Yesterday morning, as I was waking up in Monterey (on the final leg of my Westward Ho! vacation), I reached for the phone to see if I had any messages.
I was sad to read (and even sadder to write) that the disappearance of my dear friend Richard Weber has been solved, and not in the way I had hoped. I had hoped that Richard had checked himself into a mental hospital or had been laying low with some non-music friend that none of us knew, but instead it was reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that a body pulled out of the Milwaukee River last Friday had been identified as Richard’s.
I’m chagrined that someone who identifies himself as a pastor at a church at which Richard played said in the comments, “I knew this would happen.” Really? You read of the death of a talented man you knew and the first thing you can write is a smug “I told you so”? Really? Perhaps Richard had demons which I only suspected in the last few years of his life that I attributed to health, aging, and the vicious beating he took in 2007, but is the comments section of a newspaper article really the place to write “I’m sorry to say I knew this would happen”? NO. The remaining balance of his comments were all that needed to be said: “I had known him since 1996. I was pastor at the Church where he played the organ from 1996-1998. Many people were worried about him. My prayers are with his family.”
Anyway, I know that whenever I pull out a piece of music that Richard gave me – and those gifts comprise a large part of my music collection, particularly in my file cabinet of sheet music – and see the words “ex libris Richard Weber,” I will smile and think of him fondly. I’ll think of his quips about organized religion – the elderly Presbyterian congregants at Calvary were “God’s frozen people,” one of my church jobs in DC was at “the National Shrine of the Inaccurate Deception,” and he’d ask me how things were at “Mrs. Paul’s.” And his politics were unabashedly liberal but often peppered with completely politically incorrect commentary that sounded like it came straight from my ultra-conservative father’s mouth.