Monday, April 12, 2010

An Abrupt Goodbye

On Sunday we received some bad news; an old friend of ours passed away. Dick was the owner of Chipman Point Marina, in Orwell, VT—which was where we kept our first boat, Sugar Magnolia.

It was 10 years ago when we first tied up to the dock at Chipman Point and met Dick. He was sitting on the patio at the head of the dock. The patio is still one of my favorite spots in the world; it’s where you can always strike up a conversation with someone, and Dick was always going in and out of the ship’s store. He used to chime into the conversation whenever he walked by.

Dick was an older gentleman. He had a weather-beaten face, bright white hair and matching beard. But he always had a smile on that face. As his health declined later in his life, he tooled around on the marina grounds in a golf cart with artificial sunflowers stuck to the back of it.

From Dick we learned a great deal about boat restoration and about sailing. His tool shop was always open to us, as was his ear when we needed advice. With Dick there were no stupid questions, though he couldn’t promise not to provide a tongue-in-cheek answer. I vividly remember the first time Todd and I sailed to a marina on Lake Champlain and picked up a mooring instead of tying to a dock. At the time Todd was on the foredeck, and reached out to grab the pick up stick floating in the water. He pulled on the stick and retrieved the mooring line. Then he tied some ridiculously complicated Eagle Scout knot, and we slept at mooring for the first time aboard Sugar Magnolia.

The next morning we returned to Chipman Point, and excitedly told Dick about our first night on a mooring. “The only thing that was bad about it was the pick up stick kept smacking into the side of the boat while we slept.”

Dick lowered his voice and said, “You’re supposed to pull the stick onto the deck of the boat to keep that from happening.” And that was so Dick. Sure, he liked to joke around; but he never sought to make you feel stupid.

There are things I didn’t know about Dick until I read the obituary. He was pretty low key about his accomplishments. I knew that he was a machinist, like my father, and that he made tools that violin makers use. What I didn’t know was that he and another man designed and built the world’s first teleprompter. Because of Dick’s ingenuity, public speakers and politicians use that device every single day. Yet, he was so modest and never talked about it.  He was so cool like that.

Thank you, Dick, for all that you’ve taught us. Even though we haven’t been fixtures there for quite a few summers now, thank you for always making us feel welcome. I am trying hard not to be sad, because you wouldn’t want that. But it’s hard not to be. You made Chipman Point one of my favorite places in the world, and without you it’ll never be the same.

We’ll miss you.

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Blogger Taoist Biker said...

Always sad to hear that another good one has left us behind.

May he rest in peace.

April 12, 2010 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Thanks, TB.

We'll go up there in May for his memorial.

The thing is... we're sailing up there this summer and wish we had just one more summer with him, you know?

April 12, 2010 at 3:00 PM  

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