As we mourn the passing of our dear friend Dick Wesley, this page provides the opportunity to share memories and celebrate his life. Please submit your own memory to be added to this list by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Richard B. Wesley was born and raised in Texas. He attended Rice University and Johns Hopkins Medical School, and completed a fellowship in pulmonary medicine at the University of Washington Medical Center. He then began a 28 year career in pulmonary medicine and critical care in Bremerton, Washington. He returned to Seattle after retiring from practice.
Dr. Wesley was also a tremendous friend and supporter of the University of Washington. During his retirement, Wesley began taking courses in the Access program. A growing interest and engagement with academic work on campus led to a variety of collaborations with faculty and graduate students in several different departments. He was an engaged student in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses, and an incisive but always supportive interlocutor in discussions of research with faculty and graduate students. Dick was full of ideas about how to help foster a vibrant intellectual community on campus, and wanted very much to help to make the world a better place.
A memorial service on campus is Saturday, January 10, 2015 at 2pm in University of Washington Kane Hall, Room 210. A reception follows at 3pm in the Walker Ames Room (Kane 225).
Donations can be given to the Richard Wesley Memorial Fund. The link is:
Memories of Richard B. (Dick) Wesley
I encountered Dick when he enrolled in my American Foreign Policy class in 2007.
Although he was an Access student, he turned in all the course assignments, and actively participated in group projects, including in-class presentations. I was impressed by not only the knowledge, but also by the sincerity and enthusiasm which he brought to every class. In subsequent years, he took several other classes I offered, including a fairly demanding doctoral seminar.
I have seldom encountered an individual who has such a thirst for knowledge. His presence always reminded me of the broader purpose of my professional pursuits. His generosity was instrumental in the establishment of the Center for Environmental Politics.
Over the last 7 years, our family got to know Dick and Virginia on a personal level as well. Dinners at their house were always a wonderful experience; of course the food was great but the conversations were most stimulating as well. He was a gracious host; always taking the time to engage with my son, Alexander (now 13 years), suggesting interesting books and articles, and conversing with him on a range of issues.
We will miss him a lot. We will miss his intellectual persona, his curiosity, and above all his mischievous smile and the infectious laughter. I feel enormously privileged to have had the opportunity to know this wonderful and generous individual.
Aseem Prakash, Professor of Political Science and Walker Family Professor for the College of Arts and Sciences
Dick was a great friend, mentor, and role model to me, and I am glad that he lived his life exactly as the way he wished.
Xiao Ma, PhD student, UW Political Science
My husband and I had the distinct pleasure of being dinner guests in Dick and Virginia's home on a couple of occasions. Their hospitality was warm and welcoming, creating a fantastic space for wide-ranging discussions. Dick's moral, intellectual, and financial support for the department, and in particular for graduate students, has been remarkable. He will be greatly missed.
Nora Williams, PhD student, UW Political Science
I first met Dick during my final year in Seattle before graduating from the PhD program, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know him during this time. He was an inspiring person and I admired him in so many ways. For starters, I loved the fact that, after retiring from his medical career, he decided to throw himself back into an entirely new field of study. He loved the challenge of confronting new ideas and was totally at ease with playing the role of student again. I think I can speak for all my fellow graduate students in saying that he really helped to restore some of the enthusiasm for the study of political science that had naturally begun to fade as we advanced through the program. Talking to him about our work made it seem so much more relevant and exciting again. We all appreciated how committed he was to playing a role in the intellectual and social life of the department - whether that was through attending seminars, supporting students at their practice job talks, or attending the regular UWISC receptions at Jon and Beth's house. And, of course, he quietly made a hugely important contribution to the department through his very generous financial support for the work of graduate students.
On a more personal level, I would say that my interactions with Dick had a profound impact on the way I think about aging and how people cope with illness. I remember coming away from a lovely dinner party at Dick and Virginia's house and talking for some time afterwards about what a truly inspiring person he is. What really sticks in my mind was how, when a young child of one of the dinner guests was curious to know more about how Dick's wheelchair worked, Dick took such great lengths to patiently answer his questions and to try to make him and everyone else in the room feel at ease with discussing the disabilities he was having to deal with at that time. It was a touching moment, and one that speaks to the wonderful dignity with which Dick confronted his illness.
