Opinion Columns & Blogs

Richard, you will be sorely missed

In newsrooms of old, “—30—” let the typesetters slaving away on hell-potted Linotypes in the pressroom know that the story had reached its end.

I make note of this with regard to Richard Palmer, who, after battling a rare form of stomach cancer for the past 11 years, died last week at the age of 64, surrounded by family at his home in Hilo, Hawaii.

Those who were fortunate enough to have come within his orbit — whether through friendship, family, church or journalism — were rewarded with a generosity of humor and spirit tempered by an unerring moral compass that he used wisely and well in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

When his son, Matt, called with the news of his passing, it wasn’t a surprise, seeing as he’d gone under hospice care several days earlier. But a singular thought came to mind when hearing the inevitable: Richard was the kind of person who was so full of life, integrity and well-honed professional skills that, regardless of the situation, when he showed up on the scene, people would think or say: All right, Richard’s here.

We first met when he took the reins of the now-shuttered Sun Bulletin newspaper in Morro Bay after serving a stint as an assistant city editor at The Tribune. The Sun Bulletin gig was a homecoming of sorts for him.

Highly respected newspaperman Jim Hayes, who was teaching journalism at Cal Poly while copy editing at the Telegram-Tribune (and later went on to coach writers at the L.A. Times) remembers Richard in the context of a call he got at Cal Poly from the Sun Bulletin owner in the early ’70s.

The owner/publisher was looking for a photographer and wondered if Hayes had a student up to the challenge. Somehow, Richard heard of the request, raced his motorcycle out to the Sun Bulletin and snagged the job before Hayes could give the owner an answer.

In addition to his Sun Bulletin tenure, he worked as the executive director of Morro Bay’s Chamber of Commerce (no doubt cultivating contacts and getting a handle on that community’s political scene) as well as editing and publishing a couple of weekly papers in the Santa Cruz mountains. Most of those details can be found in his obituary in today’s paper.

What you won’t necessarily find in his obit was his love of others. For him, the human comedy was a never-ending source of delight, although his bemusement could be tempered by perplexity as to why we beings do what we do to others, the world and ourselves.

In the final tally, though, he just loved to hear a person’s story (or any type of news, for that matter) and then be the first to blab what he knew.

Yet, where Richard shone while many of us ink-stained wretches haven’t (or don’t) was his singular belief in not hurting others. He could have a wicked sense of humor, but for those of us who knew him, we can’t ever remember him ever — and I mean ever — using his humor as a weapon, unless it was to throw a proverbial pie into his own face.

Hard to say where such a sublime sense of generosity comes from. He adored his parents, who, by all accounts, gave him a strong moral skill set. It was undoubtedly whetted by his religious beliefs, which were centered on the Sermon on the Mount, but kept close to his vest.

Yet if push came to shove, his life and the exuberance of that life, even during his cancer battle, was most likely formed and burnished by the love of his wife, Linda, and his two children, Becky and Matt. His grandchildren — Camden, Logan and Luke — only deepened his embrace of life.

So here’s to you, Richard, a mensch on multiple levels: father, husband, friend and colleague. You’ve earned a “— 30 —.” But as long as those who knew you draw a breath, your life and story will live on. And if we listen real closely in our quiet times of reflection and introspection, perhaps we’ll hear those on the Other Side saying:

All right, Richard’s here.

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com orat 781-7852.