The Eulogy for Richard “Dick” Hunt

11
Oct

Dick Hunt was born on August 30, 1928 in Ithaca, New York, the same year as Mickey Mouse, with whom Dick shared the same irresistible smile.

Dick’s biological father, Richard Manning, was a troubled man with a problem with alcohol, leading Dick’s mother to divorce him when Dick was just a toddler.  When Dick was four his mother married Raymond Hunt, a good, kindhearted man who raised Dick as his own son.  Dick took “Hunt” for his last name when he entered school.  Raymond wonderfully filled the role of father in Dick’s life. Dick remained in touch with his biological father.  Over time Dick had the opportunity to witness Richard find sobriety and straighten out his life, being present at Dick’s wedding to Trudy.

It was a happy childhood that Dick enjoyed, marked by summers spent at the family home on Cayuga Lake, where Dick passed the time swimming, fishing, and row boating.  There was a special space under the porch where  Dick would play with his little soldiers of lead.

 

In September the family would rent a home in town — a different home each year, but always in the same school district.  When Dick was ten his sister Linda was born, for whom he would gave great affection throughout his life.

 

Dick spent a lot of time at the local YMCA where he wrestled and played ping pong.  He collected stamps.  In high school Dick was on the track team, running hurdles and the quarter mile, while performing well enough in his studies to later be accepted into an Ivy league school.

 

Although his parents were not church goers, Dick found his way into the local Methodist Church, invited there by friends to join in the fun at the Methodist Youth Fellowship.  Apparently he sang in the youth choir until his voice changed, at which point they kicked him out.  Nonetheless, Dick signed up for the Pastor’s confirmation class, and from then on would be a blessing to the various local Methodist churches wherever he lived.

 

Upon graduation in 1946, Dick entered the army, serving his country for 18 months as a sergeant in the occupation of Japan following World War II. Following  his discharge in 1948, Dick returned to Ithaca where he enrolled at Cornell.

 

In 1947, following her graduation from high school, Trudy had moved with her parents from Hulton, Maine to Ithaca.  She took a job as a private stenographer at the Gas and Electric Company.  In 1949 Trudy’s friend, Jean and  Dick’s friend, Dick Moore conspired to match the college sophomore with the pretty and petite French Canadian girl, setting them up on a blind date, and they hit it off right from the start.   Their first several dates were a romantic dream of picnics as the young lovers explored together the various swimming spots around Ithaca.

 

At Cornell, Dick was obliged to take a foreign language.  He’d taken German in high school, but didn’t remember much, so Trudy persuaded Dick to try his hand at  French — she would be his tutor.  As the story goes, Trudy came close to getting Dick flunked — her French Canadian dialect was not pleasing to the professor who had been raised in France.  On Christmas Eve of 1949, after attending church together, Dick proposed to Trudy, giving her a Christmas card with a ring taped inside.  Happily, Trudy said yes.

 

Trudy had been raised Roman Catholic, and during their courtship they would go back and forth between the Catholic and Methodist Churches.  The wedding was held on June 17, 1950 in a Roman Catholic Church in Ithaca, followed by a honeymoon in Atlantic City.

 

The newlyweds lived in an apartment in Ithaca while Dick finished college.  Diane was born in June of 1951.  Following graduation in 1952, Dick took a job at Prudential Insurance in Newark, New Jersey, and the young family moved to an apartment on the third floor of a house in Upper Montclair.

 

Dave was born in 1953, and so in need of more space, the growing family bought a house in Old Bride in January of 1954.

 

With a mortgage to meet each month, the family was living on a very tight budget, so when taxes were hiked in Old Bridge, Dick took on extra part time work to support his family.  He took a job on weekends as a night watchman at a plant in Cranberry that lasted for a year and a half.  Before long a third job was found working shifts at a local candy and news stand.  For a year Dick worked all three jobs, barely finding time for sleep.  After giving up the night watchman job, Dick continued to work part time at the candy and news stand for another three years, until a promotion at Prudential made one job sufficient.