Dick will of course be sadly missed, but as far as the UW community is concerned, his legacy will continue to live on through the impact he has had on the lives of so many of the department's graduate students and faculty.
Brian Greenhill, Assistant Professor of Government, Dartmouth University. PhD University of Washington 2010.
Dick was the most amazing student I have ever met. He did not seeking a degree, yet his quest for knowledge was deep and passionate. Many years ago Dick contacted me out of the blue and suggested I give a talk to a group of his friends. We had a lively evening and vowed to do it again. Soon, Dick and I cooked up the idea of a speaker series: The Citizen Roundtable was born. We organized dozens of talks involving UW faculty and prominent national authors. He was always there, encouraging us to share our knowledge with the community. I remember fondly the times we met at Dick and Virginia's lovely home to discuss timely topics and share the fellowship of ideas. Their salon included family, friends, faculty and students breaking bread, developing social ties and pursuing interesting ideas. I will never forget the moments when Dick found an idea so new or amusing that his face would break out in a big grin that lit up the room. His memory will live on at the Center for Communication & Civic Engagement with the Dick Wesley Undergraduate Fellows program. Thanks for the inspiration, Dick. You were an original. A person of amazing character and joy. Your spirit stays with us.
Lance Bennett, Professor of Political Science UW, Ruddick C. Lawrence Professor of Communication
No one ever taught me half as much about living, or about joy, as Dick. His zest for life and learning, his insatiable curiosity, his ability to bring people and ideas together – was there anyone quite like him? Ever since our chance meeting in the Founders Room before a symphony concert years and years ago (there weren’t quite enough tables – would Jean Ross and I mind sharing with this gentleman?), our friendship has had special meaning and depth. Dick of course also showed us how to end life on one’s own terms, and his leadership in compassion and in choice spread farther and will last longer than even he could guess. He is much missed.
Dr. Nancy Robinson
I came to know Dick through his extensive involvement in courses and support fo the Political Science Department. Many colleagues had told me about “an amazing Access student” who, as others have pointed out, challenged faculty and graduate students about their thinking and who had an incredible thirst for knowledge about politics and economics. As then chair, I soon learned of a number of gifts that Dick made to support individual faculty research efforts and eventually worked with him on gifts to establish several graduate fellowships in the Department.
Three things stood out about Dick’s approach to giving. One was his incredible commitment to bettering opportunities for graduate students. He understood well that a few dollars of research or travel support could make all the difference in pushing along good ideas toward solid publications and careers. Second was the joy of working with him in fashioning endowments — he was always thoughtful in thinking of the right language and responding to comments about finding words that would carry the endowments in perpetuity. Third, and most important, was that none of these gifts were about Dick. They were about the faculty and students. He did not want to draw attention to himself nor did he seek publicity for them.
We all have learned from the courage with which Dick confronted his disease and the zest for learning that became infectious to all around him. His inspiration remains and his legacy is secure in our Department.
We all owe enormous gratitude to Dick. We also owe a special thanks to Virginia in helping Dick pursue his passion for learning and for opening her and Dick’s home on numerous occasions to host graduate students and faculty.
Donald R. Matthews Distinguished Professor of American Politics
Political Science Department Chair 2010-2014
I consider myself extremely fortunate for having known Dick. In the short time that I got to know him, he taught me a whole different way of appreciating life and the value of learning as truly life-long endeavor. I want to share my memory of the last time I saw Dick. Fittingly, it was a seminar where I was a guest-lecturer. After I finished my lecture. Dick was one of the most active participants in the discussion. Obviously, he was very well prepared. The paper I assigned to the class was an article that I had written for a volume to celebrate the work of a colleague who had passed away several years before. Not only had Dick read my piece, he had researched the work of my colleague and noticed the parallels in our research interests and raised these in the most interesting way. He then followed the class discussion with an email message continuing the discussion . I cannot imagine a more fitting last memory of Dick. He was engaged, curious, and fully involved in his studies. Knowing that Dick was interested in what I was doing made my work that much more valuable to me. I will always be grateful to him and will cherish his memory as long as I live.
