Heaven gained this keeper of history. I spent some time working with him as volunteers…the few short hours that we spent together left a huge impact on me. You know how sometimes you run across people who make you think…“If I could do and know half of what this person knows….I would…..”
I left the following on his obituary page for his family and friends. I record it here, as well. Richard was a meeting on my path that I know wasn’t a fluke, he has been a part of my journey.
Richard and I worked together on the mounds of photos at the Jefferson County Historical Museum. As he and I sat side by side one afternoon with photographs scattered around us, he walked me through the process of cataloging the photographs. He showed me the files he had started many years ago and he and I worked at bringing them into more current software and filing. We discussed old ways and new ways and combined the two into a workable document. I loved the process of bringing his work into a place where he could see how easy it would be someday for others to look things up. His face lit up when I showed him (theoretically) how the system would work eventually. He knew and I knew that there was a lot of work ahead yet. He was an organizer of his own way and his system made sense to me. He seemed to understand my way as well.
Richard talked about the photos and the people in them as we worked through the numbering and labeling. I loved listening to the stories about the memories the photos would remind him of. We talked of buildings, marching bands and parades, farms, milk bottles and wagon wheels. He taught me how to really look at each photo and to know the person even though I had never met them or their family. While we sorted , part of our conversation one day was about whether or not the photo job would ever get done. He didn’t think it would in his lifetime. I reassured him that I would follow through with what he started. In his gentle way, he laughed and finally said, “One photo, one file at a time.”
One of the last times I talked to him was when he called me on the telephone. We talked about setting a time to get together again, but didn’t pinpoint a date on that day. He did encourage me by telling me that he had noticed how many photos were already put away in the file cabinet. I told him that I had put them in the folders, but the computer work still needed to be done. He laughed and reminded me, “One photo, one file at a time.” Richard told me he would add to the computer files he had already started when he had time. His eyes tired easily and had just settled into his new home and was getting things situated. I laughed and I said, “One box at a time.”
Richard was a kind, soft spoken man who left a part of himself with me in the few conversations we shared about photographs and families of Jefferson County. May each of you, his family members and closest friends feel the warm embrace of God’s love through each of the memories shared throughout this time. Even now, I feel him saying to each of us, “One photo, one file at a time.”
As I think about the promise I made to him, I wonder how on earth I will fulfill that promise in my lifetime. There are literally thousands of photos waiting. I keep thinking I should recruit some history majors at the colleges nearby.