From Kathy Runnion.
"My brother wrote this tribute for Lee Richardson, including the photos. I thought some of you might appreciate it:
I recall the dog days of summer and endless days of sitting on a boat while catching huge trout. I was mesmerized by the gentle rock of the water and could spend all day like that, in total peace and quiet, dreaming. Then suddenly: the fight of a big fish!
It just didn’t seem right. I felt guilty for having so much fun.
So if the fish would just let me, I’d have some lunch, then like to feel guilty some more.
I’d eventually have dinner ready on the boat as well, and the day melted along with the sun.
The fishing was so good, I just hated any interruption of it. Any time I felt an urge to come in for a bit, I just promised myself ‘one more cast and I will.’
A cast of thousands then ensued, with each one being that last, promised cast. Sure enough, the light of day passed, then nothing but pitch blackness surrounded me, ruining all my fun. The nightly “lights out” provided by mother nature reminded me of my own mother wagging her finger at me and saying: “tomorrow is another day” as I leaned into the refrigerator for the 16th time.
You never wanted ANY reason to stop, but I guess today just HAD to be postponed for “tomorrow.”
But suddenly I had to deal with an unnerving silence and obvious blindness around me. If you’ve ever taken a night walk in the Sierra, your vision would be about one inch, and Webber was THE example. It got so dark and quiet, I felt like Helen Keller. You suddenly went from being a cool, die-hard fisherman to a lonely dummy sitting in the middle of nowhere surrounded by water, blind, and with a chorus of 200 laughing coyotes that started just for effect, but did not help with anxiety. But hey, I only needed to find Lee’s dock here.
Somebody’s solar-powered lights flickered on at the other end of the lake, and it was a mild comfort to see SOME sign of civilization, but it was no beacon for my cause. I turned around and looked off towards Lee’s campground engulfed somewhere inside the black silhouette of heavy timber on the opposite end of the lake. It was a starless hole, and a bit scary, unlike the clean mountain sky that rested just above the tree line. At least the stars there provided some light.
Yet it was impossible to see the shore, and I wondered where Lee was anyway. I wondered where the hell everybody was for that matter. It seemed no lights were on along the entire north end of the lake, a normally busy camping stretch. I heard a group of people laughing way off in the distance, and I imagined it was Lee making jokes about my situation while plotting a crowd to witness it all.
Man, it was dark. Damn this addiction. Now look at me. I just pulled on the rope, the motor started, and I putted off—taking my chances and hoping I wouldn’t crash the boat or bottom out. Now and then I’d hit a patch of floating weeds that made the motor bog down, but it always kept going, foregoing the inevitable torcher my mind would have perpetrated—that is, being stranded in the middle of a weed patch and maybe having to jump into it to swim back to shore—a group of lucky campers laughing while offering their help. Lee leading them all of course, as we always considered teasing each other in the highest regard and could never pass up an opportunity such as the one my mind just made up.
But like I said: ‘the motor always kept going’ –ALWAYS. Nothing EVER seemed to go wrong when I was at Webber. I did NOT get stuck. Sorry Lee.
So the tiny boat with its beleaguered passenger gurgled along and cut through the darkness, hoping for the best. Every now and then a flicker of lightning sparked off to the right and briefly illuminated the entire lake; but the flash quickly returned black, and the coyotes yelped.
I strained into the void. Suddenly a dim, yellow light flickered somewhere off in that best-guess range of view. The light grew whiter and stronger. I gambled it was Lee and adjusted my steering towards his possible marker. Indeed it was Lee’s pier, and when I finally docked his boat, he emerged somewhere from out of the darkness, stepped up onto the dock, then sauntered along its modest length and to its wobbly end. He picked up his lantern and said: “put a shirt on, we’re going to the McCarthy’s for a shrimp fry.”
The very next night went the same. I came in late, the lantern hissing at the end of the pier, then Lee walked out and said: “put a shirt on, we’re going to Harold and Liesel’s for Lasagna.”
Then the next night came, with the same lantern hissing and sputtering at the end of the pier. “Put on a shirt,” he says. “We’re going to Calpine for prime rib.”
And so it went for 17 straight days before reality finally found me and called me back home; ending my stay in Heaven. I had turned solid red from being on the water at 7000’ during the best part of an otherwise hot, sunny, superb, Sierra summer. The reflection off the water had fried me.
So where is this dream I was just in anyway? Was it real? By whose benevolent hand did I land there?
So I hear now that my aged friend has finally left us. Lee certainly was something. Let’s face it, he was a “father figure” to me for those magical 17 days; and for a successive period of years after; probably as he was to most of us.
As my sister is a long-time Point Reyes resident, I often stopped by to visit Lee when visiting her. I also lived there for a period. He could not get rid of me.
When I knocked, he was always excited to see me. He’d say stuff like: “Good God, I’m going to have to enlarge the damn door.”
Honestly, we’d then spend half the day together.
Now Lee was a bit younger than my true father. But both men seemed cut from a like mold.
Lee and I would sit at a table, drink coffee, and talk for hours before starting our day; just like I did with my own dad. Around lunch we’d finally get out of our pajamas: me to go fishing, and Lee to go off and split thirty cords of wood or something. But it was those long “talks” that solidified our friendship. I learned so much from him and had some things to offer as well.
My own father, still alive at the time, but separated from me by 1000 miles, seemed to be pouring out of Lee in both men’s combined experience as Lee talked. They were so much alike, Listening to Lee was like visiting my own dad. A real “bro-mance” was brewing here, but I was actually starting to love him like I love my own dad—plain and simple.
Even Lee’s mannerisms mimicked my father’s. As interesting and respected as they were, they could sometimes be gruff, caustic, or direct. But underneath all that were those proverbial big hearts. We all knew that about our dads.
You could certainly trust both men. Lee and my father lived through the social norms and historical context of their lives and, as both men were very principled, they applied those principles considered correct for each issue of that time. Virtually every experience is talked about through that lens. And that is what I took from our visits. A wealth of information and help.
These men were storied. They spilled their treasures of knowledge and experience for everyone, for all of us, all along their way like a Spanish galleon with a hole in its bottom. As our two lives passed, Lee loaded me up with his own life, using sarcasms and wit and lots of color along the way—but mainly by spending time and by going on excursions together. He was intelligent, very opinionated, and could certainly be funny. He was a respected teacher and role model to me. My time with him is cherished. My friends who have never met Lee, still know him anyway. The man was a factory for memories, and I will always have mine.
Lee, I am hoping we can hook up again when my time comes.
I’ll be looking for your lantern, old friend.
Love always and happy travels. A piece of you lives strong in me, and always will. I am better and richer for having met you and sharing those experiences uniquely our own. I’ll always remember your laughter, your company, your stories and insights, your friendship, your endless generosity, and the blessing that you were.
Here’s to your life; and oh what a life.
Your friend always,