|This issue of Richard's comic book, clean dirt, merged his love of comic with his love of dinosaurs.|
From an early age, Richard loved dinosaurs, comic books, and drawing. Our mother saw his artistic talent and made sure that as a child he had art lessons at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Our father would take him most weekends to Geppi's, a local, hole-in-the wall comic book seller: the real deal. I like to think this support and affirmation laid a foundation that helped formed the person Richard became.
|Richard's dinosaurs and sense of humor.|
In 1972, our family moved to Ellicott City, Maryland, to Grosvenor Drive in the brand new neighborhood of Somerset, and there Richard, called Ritchie at the time, made many lifelong friends. His friend David Cooke remembered that on first moving near us (our house faced his block) in 1974, Richard and John came to meet him. Among the first words out of Richard's mouth were: Do you have any comic books?
|Richard is the little boy third from the left in the back row of this fourth-grade photo from Northfield Elementary School.|
In the late 1970s, as both John and Richard began attending Centennial High School, a group formed in the "Menustik basement." My parents gladly allowed all comers into the hangout, thinking how nice it was that kids enjoyed getting together to play games (Dungeons and Dragons) and talk. They had no idea that a party scene flourished in the paneled basement with the brown tiled floor. Life carried on one side of the basement door, in a harvest gold kitchen with classic 1970s dark wood cabinets and a shag-carpeted family room, and life down below, never the twain to meet.
|Richard worked on his zombie dinosaurs all of his adult life.|
Friend Jenny Wall remembered the basement as a place where teenagers found acceptance, friendships and a space to explore who they were becoming. For David Cooke, the basement became a haven, the spot that made a transition to a new neighborhood OK, and probably the reason he stayed in Howard County for the rest of his life. It was a magical and transformative time for the people in the group, young, alive, full of energy, searching for identity, seeking and finding friendships that would last a lifetime.
During this era, John and Richard, who were exceptionally close, and others became avid Frank Zappa fans, attending many, many concerts together. They also began to embrace science fiction, especially Balticon. They loved metal and the then-vibrant Baltimore punk scene. All through this, Richard kept drawing.
|John and Richard on August 1, 2009 at Merriwether Post Pavilion.|
In the early 1980s, Richard attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) for one year, where at least one of his comic strips was published in the school paper. Then, wanting a more robust art program and art scene, and being told by his friend Curt Kronlage that Virginia Commonwealth University was a happening place, he transferred there, completing a bachelor's degree in fine arts. He moved to Baltimore for a few years after graduating, and then back to Richmond, working for M-2 Marketing.
|One of Richard's comics appeared in the Retriever, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County newspaper, in the early 1980s.|
Many friends came up from Richmond for the memorial service and remembered Richard as a mainstay of the Richmond music and arts scene. He sang for a punk rock fusion band called Spooge. His college roommate became part of the metal band Gwar and Richard had some connections with the group. One friend remembered that if friends said they would come out to hear a band perform, Richard was always the one you could count on to really show up--and cheer you along the whole time. Others recalled how important he was to their lives in connecting them with other people in the Richmond art scene--or with like minded people in general. He spent his life building bridges, helping people to find community in an increasingly atomized world.
|Richard worked as an extra in Steven Spielberg's period drama, Lincoln, shot in Richmond, an experience he most enjoyed.|
Richard also continued art projects he had begun in college: a comic book, meticulously hand drawn, called Clean Dirt, and dinosaur illustrations that included zombie dinosaurs and a series called Dinosaurs in Richmond that put dinosaurs in various familiar spots in the city. One friend remembered the day in 1988 Richard threw a copy of Clean Dirt on the Zappa stage during a concert, and Zappa, though not prone to audience interactions, picked it up and read the title aloud.
|One of Richard's Dinosaurs in Richmond series. All his life, he meticulously hand drew his work.|
In spring of 2012, M-2 Marketing closing, Richard moved to Ashton, Maryland, near Howard County, and lived in a rounded silver 1960s trailer on Curt's property. He helped Curt with his landscaping business, worked at Demspey's restaurant and continued with his art. He also made friends and connected with people, and at least one remembered the silver trailer as a second home. Curt and his partner Missy and their two children became a family for Richard.
|Mr. Grindstone was familiar to family and friends, appearing on t-shirts as well as playbills.|
In March 2014, John and Richard visited the Smithsonian Museum's dinosaur collection, familiar to them since earliest childhood, before it closed for a renovation. John described it as a perfect day where the weather was good and every part of the trip went smoothly. As they were leaving, Richard asked when the dinosaur exhibit would reopen: John told him 2019. Richard, as if knowing something was not right, said that he wouldn't be alive to see it.
Richard made a deep impression on my three children, Sophie, Nick and Will. Will and Nick are now metalheads because Richard and John gave them metal CDs--and because of Richard's enthusiasm for all things metal. Will started a metal band at Earlham College called Abdominal Residue that he hopes to resurrect, after having been a semester away in India, as Bog. At the memorial, Sophie remembered staying at John's condo one Christmas season to work at Heavenly Ham, and having a long, solo discussion with Richard in which she felt total acceptance from a person she knew she could count on for support. It became one of those magical moments of connection that come so fleetingly into life. Another friend, Beth Gilbert, noted that she and Richard talked on the phone every week.
|John and Richard in the last week of Richard's life, in hospice. Richard, on morphine, is a little out of it.|
Others, including me, remember a person who never got angry at other people, though he did get angry injustices and the political system. He was an upbeat person who saw the humor in most situations, and one who accepted his death with a courage that I have never before seen. He never once complained. He told people not to mourn his passing because he had lived a good, full life on his own terms. As one person at the memorial put it, he burned his candle brightly and fast. He cared about people more than material possessions. He cared about art more than money. He lived according to his own lights. In a world not overflowing with kindness and compassion, he was one of the rare good souls, never grasping for himself but instead pouring himself out for others.
|Our cousin Susanne, on the left, pictured with her mother, our Aunt Betty, attended the funeral and spread word to our ancestral village of Vrboce in Slovakia about Richard's death. They will say prayers for him there.|
John remembered after the service Richard saying about 20 years ago that he wanted Zappa's "Watermelon in Easter Hay" played at his funeral, so here is hoping for a commemorative listen to his favorite song. A 1988 version can be found at Youtube:https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=B9DqykUsqRY.
|Zappa performs "Watermelon in Easter Hay"|