These are remarks that I prepared for my father's funeral. He died on Tuesday, May 14th. It was sudden and unexpected.
Jazz for Stoics
A Tribute to Dave Rickard
We'd like to thank you all for coming today, to this celebration.
It's important that we remember and rejoice in the life dad lived, and the example he set.
I may get a bit emotional and I may get a bit preachy, so I want to ground my remarks in a quote from Marianne Moore:
"The illustration is nothing without the application."
Said simply, we must live according to our ideals, or they are worthless.
Our father was a man of great worth.
He wrote out his ideals, in a document called This I Believe.
* I believe in the dignity and worth of each person – and try to act on that belief every day.
* I believe in the power of an individual to make a difference in the world – and try to make a contribution every day.
* I believe in the power of community – for together we can do more than we can individually.
* I believe in the redemptive power of love – and take joy in that every day.
* I believe in the power of foregiveness – and seek to practice it in my life.
* And finally, I believe that this life is all that there is – and I plan to make the most of it.
I see some of you nodding, like we did when we first read this. He was good with words.
But words weren't the whole of him. He lived in the world.
He learned his lessons early, from his parents Tom and Katy. Tom was a young man from the city; Katy a nurse from the country. They met and fell in love when Tom's sister suggested he might be able to help comfort a troubled patient.
They married in secret, because nurses couldn't be married in the 1930s. She had worked too hard to give that up.
A few years later, Tom had to give up further studies and take over management of a tire store. It was the Great Depression, and family came first.
Dave came soon after, followed by his sister Mary Ann. And they were raised in a strict midwestern tone: education, service and family. Dave and Mary Ann were close. After graduating from high school and leaving for college, Dave asked his parents to buy her a dog to replace his company.
It was in college and thereafter that dad really blossomed. Invigorated by the freedom of study, he read voraciously -- to the end, he read two to three books a week -- and made high honors.
After college, he took a job in Washington, working for the FAA. It was there that he met and married Jean, whom so many of you know. On learning of his death, she sent us a long, personal note. I'll read part of it here:
"We were a pretty good team, raising two wonderful, bright sons, and ministering to the wider community of the UUA, local and national political activities and human rights organizations. He continued to shine in human rights and other community service. His heart was in helping the world become a better place. I know that others will speak to that. He really had a calling to help the world be more just, fair, and kind."
Government work was good to him -- don't laugh. This was the Kennedy 60's, a spirit of optimism and youthful vigor. Dave was part of that spirit. He stocked bomb shelters in the Old Executive Office building during the Missile Crisis. The FAA sent him to Harvard, and Mike and I spent our youth in Massachusetts because of that.
There, at the age of 35, he made his one run for public office -- local Selectman, equivalent to City Council. He ran as an outsider, and an agent of change. He lost to the incumbent by 50 votes out of 2000. We found the campaign stickers and press clippings yesterday. I was 5, and I still remember the time.
While I'm reflecting, three stories from his time at the FAA stand out to me:
* He went to Ardmore, Oklahoma, to run an emergency drill designed to restore civilian air service after the onset of a nuclear war.
The absurdity of that idea led him to declare, on day three at noon, that the remainder of the meeting shall convene at the nearest bar.
* When Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers, our father held the press conference at Logan Airport -- at the time the 3rd busiest in the country -- explaining that public safety would not be compromised.
And that was just the push he needed.
* When he left the FAA and we moved to Arkansas in 1983, his co-workers threw a party -- I found the pictures today, in fact -- and gave him a mock Boston Globe front page, which declared that the agency was certainly ruined.
He had a way of instilling that kind of trust in people.
Direct. Challenging. Honest. Willing to admit mistakes. Willing, even, to change his opinion. Dad loved to discuss and debate in order to find the best solution to an issue.
He was an old-school Progressive. Leaving the FAA gave him the freedom to pursue his passions. Rather than run through them all, let me hit on a few highlights that you may not know.
* At the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, his focus was on pre- and neo-natal care, especially for poor women. And he fought to make sure that all of us were cared for.
* In 1989, the Arkansas Coalition of Women Voters named him an honorary "Uppity Woman of the year" for his work on behalf of women's issues.
* As a board member for the ACLU, he helped fight to keep the separation of church and state, and to preserve the rights of free speech and freedom of the press.
