Of course, if you’re only vaguely familiar with Woody Hayes, you know that he was wont to even mention the state of Michigan by name. I thought about that when I received a recent email from East Lansing from a former LCC Thunderbird who’s made quite a name for himself in engineering circles at Michigan State.
The email address came with a dot-edu, so I kind of figured I was getting a smart-guy email. The sender was 1972 graduate Mike Rich. Generally, the emails I receive each week from readers tend to be pretty concise. However, Mike’s was nine fully developed paragraphs, and when I say, “fully developed,” we’re talking about paragraphs north of 100 words apiece, with a couple north of 200 words.
Mike and I occupied the same hallways for all of one year during my senior and his freshman year in ‘69. However, this was at a time when that school off Cable Road had a total enrollment that flirted with 1,000, far different than the less than 300 that walk those same halls today. So, I really wasn’t even aware of him.
One reason Mike’s email was so long is that, in the true spirit of, say, a squirrel gathering acorns a little at a time and storing them for a big meal later, Mike stored his reactions to a number of my recent columns and then spit-balled some thoughts about each over the course of those nine paragraphs.
Mike acknowledged his email was lengthy, saying he had some extra time on his hands as a result of his recent retirement from the world of academia at Michigan State. In self-deprecating fashion, he said his “emeritus” designation may just be a fancy word to make him feel he’d accomplished something more grandiose than merely retiring. However, a quick Google search of his name reveals a plethora of professional achievements.
Following his engineering work at the University of Dayton and with the Air Force at Wright-Patterson, Mike came to MSU and eventually climbed to the position of laboratory manager of the Composite Materials and Structures Center. For his extensive professional accomplishments, he has been inducted into LCC’s Hall of Fame.
Years later, I got to know Mike a little bit during his occasional visits back to Lima when he would stop at the Knights of Columbus hall with his dad, Dick. Those who know the history of Lima’s K of C remember when the hall was located on the corner of Elizabeth and Wayne streets. And, they’ll also remember the great love Dick Rich had for the organization and the countless hours of volunteer work he logged to sustain the council.
So great is Dick’s legacy at the K of C — still an organization here in Lima, although, sadly one without a building when the council was not able to keep up with expenses and the building just south of LCC went to foreclosure a little over a year ago — that a small event room off the bar-and-restaurant side was named the Rich Room and had a placard on the door.
Mike, in rhetorical jest, quipped in his letter, “So how many beers does one have to purchase to have a room named after him in a beer hall?” He then laid a little smart-guy humor on me by saying that number must approach Avogadro’s number. Of course, I Googled the reference, read it and, as I suspected, still didn’t have a clue. In my emailed response, I kidded the smart guy by telling him I thought he was trying to spell “avocado”!
Mike asked me if I could be of any help in his being able to secure that placard as a keepsake, and, of course, I was glad to help. As the owner of my grandfather’s Boston Police Department badge and his gold watch and some items like two US Steel tie clasps and a Cross pen once belonging to my dad, I understand the paternal-connectivity significances of such things, especially after the passing of a father, something Mike had to endure in 2007.
As I finished my emailed response to Mike, ensuring mine approximated his in length and genuine depth of expression, I told him who I was going to contact to get that placard for him. And, in doing so, I kept alive my two-decade-long streak of emailing back every reader that has taken the time to email me, even the occasional ones that are critical or point out a mistake.
And, as I hit “send,” something occurred to me, and that is there is indeed veracity in the proverb that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. I always said about Dick Rich that he was the kind of man you wouldn’t want to be standing beside come Judgment Day when it came to a review of resumes. And I do believe the same could be said about a certain recently retired acorn living in that state up north, the one who could probably talk for an hour or so about that Avogadro fella and his number.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.