Ron Linder (email@example.com)
16 March, 2000
“As I sit watching my beautiful husband sleep, I’ve reflected on how lucky, blessed and fortunate we have been. Each year after that first heart attack in 1981 was a gift. I was so happy for each wedding anniversary. And I want everyone to know I could never have made it through this difficult time without the support, the phone calls, the visits from family and friends, even the massages, the Chinese and lobster dinners, and all the love that has been showered upon us.” Richie and Susie met May 20, 1980 at a pyramid party in Simi Valley. Richie proposed to Susie on June 12, 1980 (WOW!), and married her February 22, 1981 in Redlands, California at the Orange Tree Chapel, Edwards Mansion. Desi is their Baby – he’s not spoiled, Susie and Richie are just well trained. Manny Sepulveda and Chris Dominguez not only participated their wedding, but throughout Susie and Richie’s married life together. At first, Richie never took a vacation ? until he met Susie. First it was a camping trip, then to Washington DC, Vancouver BC, Calgary, New Zealand, the Oregon coast, Las Vegas, Cabo San Lucas, Lake Tahoe. Susie loves the water, so Richie took her to rivers and lakes, rented boats and took cruises to Mexico. Their first trip out of the country was to Cabo San Lucas with good friends Chris and Sergio. Richie thought he would try to keep up with Sergio drinking shooters at the swim up bar. Well, Sergio never made it to dinner that night and Richie did, so go figure. Susie loves to travel, so Richie pretended that he did too. She cajoled him into a big New Zealand trip, thus postponing the move to Arizona in 1995. And he loved it, making life long friends in Ron and Hilda from Wickford, Essex, England. Richie learned to love the outdoors, the lakes, waterfalls, trees, rivers. So long as the tour guide Susie had a 3 or 4 star hotel or cabin booked, he was game to see the wilds. But after a few days of traveling, he would have to call home to their very dear neighbors Ron, Tina and Matthew and their dog Little Bear to check on Desi and make sure Desi missed Richie as much as he missed Desi. Tina told him Desi was on vacation too ? and not to worry ? they were taking him to Lake Roosevelt as Little Bear’s guest, and Desi was having a blast. Knowing that good friends were caring for Desi was very important to Richie. Matthew was special to Richie ? he was a ‘Mr. Wilson’ to Matthew, he sure loved that little boy. Richie was such a gentle person. He couldn’t even watch Bambi. He loved his Desi. He loved animals. Desi spent many hours watching over his daddy at the foot of the bed. Richie loved to spoil Susie. He made her lunches, ironed her uniforms, and polished her shoes. He never complained about the odd nursing hours on holidays or overtime. He made her feel like a princess. He was the love of her life. When Richie was in Tucson, Chris and Sergio flew in from Thousand Oaks, California twice in one week during Thanksgiving to be with Richie and Susie. Manny would fly in from San Diego, California after work, drive from Phoenix to Tucson, visit and fly home the next day. The love these two men have for each other is amazing. It had been several decades since all the Benoit siblings could be together. After five trying hair raising weeks in Tucson University Medical Center waiting for a heart transplant that was not to come, Robbie, Jim and Judy took a midnight flight from Boston to Phoenix to have a wonderful reunion, complete with a turkey dinner and an early Christmas present to each other. Because of two men, Richie had 18 years after his 1st heart attack two months after they were married. These men are gifted, and were sent from God. Dr. Robert Blum (Bloom) of West Hills Medical Center and Dr. Peter Maki of Phoenix and their staffs are phenomenal. Special thanks to Terry from Dr. Blum’s office and Christina, Mary, Stacy, Wink, Sandy, Patricia, Kelly, Pat and Lee from Dr. Maki’s office are angels from heaven. Most of the time, it seemed they gave more love and hugs than anything else they could have needed from an office visit. The Hospice of the Valley has guided Richie and Susie through this process of ups and downs, talking Richie into using a walker, wheelchair and hospital bed was no easy feat. Richie was Mr. Stubborn with a capital “S”. He fought every stop of the way to remain independent and self-sufficient. But with each step of loss of independence, he was gracious and called his wheelchair “the VIP sport model.” And when he would see another wheelchair, he would say how much nicer his was. Richie’s nurse Linda has saved Susie’s sanity more than once. She even accompanied them to Dr. Maki’s office. Kelly, their social worker, checked in with numerous calls and visits. Everyone who help Richie are truly gifted, fabulous people. Jack, the volunteer from Hospice, gave to Richie just like