 

Dan was born in 1958 and Doug in 1960.  Finally in 1963 Dale, the last of the five Ds, arrived on the scene.  Dick kept busy in what little spare time he could find doing renovations to their house, proving himself to be very handy.  The family became active at the Simpson Methodist Church.

 

Despite putting in long hours bringing home the bacon, Dick found time to be a real “hands on” Dad, reading bedtime stories to his children (endless read throughs of “Winnie the Pooh”), and getting down on the floor to provide piggy back rides for as many as three children at once.   He managed to find time to teach all five of his kids how to ride a bike.  Dick put in his time serving as the cub scout leader for David’s pack, doing the whole pinewood derby routine.

 

In 1964, cramped for space, the family of seven moved two miles away to a larger house in  East Brunswick, remaining active in the Simpson Methodist Church.  In the close knit community of East Brunswick the Hunt family lived contentedly for the next 18 years, forming many special friendships.   1968 marked the one and only year all five of the Hunt kids were in school at the same time:  Dale entered kindergarten while Diane began her senior year of high school.

 

It was a happy family life that Dick and Trudy provided together for their kids.  Their home was a safe haven for the children, as well as for cats, a place where laughter came easily, and where strong values to live by were nurtured and passed on.  Things like:  honesty, generosity, hard work, commitment to family, loyalty, kindness, faith in God, and the capacity to laugh easily at oneself.

 

Dick organized weekend work crews to trim the hedges and other such household chores, but there was lots of fun too:  monopoly in the living room and badmitten and horse shoes in the back yard, where Dick would also man the barbecue grill, serving as “secretary of steak.”  There were crabbing expeditions, trips to the Carvel ice cream shop, a trip to Howe Caverns, and a yearly trip for brunch at the Lobster shanty in Point Pleasant.   Summertime included trips to drive-in movie theaters and as well as to the local carnivals where Dick loved to ride the roller coaster.

 

At Christmastime Dick was passionate about going out and getting the just the right live Christmas tree, and then making sure the tinsel was hung on that tree, strand by strand, just right, and all the presents wrapped just so.   A neighbor would play Santa, and there was lots of food and grandparents visiting; it was  a magical time.

 

During vacations the family would get packed into the car like sardines for long drives to Ithaca or Maine or Delaware to visit grandparents, aunts and uncles, Dick announcing as they set off that, “We’re off in a cloud of cement and a herd of turtles!”  Inevitably patience would get pushed to the limit on those car rides,  evoking the predictable threats from Dad behind the wheel:  “If I have to stop this car you’ll be sorry…” or, “stop that crying or I’ll give you something really to cry about.”

 

In 1982, following Dale’s graduation from high school, Dick, Trudy and Dale moved to Westlake Village outside of Los Angeles in California.  Dick had been transferred there for a short term assignment with Prudential.  After 18 months the family moved back to New Jersey so that Dick could work out of Prudential’s corporate headquarters in Roseland.  During this time of transition, while living out of an efficiency apartment nearby on Rt. 46, Dick and Trudy were charmed by the warm love as well as good hearted fun and laughter they found at the Parsippany United Methodist Church family.  When they moved into their new home in Morristown, they checked out the closer Methodist Churches, but in their minds nothing they visited compared to what they had experienced in Parsippany, and so to our great good fortune, they made Parsippany their church home.

 

After only 18 months in Morristown, however, the demands of Dick’s job required yet another move back to California, where they lived in a lovely house on the side of a hill in Agura Hills.

 

In 1989 Dick retired from Prudential, having worked for the company 37 years, and having risen to the position of vice president in charge of personnel.  Having dealt with a lot of pressure under the weight of his work responsibilities, Dick was ready now to relax and take life a lot slower.  Dick and Trudy moved back east to a house they had earlier built in the Poconos.  In 1991 they sold the house in the Poconos and moved back to the house they owned in Morristown, now vacated by the tenants.  At about the same time they bought a house in Sun City West, Arizona, and began a pattern of yearly migration, spending January through May in the warm sunlight of the southwest, and the remainder of the year here in New Jersey.

