My brother, Richard, always impressed me as the quintessential first born child. You know the type — bright, obedient, thoughtful, driven, responsible, blah, blah, blah. He always kept his nose to the academic grindstone (probably never getting anything less than a B in any subject….ever), seldom, if ever, broke the rules (though I faintly recall an occasion when Dad got a call from the local police — something about firecrackers and mailboxes), was very well liked, athletic, deliberate and purpose driven. Put another way he was the very antithesis of the rebellious and spoiled child [me]. If you haven’t already guessed, he’s the good looking one on the left. I was 11; he was 15.
Given his eventual career path I have often wondered if he entered this world thinking about ways to make a living managing the delivery and consumption of food. I say that because the minute he entered college in pursuit of his bachelor’s degree, he seemed to know exactly what he wanted to accomplish in this life and never strayed from the narrow path.
Upon graduation and subsequent commissioning as a naval officer, he entered the service where he ended up managing the Officer’s Club at the Lemoore Naval Air Station during the Vietnam era. Once he completed service there I think he went to work for a division of Stouffer’s which at the time specialized in managing culinary services in the executive suites of a number of Fortune 500 corporate offices.
Later in life he shared an interesting story about Stouffer’s interview process which serves as a valuable rebuttal of the over simplified notion that the small stuff doesn’t matter. One of three finalists for the open position, Richard was invited to a fancy dinner. As a final factor in the decision making process, the individual doing the hiring apparently wanted to evaluate each candidate’s table manners.
As it turns out Richard got the job because he was the only candidate who didn’t insult the cook by salting his food before he had tasted it. I guess the table manners Mom and Dad taught us at home really paid off though I have no memory of the specific lesson they gave regarding the salting of food. Then again, maybe he learned that in college — Good Manners 101.
Growing up we were quite competitive. We both liked sports and played pickup baseball, basketball, football, and badminton whenever the opportunity presented itself. At home on rainy days we’d play canasta, checkers, and an occasional game of chess. As adults I remember visiting Richard’s family and playing backgammon late into the night. As I recall, I didn’t win but one or two games the entire four or five hours we went at it.
Once Richard started college we pretty much went our separate ways. He stayed in contact with the extended family –cousins, aunts, and uncles — over the years but all told, I think we got together five times since then — my wedding day, his wedding day, an occasion when I took the family to visit his family in a suburb south of Chicago, an occasion when on a business trip he dropped by to visit us in Riverside, and Dad’s funeral. We did chat briefly to discuss Connie’s annulment request but other than that we haven’t talked in eight or nine years.
Richard somehow found a way to send me a birthday card via the Social Security Administration last August and a Christmas card and newsletter in December. I decided to respond just a week or so ago by sending him a birthday greeting which is scheduled for June 1. I wanted to send it in conjunction with his birthday but I can’t remember whether it was in May or June though I have a tendency to think it was the latter. Anxious to see if he responds and curious to find out how many of our cousins — all his age and older — are alive and well.
In Richard and Carol’s newsletter they let everyone know that their sons — Bryan and Kevin — are getting married this coming year. How time flies.
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Richard passed away on June 20, 2013 following a renewed and year long battle with polio.