Professor Resat Kasaba
Stanley D. Golub Endowed Chair
Director Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
I met Dick Wesley while he was still practicing medicine on Bainbridge. Ever the engaged citizen, he was running a symposium for fellow doctors on current issues and had invited Ellis Goldberg and me to make presentations. Ellis will no doubt remember the details, which I confess at this time I don’t, but it doubtless had to do with the Iraq War from international and domestic perspectives.
Over the years, Dick invited me to several of these events, which were always full of intellectual engaged citizens. Diane and I also had occasional but regular dinners with Dick and Virginia. I was astounded that he maintained such an intense interest in civic affairs, and I was even more astounded when he retired from medicine, took a “sabbatical” to Europe, returned to Seattle and
went to school. Indeed, he took my class. And he was a fine student. He actively used the
economics and political science he was learning—displayed in the feisty civic debates he loved so much.
After we moved to Austin, we returned regularly to Seattle (in the summer!) and looked forward to our dinners with Dick and Virginia. They were always so welcoming and eager to engage in stimulating conversation. The last time was in August, when, by stroke of fate, Ellis Goldberg was also there.
Dick, with the amazing Virginia at his side, handled his illness with grace and style (and I do
not for a minute believe it would have been nearly as graceful without Virginia). They are magnificent role models for us all.
It was a true pleasure knowing Dick; he was engaged in the magic of learning about life to the very end.
Bryan D. Jones
J.J. 'Jake' Pickle Regents' Chair in Congressional Studies
Director, Policy Agendas Project
Department of Government
University of Texas at Austin
Dick was an Access student when I TAed Dr. Turner's American Political Thought course in 2009. He came to every single 8:30 quiz section (one of very few who did) and was a wonderful contributor to the conversation. In fact, I think he may have contributed more to the education of his fellow students than I did. His curiosity, generosity of spirit, and openness to questioning his beliefs was powerful to see, particularly in someone who already had a life's worth of experience.
Partially as a result of Dick's generosity to the UW Political Science Department to support faculty and graduate student research, I was able to purchase several books I needed in order to complete my dissertation. As a graduate student laboring on my dissertation, the number of sources seemed to multiply wildly and having to constantly recheck books out of the library or respond to book recalls took precious time away from actually reading the books. Through Dick's support, I was able to purchase dozens of critical texts that I did not need to return. It was a huge help to know that I had and could keep the texts I needed at hand.
In addition to his institutional generosity, though, Dick was just a good man. He listened, he thought hard, he spoke his mind, and he made me - and I suspect each of us - feel like I had something important to say. The world was a better place for his caring presence, and I am sad that he is no longer with us. May he rest in peace, and may we all face our lives and deaths with his verve and presence.
Dr. Heather Pool
Political Science Department
I met Dick more than 15 years ago. I miss his friendship, his wit, and opinions -- he was never without one, although he might try to tease out those of others before stating his.
He was a dedicated and skilled physician, devoting long hours every day to the care of not only his own patients, but also those of his colleagues. He added a nursing home to his responsibilities, and when he was exhausted and having a long recovery from a severe infection, I suggested that he lighten his load, only a small amount by relinquishing the nursing home.
He loved the arts, and looked forward to those weekends when he was not on call, to go into town. He looked forward, in retirement, to enjoying more of the cultural life in Seattle. he always read the book or play before going to a performance. Classical music was a passion.
Once he retired, he tested the water about taking classes through the wonderful program UW has for retirees. Initially he did not know if he would like it, but soon found he was a "natural" and the introductory undergraduate courses gave way to graduate courses and a leadership role. Along the way he made so many friends among the students and faculty. It was so gratifying to him that his opinions, his insights were valued.
His family was always important to him, and in his illness became an important source of support. He was proud of his 4 children, and looked forward to his granddaughter's future.
Whether we talked about parenting, politics (university, local, national, international), economics, medicine, or the arts, conversation and email exchanges with Dick were always a delight. He was a special person, and I am very glad that he touched my life.
