The Pinata Group lost another one today. Richard died after a short stay in the hospital following a heart attack. Richard was one of the good guys. I really loved that man.
Richard and his wife Michele came into our lives, not through the Newman Club, as all the rest of the Pinata group did, but when we put our kids into Tiny Tots nursery school in Oakland, where their son Eric was also enrolled.
From the beginning, we all just "clicked." As we began our New Year's Day pinata parties, we always included Michele, Richard and Eric, and in short order they were just one of the group and we forgot where the Newman folks ended and the Havel folks began.
Richard and Michele owned property in Mendocino county, which was nicknamed and is still called "Eric's Property." We had many, many camping and huckleberry hunting expeditions on that property. Richard mixed gin fizzes by attaching his blender to the motor of his beloved "White Elephant."
We have always teased Richard about his built in nose and glasses. In fact, when he turned 50 (he was the oldest of us, by quite a bit), Michele threw a surprise party for him where everyone, including his 80-something mother and the stripper hired for entertainment, all wore Groucho glasses. I'd love to post a photo of this event, but we missed it. We were hosting our first foreign student, Eduardo from Brasil, and we gave him the choice of going to the party or driving up to Washington/Oregon on a camping trip right after Mt. St. Helen's erupted. Being from Brasil, especially Rio de Janeiro, the prospect of seeing a nude woman was nothing special, but the chance to collect volcanic ash was something he would not get to do in Brasil. So we missed the party of the century.
When Char and Mike sold their house in Oakland, they sold it to Michele and Richard, to keep it in the family. They took over their house and their dog Rocky. We had so many parties in that house, always with a big bowl of clam dip as the center of attention (we made sure the boys didn't hover).
When they sold the house, Ned and Paul made a video about it.
We lost Michele in 2007. She and Richard had bought a house up in the Sierra foothills. Richard was delivering Meals on Wheels that morning and when he left the house, he noticed Michele sleeping on the bed. When he returned home, she hadn't moved and he discovered she was gone. It was a terrible blow to all of us, because who would have thought that someone so young and so healthy would be one of the first to leave us. We scattered part of her ashes on Eric's Property and Char and I took some with us to France when we went there with the girls in 2009. Michele, a French major, always wanted to visit France and never made it. Now some of her ashes rest somewhere off the coast of Nice.
Richard continued to live in the house, the old man on the hill. Char and I drove up and visited him a couple of times and have been talking about driving up there again, but now it's too late. Proving once again the necessity of not putting things like this off. I don't feel guilty for not going to see him, but sad for us that we missed the chance for one more visit. I think the last time we saw him was a Mike's funeral.
We are of an age (at 73 I am the youngest of the pinata group) when the death of one of our good friends is not unexpected, but it's always a big punch in the gut to realize that we are a little smaller and a little less rich now.
Richard made it to the other side to be with Michele again...and just in time for David's birthday.