* Working with the Central Arkansas Library, he helped bring the new library down to the riverfront.
* Most recently, his work with the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has been a focal point of his life. Not content to talk about change, he formed a decade-long friendship with inmate Kenny Reams. And he asked for and received death row visitation rights (usually reserved for clergy and family).
He has also been arranging an art show for Kenny, and that show will -- thanks to the Coalition -- go on.
These achievements are all, more or less, a matter of public record. So I should end with some more personal notes.
I think we all know that dad's soul ran deep. He could, I admit, keep himself at a distance, perhaps too rational and practical for his own good.
But as we all know, once you got his ear, he gave you his time, his attention, and his best.
We would often stay up late, drinking bourbon and playing nasty games of cribbage. It was a way to connect and cajole. He and Mike liked to go fishing; to relax and connect in a similar way.
I doubt anyone will be surprised to know that I found an unfinished manuscript in his office. On the subject of Religion and Humor. Twin passions, it turns out, as I also found his joke collection, his worship ideas folder, and the course notes from a Build Your Own Theology workshop he took here.
In fact, he had a lot of book ideas. My personal favorite was a book he threatened to write when Mike and I were in high school. He wanted to call it "Girls My Boys Brought Home." It was to be an advice manual for dads. Telling them not to take young love too seriously.
He did not, by the way, have that reaction when he met my wife Amy or Mike's wife Julie. Mike can tell his own story, but it was my father, to his eternal credit, who told me that I was a fool if I let Amy go.
Thanks for that one, dad.
I could, believe me, continue in this vein for quite some time. Longer if you've got a martini on the rocks.
So let me say, on behalf of the family, thank you all for coming, and thank you, dad, for this wonderful life.
There is a quote that I think everyone who knew dad will recognize instantly. It's Winston Churchill, and he hung it next to his desk:
We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give."
Let this be his final charge to us all.
I'm packing up to get on a plane for Munich -- for the second time in the last year, in fact. Really anticipating a great week. Munich is a great city, and Drupal events are full of great people.
Before I leave, I thought I'd note some of my personal and professional goals for the week. Merit badges may be awarded for folks who help me hit these goals.
We're having a Palantir.net planning day, finding ways to increase the awesome. I can't reveal too many details, but I can tell you to watch our Team page for new job postings.
Meeting with the fantastic Nicole Lind and doing a walkthrough of our session Migrating to Drupal: Who? What? Why? and How?. After that, I'll be looking for sprints and other events to kickoff the week.
Busy day for me. Starting with Environment America: Running 60 affiliates on Drupal at 14:15 (in the Barcelona room -- ironically, this is similar to a presentation I did at DrupalCon Barcelona.
Later in the day, we're having a Future of Node/Entity Access BoF to work our details of how access controls should change for Drupal 8 and beyond.
Migrating to Drupal: Who? What? Why? and How? is at 10:45 in the Atlanta room. This talk combines the perspectives of a veteran project manager (Nicole Lind from Phase2) with a Drupal developer (and core contributor). It's a non-technical talk about aligning your team to get your move to Drupal done right.
Hey! It's my last night in Munich and I have no obligations! Looking forward to the Fabien Potencier keynote and my roommate (for the week) Larry Garfield's Multi-headed Drupal talk, which is a more technical look at some of the topics from my Environment American session.
While there's a lot of work to be done in the conference proper, I also want to set aside some time to tackle a few personal goals.
- Churn out a stable release of Domain Access 7.x-3.5. Quite a few fixes and some nice new features.
- Meet at least 2 dozen new people. I've been to 12 DrupalCons. (That's right, Munich is lucky #13 for me.) That means I know a lot of people in the community, which can make it easy to hang out with the same crowd all the time. So if you see me, introduce yourself, and I'll introduce you to some folks you may not know. (Bonus points for me: if I can remember all 2 dozen names on Friday.)
- Get a little local knowledge help in planning a vacation to Switzerland. My wife and I are planning an 8-10 day trip, flying into Zurich and out of Geneva. We're hoping to take the train and not rent a car. Where should we go? What must we do?
- Participate in the Bavarian national pastime: sitting under a chestnut tree on a sunny day, having a beer and visiting with friends.
Sounds like fun to me. See everyone soon.