Carol Shoshkes Reiss, PhD
Professor, Biology and Neural Science Depts, NYU
I had the distinct honor to have Dr. Wesley in my Economics 423 course: Topics in Applied Financial Economics. The course is a survey course with guest speakers, all practitioners in the field of finance. I oversaw the course and taught a segment on Hedge Funds. From the first day, Dick made a positive impact on the course. He never shied from asking tough questions or engaging in the class dialogue. In doing so, Dick raised the bar for all students spurring them to engage and to challenge their understanding of the finance industry. Dick pursued Economics with a voracious appetite, requesting his homework and exams be graded without undue consideration. It was more than pleasurable to have Dick in the course--he made me a better, more thoughtful instructor. I knew and my guest lecturers came to learn that every class session he would be prepared and ready to challenge us as he challenged himself. Sadly I was traveling and missed a dinner opportunity with him and friends. Dick is missed, yet he left the world a better place. I know I am better person for having known him, albeit briefly.
Larina F Davis, Ph.D.
Former Lecturer, UW Economics and Foster Business School
When Dick took my US Congress course many years ago, he found himself in the middle of a student-run simulation. He joined the Republican caucus, but instead of 'offering his wisdom,' he listened. I didn't know him at the time and thought - who is this man who interacts with undergraduates so respectfully?
John D. Wilkerson
Professor of Political Science
University of Washington
Dick Wesley was a great supporter of higher education and a wonderful human being. He took two classes with me, Econ 201 (around 2005) and then Econ 471 during spring 2013. He was genuinely interested in learning, he contributed to class discussions and was great inspiration for the much younger undergraduate students in those classes. He will be greatly missed.
Principal lecturer in economics
Susan and I met Dick Wesley when we were at Rice University from 1963-1967. Dick and I were both in Weiss College (a dorm) but didn’t spend much time together.
Fast forward to the 21st century. Dick and I hadn’t talked in nearly 40 years. The phone rings. I answer: “Hello.” “John, this is Dick Wesley and I’m calling about Rice University.” Me: “Dick, I wouldn’t give Rice one cent.” Dick: “That’s fine…How are you doing?” And so started an extraordinary friendship with Dick, Virginia, Susan and me.
We visit Seattle regularly. Since the phone call, a high point of our trips has been visiting with Dick and Virginia. Wonderful hosts, they served up warm hospitality, great food, wine, jokes, and lots of laughter. In spite of his illness, Dick was always an active participant: he was alert, had a twinkle in his eye, argued for his opinions, and amused us with his dry sense of humor -- even at our visit last August.
We don’t think Dick missed Texas much, but this part of Texas will definitely miss him.
John and Susan Alexander, Austin, Texas
I am privileged to have met Dick and been his friend. He was generous and humble to a fault. He was also very intellectually curious and knowledgeable. He devoured books, articles, and data with reckless abandon, and was interested in topics that spanned politics science, history, and economics. We spent countless hours talking about ideas and world events in my office and at his home, and I learned a heck of a lot during those conversations; they always left me hungering for more. I am very grateful for that. I hope to honor his memory by finding ways to champion his many intellectual interests.
Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Washington
Soon after moving to Kitsap County in July, 1980 to establish a community cancer treatment program I had the pleasure of meeting a very bright young pulmonologist named Dick Wesley. We became good friends quickly and for many years worked closely together. For a while we even shared weekend call duty. Later we also served for several years on the board of directors of a local prepaid health insurance plan. I saw Dick in many roles but he was consistently acknowledged as a bright, dedicated physician with tireless energy and a down-to-earth wit. He set a very high bar for all around him. He pioneered a lot of the technology in our ICU that we now accept as routine. All of his former physician colleagues will admit that he left our hospital and our community much better off than he originally found it. I now hope that he has found peace.
Ronald R. Reimer, M.D.
What I cherished most about Dick was that during my caregiving work with him, he was always looking at the big picture, accommodating as many people as possible, and using his sharp intellect to find creative solutions to the problems he encountered. As you might imagine, plenty of problems arouse in his struggles with ALS.
Dick had a heart of gold. One summer morning I was sharing some entries with him from my gratitude journal and he surprised me by replying "Brad, I've got something to share with you as well: I'm sorry, please forgive me, thankyou, I love you" Although I wasn't with him at his time of death, these humble and heartfelt words moved me deeply and will always be his last words to me.
