The first time I met Dick was on a mountain. We were waiting for the beginning of an Emmaus weekend (http://emmaus.upperroom.org) for him and about 18 other men to begin. I’d already met his wife Janet, at the intake meeting for my upcoming appointment change. In four short months I would become their Pastor. In every congregation I’ve served, there’s been at least one older man who has not liked me, no matter what I did. It is just a fact. I have to admit that the first time I met Dick, I worried that he might be that person. Later I was humbled to find that he was exactly the opposite.
That weekend changed Dick. One of the stories that was told to me soon after I moved to Berkeley Springs to be the pastor at Union Chapel, was that before his Emmaus walk Dick was adamantly against the ministry to DC homeless population that the church helped with once a month. They would drive a van 2 hours to hand out 120 some meals, clothes, and toiletry kits to anyone they could find. Apparently, when the ministry first got introduced at Union Chapel, Dick was vehemently against it, wanting them instead to put their work into the local community (which they also do!) After his Emmaus walk, Dick went on almost every monthly trip. Seeing Dick with his homeless friends was a blessing and a challenge to do better personally. He would smile and joke as he looked through the piles of clothes in the back of the van, blessing people as he did so. He was so excited to be helping, and it was contagious.
Dick loved to help. He was 81 or 82 when I first moved to Berkeley Springs, but he helped my husband deliver our couches. He carried them in like he was 18, without a care in the world. One of the things I loved about Dick was his generosity. I can’t count the number of times Dwight or I called to ask him to do something, and EVERY time we called, he said yes. He dropped everything one Sunday morning during worship to drive Dwight to the hospital during a back spasm, and sat in the waiting room making jokes until I could join them, and Dwight could go home.
Our first Easter, Dwight’s maternal grandmother passed away, and on our way out of town we stopped by the restaurant where they were having dinner to ask them to dog-sit, and they said yes without hesitation, and blew away our apologies for interruption. He never made you feel like you were asking too much.
Our first Christmas Eve service at UC, I started a new family service that hadn’t been done before. I had this vision of kids and families filling the church, when in actuality we had about 10 people. We had only 3 or 4 kids, so my plan to have them play musical instruments along with the Christmas hymns was almost ruined—until Dick jumped up to grab a tambourine and join in! It made my night.
Dick loved fiercely. He was loyal and protective of those who considered family, and he wanted you to know that, so he worked to show you. There was nothing better than Dick’s smile. It would light up what sometimes felt like a gruff face, and seeing it could change your day.
I grew up away from our extended family. Our grandparents lived on the other side of the country, and we didn’t get to see them much. Because of this, our parents always helped us to create family where we were, through our church. I have taken that habit into my ministry, and Dick was family to me. He was the grandfather I wanted to live right next door. His sense of humor was unstoppable, and his energy and work ethic unbeatable.
The only bad things I can say about Dickie (as his wife calls him) is that he couldn’t sing on key, and his tambourine playing wasn’t that great, and (he was horrible at the car game, “yellowcar!”) But I bet that first part has changed now that he’s on the other side, and I can’t wait to see him playing in the Angel band.
Thank you for sharing your life and love with us. Thank you for your support and encouragement while I was your pastor. Thank you for the important ministry that you did, and for your legacy that will live on. DeColores friend.