Richard Rice passed away recently. He was a very humble man and had a wonderful background, one that you might read about in a novel. But he never talked about his life much, even when asked. He was a bit reclusive but he had a photographic mind, was a biologist, worked at Walter Reed Hospital when he was in the Army, was a children's book illustrator and a collector of stamps and antiques.
Richard lived in an old Lovell Village house, in between the Post Office and my office on the corner. I first got to know Richard when we served together on the Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library Board. He took extensive notes in perfect handwriting and was always optimistic. Not just about Library matters but life in general. We would sometimes chat as I walked by his home or he would stop in the office to ask a couple of questions.
There was a small service for Richard at the Number Four Cemetery. There weren't a lot of people attending, and a few faces that I did not recognize. But a number of people had wonderful stories about Richard and when the service was over, it was clear that Richard touched many different people.
One of the speakers was our daughter Anna. She has given permission to print here:
Dick Rice Eulogy
Several years ago, when I was still in college, I came home to Lovell to live with my parents for the summer. I came to Lovell directly from Beijing, where I had lived during the school year. I knew that I only had one semester left before I could graduate, but aside from that, I wasn’t totally sure what my next step was. My parents welcomed me with open arms, telling me that, of course I could stay with them, but that I also better get myself a job.
Luckily, Anna Romer mentioned she could use some help at the library; and so, that’s where I found myself on many afternoons and evenings, stacking and shelving books, singing the alphabet over and over to myself to make sure I wasn’t putting the G’s after the H’s.
It wasn’t long before I noticed this small man in a baseball cap lugging these huge trash bins up the library’s front steps.
“That’s Dick Rice,” someone told me. “He’s been taking our trash out twice a week for years.”
Occasionally, after he finished trash duty, Dick would come back inside holding a brand new tablet. Someone had gifted it to him, and in theory, he loved it. He really, really loved it. In practice though, he had no idea what it did. I’d watch him poke and swipe at the thing, getting more and more frustrated with every passing minute.
When the frustration would reach its peak, he’d ask Anna or Marie or Deanna for help. They’d answer his questions patiently and kindly and as best they knew how. I watched this interaction happen on a loop - he would get confused about something, scrunch his nose, ask for help, get an answer, and then get confused all over again.
He might need someone to sit down with him one-on-one, I thought to myself. So - I made the executive decision to take a break from my alphabetizing and take a seat down next to him.
Pretty soon, Dick and I had “class” together for an hour or two every week. I taught him some of the tablet’s basic functions, how to perform a Google search, and which ads were definitely, definitely not real (and no, we should not click on that).
For as much as I taught Dick, he taught me more. Eventually he started coming in with lists of people or historical events that he wanted to put into “The Google.” Together, we rediscovered music from his childhood and learned about medieval Europe.
I think we were both a little sad when late August rolled around and I moved back to New York City to finish school. Our classes together had come to an end.
I never got the chance to tell Dick how much our time together meant to me, or how it led me to pursue a career teaching adults in community colleges and other continuing education settings. Working with him was deeply and profoundly rewarding - even when I had to remind him where the volume button was and that we probably shouldn’t be listening to music that loud in the library.
To Richard Rice: thank you for all did for me and for the community in Lovell. May you Rest In Peace.