I had the honor of teaching Dick when he joined my class on the Government and Politics of China. He fully embraced the subject matter, read widely, and asked penetrating questions. He was incredibly supportive of me as a then-single parent, continuing to pursue field work in China, where my oldest son and I spent time in Nanjing and Shanghai collecting data on law and development through court records and firm interviews in 2002-3 and 2004. Dick both contributed to and took full advantage of the intellectual life of the department, attending seminars and hosting lively dinners where the conversation ranged from international relations to local politics. His approach to life was and is inspiring; he listening, learned, engaged, and contributed, all with the true spirit of intellectual curiosity and openness.
I suppose every high school class has its "brain," and Dick was certainly the brain of Beaumont High School, class of 1963. He was, however, singularly lacking in vanity or arrogance, a congenial classmate, a "normal guy." In fact, he may have been too much of a normal Texas guy: he played football throughout junior high and high school, and told me a few years ago that he did not dismiss the idea that football may have caused his ALS. After high school, he told me he had retained no interest whatsoever in any sport at any level. If so, it was one of the few things that did not interest this dedicated polymath. Over the past 6 years, we corresponded about politics, foreign affairs, economics, art, literature. social issues...and our mutual antipathy toward our Texas roots. Ironically, however, we found that we both retained fond memories of a number of our classmates, and respect for the excellent education we received at Beaumont High. (This was before Texas drove over the cliff politically, and still maintained a first-rate public education system.) I came to realize that Dick was in touch with many more of our classmates than I am. It's not surprising: he was a person no one in the class could ever forget, for whom literally everyone had respect, and whom many would likely try to track down. As a Rice classmate noted in another reminiscence here, he was prepared to engage in conversation without the slightest regard to whether you agreed with him or not...in fact, he seemed more excited when you did not, because it opened up broader areas for discussion. He was unfailingly tolerant of any point of view, although he expected it to be defended.
Dick and I shared some high school classes together, and moved in the same high school social circles, but were never especially close, except for one evening: we double-dated to our senior prom -- I had a blind date arranged by Dick's date, Joanie Amacker -- and, after the dance, he and I spent the night in a tree house in Joanie's back yard. We talked all night, having one of those profound intellectual conversations -- about our philosophies, our values, our life's expectations --that no longer seem possible after adolescence. Although we never saw each other, or communicated, again (until a couple of years ago), that conversation always stayed in my mind.
There's a bitter irony to the way we reconnected six years ago, just before Christmas 2009. I had been told that spots had been seen in an xray of my lungs and was about to pick up the phone to call my pulmonologist to learn the outcome of the biopsies, when my phone rang. It was Dick -- calling 46 years since we had last spoken -- saying he was tracking down some old friendships that might be renewed now that he was retiring and would have more time. It was an amusing coincidence that he was a pulmonologist himself, and he became a wise and reassuring counsel as I went through the ordeal of lung surgery. All turned out well for me, but Dick had told me in one of those first conversations that he was feeling some numbness in his hands that gave him some concern. I believe it was Christmas Eve, six years ago, that he received his diagnosis of ALS, and, sadly, all did not turn out well for him.
In the six years since receiving his diagnosis, we corresponded often and spoke on the phone. In that time, Dick lived more than most people do over 20 years. He returned to his first love -- academics -- and developed a deep affection for the University of Washington, which seems to have recognized what an extraordinary intellect he had and welcomed him with open arms. He wrote me regularly about his love of his classes and his admiration for his classmates and instructors. He shared with me the research he did preparing for a team debate on social conditions in the U;S. His research and preparation were so thorough that I not only pitied his opponents, I also pitied his teammates who could only have been in awe of his intellect and academic skills, and unsure if they could rise to his standard. With Virginia, his constant comfort, he seems to have developed a salon. I teased him that he was the Madame de Stael of Seattle.