he was family. Richie loved giving and in return he was so loved. His niece Michelle was called on a Sunday and was out the door in 25 minutes to catch a flight from San Francisco to be with her Uncle Richie. She cooked, cleaned and watched over him and her gentleness was such a blessing. His friend Claudia was called off her duties in the ICU in California with a frantic call from Susie. She was there for Richie and Susie the very next morning. Her cheerful humor and professional knowledge guided us through dark times. The week before Christmas Richie and Susie were very homesick, and guess who called to say they were hand delivering their Christmas presents, but Morrie and Kathy, their neighbors from Newbury Park, California. Two people were never hugged more. One morning Richie fell. Terry was on her way to work at Desert Sanitarium Surgery Center. Susie called her and she flipped a “U” and helped put Richie to bed. Barbara, another kind buddy, came over in the middle of the night because Richie just wasn’t doing well. Richie came to work at Spencer’s after he took Susie to The Phoenician on one of the trips to Mesa. He wined and dined her, and finally talked her into moving to Arizona, and they have not regretted it. The Spencer gang, Michelle, Larry, Rick, Nancy, Jim, Mike, Keith, Lenny, Wayne, Dick, and of course Big Don became extended family. After each hospital stay, Richie would stop to see the gang and get hugs and slaps on the back. He would come home with stars in his eyes saying, “they really missed me.” To all of Richie and Susie’s family, friends and acquaintances, Susie would like to express her profound gratitude.
03 March, 2000
Eulogy by Manny Sepulveda
I do not know why life’s cycle chose to give Dick a heart condition that took him away from us so soon. I do not have any biblical passages to help us understand, nor do I have any words of wisdom to help us lose the pain. What I do have that I can share with you are loving memories of my best friend. Defining moments forever locked in the vault of memories of my mind.
The friendship between Dick and I did not depend on being together. It ran much deeper than that. Our closeness was nourished by something inside of us that was always there ready to be shared whenever the need was there. We didn’t have to see each other very much…or write to each other very much…or phone each other very much. We always knew that at any time, we could call, write or see each other ? and everything would be exactly the same. We would understand what each other was saying and everything each other was thinking.
We met in 1973. He was the manager of the appliance department at Montgomery Ward; I was a clerk in sporting goods. One of our first conversations was about the Los Angeles Dodgers and Sandy Koufax, the great Dodger pitcher known for throwing a Hall of Fame curveball. We started a bragging contest about our own ability to play the game. Dick got a baseball, a bat and a glove…recruited another employee to be the catcher and dared me to hit his curveball. This took place on the isle between the two departments inside the store. Having just met the man and having played baseball constantly, I decided to humor him. I was just going to bunt the ball. His pitch was perfect and I froze. I only heard two sounds ? the ball hitting the catcher’s glove and Dick yelling “SUCKER.” It was then that I realized this man could play the game.
On another day we were talking about the military. I was recalling my days in the Army and how I did this and did that. Dick casually picked up a rifle from the gun shop ? said he was a member of the drill team ? and proceeded to twirl the rifle like a baton and perform marching maneuvers in perfect cadence. It was then that I realized this man had pride.
Not long after that I was alone in my department and got busy. Noting it, Dick came over to help. While I was trying to sell a $10 glove, he helped a man who came to buy a pool cue. And in the process sold him a pool table to go along with the pool cue. It was then that I realized this man was a salesman.
As time went by, I found myself with a personal problem, and Dick was there for me ? graciously, almost apologetically, but insistent. It was then that I realized this man was my friend. And for all these years he remained like a brother. Always supportive ? financially and emotionally – respectful and caring, ignoring the fool in me, because that, as he used to say, is what you do with people you love.
Back then Dick was a fashion plate; bold colors, right tie, right color shirt, leather jacket. He always smoked too much and gourmet food to him was a hamburger with fries and lots of salt. He was always seeking stimulating conversation ? food for the soul to improve the mind. He did not have a complicated lifestyle. Given a choice of 31 flavors of ice cream, he would most likely choose vanilla.
