, Gloucester, MA

September 12, 2013

My View: Nancy's farewell to Richard Gaines

My View
Nancy Gaines

---- — As I get ready to lock the door behind me and drive down the gravel lane away from Quarry Street, I carry a profound gratitude for the 14 years Richard and I had here, and the people who helped him make these the best years of his life.

Richard lived his hopes and dreams and, yes, battles (he loved them, too) right here. Gloucester was where he found his earliest pleasures, a child at his family summer home on the corner of Atlantic and Moorland in the post-war 1940s.

He frolicked in the ocean, fished from the rocks, hustled hot dogs at Bob’s Clam Shack. He came back in the ‘80s with his babies, the fourth generation of Gaineses’ here, who waddled in the Good Harbor tidal pools and Pebble Beach. He would bring his granddaughter, Anna, here in 2011 to make the fifth.

We had our first “date” on Bass Rocks. His children scattered his ashes there.

The city was where he found the sublime conformation of nature, nurture, cause, work, love, lust and peace that he sought. While he was well-known for his professional exploits, few in town knew the personal Richard — the Paul Bunyan with an ax, Peter Pan with a weed whacker.

He was Davy Crockett with his critters, Henry David Thoreau with his birds, bees and frogs. He talked to them all. He spent hours, days, tending his flower beds. He donned dungaree armor to battle the brambles and save a copse of birches. When we first moved in, he suited up like Space Cowboy to strip each post and beam to its essence. His spirit embued every blessed splinter, every sainted blade of this property, his frontier.

Thank you to the police and rescue squad who rushed here June 9, in response to my hysterical call, coming home from Boston to find Richard dead. Special thanks to Sgt. Sandy MacDonald, who heard the dispatch and raced here because he knew Richard. He had pulled Richard and Times photographer Allegra Boverman from a sand bog a few weeks before. Sandy lent a strong arm to cry and scream on that dreadful day.

Thank you to the thousand or more who sent condolences and remembrances through calls, cards, emails to me, the paper, friends and family. Gratitude to Ray Lamont and Terry Alexander for effort above and beyond with Richard’s write-ups.

Thank you to the 200 who came to the funeral home, many braving one of the worst traffic jams in local memory, taking six hours to get here from Cambridge. Among the famous names and faces from politics and media were representatives of the other world Richard admired: his mechanic, his librarian, childhood friends, his pharmacist.

Thank you to those who sent gorgeous flowers to the house and Greeley’s, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and the wondrous arrangements from the Times and friends at the Eastern Standard restaurant group in Boston. More heartfelt thanks to Cindy Donaldson and Howard Grant of Lahey Health for their hope and charity, the generosity of Lenny Linquata and Peggy O’Neil from the Gloucester House, the comfort of the staff at the Sawyer Free Library, TLC from CVS.

Thanks forever to Nick Parisi, Gordon Baird and Chris Nulty, who maintained the house, land and pool; to Tony Giacalone, a contractor who cares. To U.S. Rep. John Tierney and his aide, Roz Frontiero; to Mayor Carolyn Kirk, Chris Pantano and Max Schenk, all for their valuable help. To U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, who authored a tribute to Richard in the Congressional Record.

The accolades emphasized Richard’s 40-year career as an intense journalist. But the other Richard to remember was the cocky kid of perpetual exuberance, who would stand at the edge of the pool and demand, “Watch how far I can swim underwater!” Or handcraft closet doors, a headboard, a sandy poolside “beach,” a perfect soufflé or Gung Pao, and be a “human jukebox” with his vast collection of rock ‘n’ roll. A man in full.

Then there are thanks-be to Richard’s angels – Pamela Lafreniere of New Bedford, Tina Jackson of Point Judith and Bonnie Brady of Montauk – who surpassed the bonds of friendship, initiating contributions from the fishing community that enabled me to pay my bills, with kind help also from attorney Paul Muniz.

Dozens of donations came from all over the coast, from people I never knew or met. A thousand dollars from a New Bedford business, $200 from a retired Cape Cod captain, $50 from a local lobsterman – such is the kindness of strangers.

Richard and I had 25 exhilarating years of marriage, plus 13 more of friendship before that. The memories are many, some too bittersweet to bear. So I will think of him at his most gleeful, cavorting in the chilly surf of Good Harbor Beach.

Despite a body that suffered sorely from the cold, Richard was out there every spring and fall. He made it this May, too — flinging his arms and leaping like the happy manchild he was, wave after wave after precious wave.

From all of us, swim on, sweet prince.

Nancy Gaines is a Times correspondent and a longtime journalist who has worked as a writer and editor with several Boston and national publications.