I had the good fortune to see Dick once, two-and-a-half years ago, when my daughter moved briefly to Seattle. My daughter, wife and I got to spend an afternoon with Dick...now in a wheel chair, speaking and breathing with the help of a respirator...but so engaging conversationally that his disability receded from our awareness. It's clear that the past six years must have been physically excruciating for Dick, but I never once heard him express pity or regret. He was, of course, angry that this evil illness had settled on him, but his intellectual curiosity, positive spirit and good will never wavered for a second that I saw. He approached the final phase of life -- and indeed, I suspect, his whole life -- as a model of what a human being should be.
Director of Field Projects
The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development
New York University
I had the great honor and pleasure of having Dick in four of my classes, one before he contracted ALS and three after. He was usually the best “student” in the class, almost always the most engaged, and he would and could make sure that I (and I assume the other faculty who had Dick in their classrooms) was always on my toes. He wrote critical essays of readings, directed me to interesting things he’d read, and devoted himself to concentrating on the subject at hand, just like it says it is supposed to happen in the professor instruction manual. If he disagreed with me, he let me know, and as we do from our best students, I learned from him, more than he knew. He was a joy to know—in the classroom and socially. His hosting of the UWISC seminar dinners was remarkably generous, and they were always occasions to look forward to with great relish. He listened carefully, and he deserved to be listened to closely—he could be very serious and anxious to make clear a strongly held view, but with a twinkle in his eyes, he would then see humor in almost anything. He had a wonderful laugh; conversing about almost anything with Dick was the highlight of the evening.
We all saw the courage and grace with which Dick faced his ALS, and the grace and care he received from his family and friends. It is hard not to sound trite, but Dick’s courage and determination to continue on with his life after he lost his mobility are deeply inspiring. He showed all he encountered perseverance under the most trying of circumstances. It certainly didn’t stop him from being a commanding figure in a classroom. He must have been a phenomenal doctor.
I am truly sorry that Dick won’t be able to take any more of my classes. He was extraordinarily generous to me in numerous ways, most importantly with his warmth and friendship. I hope to have learned any number of lessons from Dick. I will always treasure the times we shared together.
Dick, I will miss you terribly.
Henry M. Jackson Professor of International Studies
Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington
I met Dick when we were both in the sixth grade in Beaumont, Texas. I immediately recognized he always enjoyed the highest grades among a competitive group of students. We continued as classmates through high school and then on to Rice.
Dick was well-respected and hard-working in high school. One classmate recalls that after football practice, when members of the team were headed home, he would see Dick out with the equipment continuing to practice. He was awarded many class honors in his senior year and was Salutatorian.
After Rice, our paths crossed many years later when I moved to Whidbey Island. About ten years ago, Dick was calling local Rice alumni for annual contributions, and we did a lot of catching up in that one call. I was invited to Virginia and Dick's home several times. From that, over the years, visiting classmates and I would get together at Dick's, laughing over the BHS '63 yearbook and telling lots of stories with Dick presiding over the conversation. His eyes would sparkle as he orchestrated lively, animated discussions. Other classmates corresponded with him through email and Skype. Dick was quite interested in re-connecting, and knew many details about the lives of each.
Classmates also recognized how supportive Virginia was of Dick's friends, and how attentive she was to his needs. We thought it a wonderful match, and were delighted to get to know her too.
Dick liked chocolate chip cookies. It became our joke, and whenever I went to visit, he always got more. He was a joyful example of living life fully, appreciating people and ideas, and bringing out the best in others. He was a beloved member the Class of '63.
Whidbey Island, WA
BHS '63, Rice '67
I met Dick through Lance Bennett at the Round Table presentations that Dick and Lance organized for the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement, where I had worked with Lance. Dick’s energy and enthusiasm for intellectual discussion in the field of politics was immediately engaging and his warm personality inviting. His eyes always had a sparkle that spread his energy to everyone else. My friend, Adam Eisenberg, belongs to a political discussion dinner group and he has invited me as a guest a few times. I was surprised and delighted to find Dick and Virginia were members of that group. I, in turn, invited Adam to the Round Tables and we all ended up having many wonderful discussions over time as many of the Round Tables became less formal and smaller and moved to Dick and Virginia’s house. Dick often listened for long periods, but he always asked the most interesting questions. I particularly loved how he simply brought such interesting people together, in the fashion of Parisian salons. Dick shared one very amusing story with me that I will always remember. It has nothing to do with politics. It is about that other part of his life – medicine. When he was a pre-med student at Rice University, his professor was able to set up the first use of cadavers for the anatomy classes. Dick explained that the professor had arranged to get bodies from the local morgue. No arrangements for transporting the bodies had been set up, however. So the prof recruited Dick and another student to drive with him in a pick up truck, where they loaded a couple of bodies into the bed of the truck with ice, put a cover over all of it, and drove the bodies to the university! Dick, I will very much miss you.