As our friendship grew, I learned about his family ? the love for his mother, sisters and brothers ? the fear and respect he had for his father. And throughout the years, to me, he spoke about his family only in terms of endearment.
Character was am important trait. That’s how he measured friends, family and politicians. He would tell me… “When you lose your health, you have lost something…lose your character and you have lost it all.”
Dick was never comfortable surrounded by a lot of people for an extended period of time. He was always eager to retreat to his familiar surroundings where things were organized and neat. To me this was odd because Dick’s personality was radiant ? a chameleon who could mingle and intermingle with the young, the old, and people of different cultures.
He had an entrepreneurial mindset and was a dreamer of ideas that would keep him mentally stimulated and worried at the same time. And he was a terrific communicator ? an ability that made him the best salesman I know. That’s what he did so well ? sell himself, his ideas, his products.
Dick was more prompt to come to you when you had adversity than when you had prosperity. When I was involved in an assault that resulted in injuries, it was Dick I called. He drove many miles to take me to the hospital. And I remember him saying he hoped I got a better swing at the attackers than I did at his curveball. I once got a flat tire on the freeway. I called him. He showed up where I was stranded and had with him the hub cap from the wheel of my car that had fallen off, and he saw on the side of the freeway. He said, ” I just knew this belonged to you.” Any I remember Mr. Robles. Mr. Robles was a sales lead I had who cancelled our appointment three times. On the fourth attempt, Dick got the lead, made the appointment and the call, and sold Mr. Robles a job that cost the company $4,000 for $12,000. He said that it cost Mr. Robles $4,000 for every time he cancelled on me. It became routine for Dick to close sales at high profit margins. We called it ‘Benoit’s luck’.
‘Benoit’s luck’ meant a parking space would open up at a mall as soon as he pulled in; the interest rate would drop when he wanted a mortgage; an item would go on sale when he wanted to buy it; and while Benoit’s luck abandoned him when it came to his health, it reached utopia when he met Susie. I clearly remember the day he told me about her ? in a whisper, like telling me a secret, he said ? “I met someone, she is special.” And right he was. I was thrilled to be the best man at their wedding on February 22, 1981 ? and I still remember my toast. I said “Dick, Susie, in the words of the fairy tale, may you live happily ever after.” And I stand here to tell you those words went from my mouth to God’s ears, because Susie picked up the fragments of his life and made him whole again, and joy was never taken away.
Susie embraced Dick’s kindness and idiosyncrasies, his stubbornness and pride, his desire to be charitable with the ones he loved and his need for privacy. She helped him live the organized life he so cherished. Because of her, in the past few years, he learned to appreciate travel, expanded his circle of friends, and developed a balance between living for the moment and always waiting for tomorrow. And in return, Dick’s life mission was to make Susie happy and Desi a very spoiled dog. He gave Susie respect, financial security and at every opportunity tried to unburden her from daily chores. He embraced her friends and family and encouraged her individuality, while still being a couple. A good day for Dick was Susie nearby, Desi on his lap and a couple of games on TV.
Dick and I never interfered with each other’s course in life, we never gossiped about one another, and we kept each other’s secrets ? that was our bond. But I will say this with certainty, his years with Susie gave him more happiness, peace of mind and serenity than he had every dared to desire. And I can also say this for certain: If a man’s life is judged by how hard he works, how thoughtful he is, his integrity, how much he values the people he loves, on his generosity, and on how sensitive he is to the feelings of others, then Dick’s life was a huge success.
Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship. And while death brings sadness, it can also bring peace and closeness to the ones who have their lives to live ? Dick would want that. He would way that while it is okay to mourn, he would prefer we shared memories, see old friends, heal ourselves and celebrate his life.
A poem I read says “Happy times and bygone days are never lost…In truth, they grow more wonderful within the heart that keeps them.” Our friendship never depended on us being together. We didn’t have to see each other very much, phone each other very much, or write each other very much. And now that he is gone, like in the poem, I can only keep him in my heart. So along with Susie, and the rest of you who loved him, I will keep him in my heart. His memory never to escape the vault of memories of my mind, until I too depart this earth. And when that happens, it is my belief I will see him again. And when I see him, I hope he has a baseball.