I learned Thursday that at age 98 Dick had passed to his heavenly reward. It is both a sad time and a happy time.
I met Dick at a Friday morning Bible study group at Highland Park United Methodist Church. I did my best to be prompt for the 7:00 starting time. Dick, on the other hand, had already taken his morning swim and read five papers before our 7:00 start. The group was small and intimate. We shared much of what was going on in our lives as well as exploring different books and different themes of the Bible. He was wonderfully open and completely engaged. He listened and understood as well as any friend that I have had.
During that time in the Friday Bible study and Sunday HPUMC services, we shared much. There were discussions about finding, reinforcing and growing our Faith… and there were discussions about job loss, suicide and homosexuality among our group. Among many topics, we discovered we were Brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. While he was active in the fraternity matters, he had worked with John Hand who had been president of my Alpha Pi Chapter my senior year.
During that time we also shared books and thoughts on politics. He treated me like a peer. Visits to Billy and Dick’s home and apartment in Dallas and their residence in Austin were structured to have a glass of red wine and discuss the events of the day. To this day they are the model both of hospitality and of a cordial, loving couple. Their openness and selflessness made an indelible mark on my heart. I can only hope that something that I did began to repay their generosity and example.
Both Dick and Billy were wonderfully supportive of my decision to return to school to research and finally earn my PhD in the use of information technologies in business. It was difficult moving from a challenging/well paying position at Dell Computer back to school and teaching full time. I remember them attending a graduation party at Mary Kay Mars’ home. Billy had very recently returned home from painful knee replacement surgery and complications, yet they managed to attend to show their support.
Dick and I also shared our Rotary Club of Dallas involvement. He was the sage, past president. He encouraged me to become more involved. He would save a seat at his table and introduce me to all the special people who would be seated at the table like I was somebody special.
I particularly remember one Easter Sunday when I had picked Billy and Dick up from the Forum to drive them to the HPUMC services so they would not have to worry about parking or walking to the basketball arena where the Easter Sunday Service was conducted (to be sure that all would be able to attend the one, large, Easter Service). They always sat in the fourth row on the right side on the isle. I regularly joined them. On this Easter Sunday, they took their normal place in the seats on the right about half an hour before the scheduled start of the services… and for the next thirty minutes hundreds of attendees paraded up and greeted them personally and warmly. I have never seen greater respect for members of any Congregation than I saw on that Easter. The well-wishers were both the most powerful and the most humble in the community. It was quite apparent that they were, as a couple, a hub of both the Church and the Community.
Every person has a handful of people that in retrospect have shaped their lives. Usually it happens earlier in life, but in some cases it also happens later in life. For me Dick and Billy were a model of love and grace and compassion that leave me with but one question: How could I have been so fortunate to know and love Dick and Billy Rubottom? They touched so many people and in doing so, they filled us with the Spirit of the Lord as few people do.
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