Faculty, Department of Political Science
Green River Community College
Eulogy on Jan. 10th, 2015 UW
My name is David Wesley and I became Dick's son when he married my mom, Marie.
I met dad when I was 9 years old. A year or so later, he came across one of my school writing assignments and decided to take a look. When he presented the offending manuscript to my mother, I believe he must have said something to the effect of "what the hell is this crap?" And so began a fun new tradition for me: summer school. Followed by enrollment in private school and eventually private college.
I owe dad an immeasurable debt of gratitude for my education, both formal and informal. Before there was an internet, he'd drag out an encyclopedia after dinner, open it at random, imprison us at the table and quiz us on a topic. “So, Dave,” he might say, “tell me about the Byzantine Empire.” Many of you are aware of dad's esteem for learning and his joy at intellectual stimulation, which he carried with him throughout his life. At the same time, a select few of you may have encountered his vigorous impatience with ignorance. Does this phrase sound familiar to anyone besides me? “What are you, stupid?”
What you might not know about Dick was that he was also a prankster. We'd eventually be paroled from those excruciating dinner lessons by a sudden napkin fight, initiated by a cheap shot from dad.
Dad was a gardener and one year, he must have felt self-conscious about the diminutive stature of his carrots. So he drove to the grocery store, bought two enormous carrots with bushy tops, and buried them in the garden. Then he sauntered into the house and announced to Karen and Connor that it was harvest time. They were seven years old at the time and though a little suspicious to see bushy greens appearing in the garden overnight, they dutifully dug where dad directed and to their wonder, each uncovered their own treasure.
I remember their huge smiles and dad's even bigger grin as he encouraged them to pose for the camera, each gleefully holding their carrots above their heads like prized fishing trophies.
I remember when dad first got into gardening. Every year he'd lose control of his rototiller and the garden plot would grow a little larger and the lawn would grow a little smaller.
He also spent years nurturing fruit trees. He'd come home in the evening, pour himself a scotch, and in an echo of his work day, go out on rounds, checking on the health of his orchard.
There are a lot of stories featuring those trees, but a favorite memory of mine comes from the twine he'd string out as guy-wires to support the smaller trees. He'd go wild with those lines, running them all over the place, sometimes right across walking paths … and at neck height.
I'd be out after dark, hurrying up the trail through the orchard with a friend in tow, only to hear gasping and choking behind me as my friend ran afoul of the invisible line I'd just ducked under out of habit. I can't help but think that dad knew what he was doing when he strung up those lines.
If you met dad later in his life, you might not know that he was an avid outdoorsman who loved to hike in the mountains. As an adult, I can now appreciate how much you must love something to be willing to drag sullen children along, just to get out and do it.
I remember huddling with my sister Debbie in wet clothes on cross country skis in the rain, I've heard stories of him carrying Karen's and Connor's packs strapped to his own, and I know Virginia spent one anxious dusk lost with dad on snowshoes in the woods.
But my fondest memory of dad outdoors is when he took me as a teen on a backpacking trip to Mt. Rainier. He introduced me to one of the most beautiful places I've seen. We camped out, just the two of us, in solitary wilderness.
The next day we went on a day hike up a nearby peak. Coming down, we descended a slope that steeply dropped a thousand feet below us. Despite the well-worn trail, the exposure got the better of me and I started crab-walking down the mountain on hands and feet. Catching sight of me prompted one of his classic "what in the hell is wrong with you?" looks as he confidently hiked on.
Yet this memory ends with a vivid image of my dad which I'd like to leave with you:
Dick Wesley, rugged and robust, blowing snot out of one nostril while simultaneously tripping over his own feet, stumbling down the trail.
Thank you for coming today.
And thank you, dad, for everything.