My Friend Dick: A Profile in Courage
I have been blessed my entire life with wonderful friends. While many of them of them were in my life for a relatively short period of time…there were some whom I have been friends with for the better part of my life. I would like to tell you about one of them.
I have been friends with Dick since I was 21, and I am going to be 63 in July…so we have been friends for 42 years. Dick was my boss when I worked for The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, better known simply as A&P. He was the divisional advertising manager when he recruited me from college. We both worked there together for 11 years; until A&P, in its ultimate wisdom, closed all of its stores in the Northeastern Ohio/Western Pennsylvania market. Dick went on to own his own grocery store, and I went on to become partners in a food brokerage company.
During our years together at A&P, Dick was my mentor…my protector. As Dick moved up the corporate ladder, he took me with him. When we went our separate ways after A&P shut its doors, we always kept in touch, we always remained close…and I came to see Dick as a brother, not a former boss.
On July 4th, 2005, Dick got the phone call that all parents dread. He received a call saying his youngest son, Bob, had been killed. Dick’s son had been murdered…the most horrifying call of all.
Bob, who along with his brother, Rich, had taken over ownership of their father’s grocery store; did a great deal of community volunteer work, and was heavily involved in his children’s sporting activities. Bob was killed helping out at a baseball tournament for his son. The people running the tournament had decided last minute to charge a $5 fee for parking. They asked Bob to collect the money. A few parents from some of the visiting teams became enraged over the charge…and since Bob was collecting the money, he became the focus of that rage. A fight broke out, and someone sucker-punched Bob in the face. Bob fell to the ground, hitting his head on the pavement. He was killed instantly.
Bob was murdered 3 days before his 41st birthday…over $5.
The police eventually arrested a man and charged him with Bob’s death. There was a trial and the man had one of the more skilled attorneys in our state defending him. His attorney was able to raise enough reasonable doubt with the jury, as to who actually hit Bob; that the man was found not guilty…even though the coroner was able to match an imprint of the man’s fist to the wound on Bob’s face.
During this whole entire tragic event, my friend Dick never became bitter, or angry. Sure, he wanted justice for his son…but he never wanted vengeance. Dick held no hatred for the man who murdered his son over a $5 parking fee.
I am not sure of the sequence of events, since we are talking of an event which happened 7 years ago…but anyway, about the same time, Dick was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Dick’s surgeon botched the operation, and Dick has had complications ever since. These complications have resulted in both minor and major surgical procedures needing to be done to try and correct issues caused by the first operation.
Surely, how much is one man supposed to take?
In my conversations with Dick, as he is heading off to the hospital for yet another procedure, his standard reply to me is always, “Tommy, it could be worse…” I called Dick’s home one evening to see how he was doing, and Dick had gone to the store. I asked his wife, Judy, if Dick was always so positive, or was this some sort of public face he put on for people. She replied, “No, Dick refuses to let things bring him down. He will always try to find something positive he can draw strength from.”
God puts people in our lives for a reason. Sometimes he puts them there for a season…sometimes it is for a lifetime. I hope that Dick’s worst days are behind him…but deep down inside I know it really doesn’t matter…because Dick will always be searching for that rainbow…no matter how threatening the storm clouds.