CRESSKILL, N.J. — Rudy Platzer got little thanks for serving in Vietnam and for the lingering wounds he has endured since.
“Everybody back then kinda hated us,” he said, recalling his return from war. “We were ‘baby killers.’ I remember when we landed in California from Vietnam and when we got off the plane, there were protesters there. Nobody appreciated what we did. We felt alone.”
Then, 12 years ago, Glen Lockhard moved into the matching white colonial next to Platzer’s home on Roosevelt Street in Cresskill, N.J. Lockhart not only became a close friend, but he also insisted on rebuilding Platzer’s home, for free.
It all started soon after Lockhart moved in and replaced the front picture window of his home with a bay window. Lockhart, a contractor by trade, offered to install it in Platzer’s home to replace a rusty metal-rimmed window. Later, he offered him a few more windows to replace others.
Platzer, 64, who suffers from disabilities related to his Army service, gladly accepted.
A few years later, Lockhart spotted Platzer’s wife, Amanda, hobbling down rear wooden steps in such disrepair they seemed to be detaching from the house. “So I built him a new deck, and when I put on an addition to my house,” Lockhart said, “I took out my sliding door and put it on his house.”
In 2010 came a new electric garage door opener, allowing Platzer to open the heavy wooden door with the push of a button.
Lockhart’s most recent update to his neighbor’s home was a new kitchen complete with cherry-wood cabinets, a new refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, and other appliances to replace ones decades old. He decided to do it because he was renovating his own kitchen, and when he pulled out his still-beautiful wooden cabinets, he realized they would fit perfectly in Platzer’s kitchen. And once Lockhart got rolling, he also decided to update the lighting, electricity, appliances, paint and floors.
“I told my buddies what I was doing, and they all wanted to help,” said Lockhart, insisting he didn’t work alone. “One of them gave me half the cash for the new appliances. Someone else gave me paint. Another one helped me redo the floors, someone gave me molding, and an electrician had the electrical service changed.”
The kitchen ended up with shiny tile floors, granite countertops and new appliances.
“This was a good cause,” Lockhart said. “Rudy is a good guy. He deserves it. He has never asked for a thing. He’s our good friend, and he served our country — he fought for us.” He said Rudy also has been good to the Lockhart family.
But that wasn’t the end of it.
After Lockhart, a contractor for his own company, Tri State Tile & Bath, strolled into his friend’s living room, he knew he couldn’t be satisfied with leaving the kitchen picture-perfect while the living room looked shabby. He knew Platzer slept on the living room sofa, a result of post-traumatic stress, and so he transformed that room.
When Platzer went off for two months to Colombia for medical treatment, Lockhart painted, created newly framed pictures, sanded hardwood floors and installed new molding.
When Platzer returned, he was overwhelmed — “I knew he was going to do it, but I was really surprised by how great it was,” said Platzer, still in disbelief. “It’s 100 percent better.”
“My kitchen, before, was from the 1960s. … It is not something I could ever have done myself. It’s just too expensive.”
Platzer says that when it comes to neighbors, he hit the jackpot. “Since he moved in here in 2000, he’s been doing stuff for me.”