandin Road" who passed away in his sleep over the weekend.
In his honor, Village Grille donated 35% of all food sales from Taco Tuesday to maintain Tarpley's park. Pop's Ice Cream and Soda Bar closed on Wednesday, but opened the shop for Tarpley's friends to share their memories of him.
"He just loved the people on the street, and that's really all I can say or I'll start crying again," said Linda Steadman, the owner of Too Many Books.
Steadman met Tarpley when she moved into her bookstore in Grandin Village in 1999. Somehow, all the empty boxes she had unpacked disappeared. She later discovered that Tarpley had recycled them.
"He could affect so much change, and he had such an impact just by being kind," Steadman said.
Roanoke Co+op Marketing Manager John Bryant said that Tarpley would always stop by the store looking for the best deals on cantaloupe or pears, and he was always there if someone needed him without having to ask.
"James meant so much to this community," Bryant said.
Bryant recalled that Tarpley would frequently sit outside on the benches around town and talk with people in the area.
"He'd say, 'Come here a minute.' And you'd sit down for at least 10 or 15 minutes and hear what James had seen or what he wanted to do and hear all the stories that he had, so I'll miss those conversations a lot," Bryant said.
Tarpley's friends described him as a Korean War veteran, a selfless neighbor, a friend -- and an angel-- watching over everyone in Grandin.
"I'm glad he's in a happy place, and I'm glad he's with his fellow angels," Steadman said.
To learn about Tarpley's funeral arrangements, click here.