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Good deeds of an Angel continue to bless Grandin Village

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 5:00 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A neighborhood in Roanoke celebrates its Black History by honoring the Angel who once walked its streets.

Grandin Village said goodbye to James Tarpley more than two years ago, but his heart is still there.

A mural of Tarpley stands guard on the corner of Grandin Road and Westover Ave. He is full of stories, but you will need to find a friend to learn more.

“He’s really the connection for the whole neighborhood. He brought the whole community together,” Anna Robertson said.

Robertson is the owner of Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar. She keeps a collection of memories that explain more about Tarpley’s life.

“He would carry these clippings to let newcomers know who he was and where he fit in the neighborhood,” Robertson said.

There are articles about his many awards from the City of Roanoke, notes from neighbors thanking him for his good deeds, and pictures of his family.

One snapshot is of his grandfather, who was born a slave on a plantation in Swansonville, VA. Another shows Tarpley, a Korean War veteran, in uniform as a young man. And more photos show him in snow gear with a shovel, or sitting on a bench in the village.

Robertson met Tarpley back in 1994 in the 7Eleven parking lot on Grandin Road.

“He introduced himself to me because he saw me with the hood of my car popped open as I was topping off fluids and in true James Tarpley fashion, he came over to see if he could help,” she said.

That helping hand turned Tarpley into the Angel of Grandin Village.

“He liked to introduce folks to the neighborhood and bring them in for an ice cream, or take them around the corner to the Grandin for a popcorn, or up the street to 7Eleven for a cookie,” Robertson said.

There are little Easter eggs reminding people of his good deeds, with stars in front of the theatre, his park down Memorial Ave, and his name near the farmers market.

Robertson said Tarpley helped her find the space for her business. She has a painting of him in the back of the shop so he can watch over every float that bubbles up on the bar.

“I mean he was part of the community, but he really became part of the family,” she said.

Tarpley died in 2019 shortly before his 87th birthday. But Robertson said his generosity is still the backbone of the village.

“I would like to think that those of us who did know him will carry on those good deeds and connections in a way that it will carry forward for even the people who don’t know him,” she said.

After years of offering his own kindness to neighbors, the Angel of Grandin Village now has the blessing to watch over others as they share and love the community he called home.

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