 

The long drives between New Jersey and Arizona became a time to explore the sights of our country.  They developed a fascination with the presidential libraries and museums scattered across the land, managing to visit the majority of these sites in the course of their travels.

 

A visit to the Grand Canyon at Eastertime was particularly memorable for Dick and Trudy.  Rising before the sun they gathered in the dark at the rim of the canyon alongside thousands of other unseen pilgrims to greet the rising sun and celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the grave, as an orchestra accompanied the multitudes singing their alleluias.  According to Dick, if a person didn’t believe in God, well the sight and sounds he experienced on that extraordinary morning were so compelling that it would make a believer out of anyone.

 

One of the striking things about Dick has been his quiet faith.  In retirement, a series of challenges to Dick’s health tested that faith; and he withstood the challenges, his faith growing yet stronger.

 

In 1993 Dick was diagnosed with melanoma and successfully treated.  In 1999

Dick was diagnosed with leukemia, and the expectation presented to him at the outset by the doctor was that he would not live beyond two or three years.  On top of this, the initial drug of choice proved to be intolerable for Dick, forcing it to be abandoned.

 

Shortly after the diagnosis a weekly healing prayer group was formed at our church that met every Wednesday morning.  It was specifically called together out of love for Dick, but over the years countless people have been blessed by the grace experienced in this intimate gathering of spiritual friends.  The time spent together in these weekly meetings mixed equal doses of prayer and meditation with laughter and comedy routines.   Particularly entertaining was the weekly banter that would take place between Dick and his Black cousin Fred Coleman.   All of us in the prayer group can testify to the fact that laughter is good for body and soul.   The prayer group continues to meet to this day.

 

In time another drug that was effective in treating leukemia was made available — much earlier than oncologists had expected — seeming, at the time, like an answer to prayer.  For a time Dick was effectively treated with this medication, but eventually he began to suffer the side effect of severe attacks of pancreatitis, forcing him to quit this drug as well, but still he remained in remission.

 

This past August, however, Dick was diagnosed with yet a third kind of cancer, a fast growing cancer of the abdomen, and told by his doctor that he had only two to three months to live.   Though he loved his life in this world, Dick met the news with remarkable serenity.  At this point he had already lived three years beyond what he had initially been told to expect with the leukemia.  He felt a deep gratitude that the sad diagnosis could not take away.  Whether he lived or whether he died, he was determined to trust in the Lord.  (This was Dick’s final gift to us: he modeled for us how to die.)

 

There was no doubt in Dick’s mind that he had lived a blessed life.

 

Throughout these last years of Dick’s life, the extraordinary family that had come forth as a result of that blind date way back in Ithaca in 1949 became all the more precious to him.  The family of five children now included their spouses, six grandchildren, a great grandchild (and one on the way.)  Opportunities to be together with the family became all the more treasured, and there were many.  There was the Christmas celebrated together in 1996 in which the family gathered at an inn in Stoudsmoor, Pennsylvania.  In 2000 the children threw a wonderful surprise 50th anniversary party for their parents aboard a cruise ship that floated around Manhattan.  There were family weddings and the seventy-fifth birthdays of both Dick and Trudy.  How grateful Dick was for these times.

 

Once again, Dick defied the doctors predictions living another good half year of life.  During this time the weekly bowling outings he so enjoyed continued right up to almost a month before his death.  Here at our church we have this great photograph  taken at our Happy Apple Bazaar in October of Dick standing behind the Roast Beef at our dinner taking his turn with the carving knife, wearing his irresistible Mickey Mouse grin.

 

There was an extended visit with his son David from Arizona, who had himself miraculously recovered from a brain aneurysm the previous year.  There was a final good Christmas with everybody gathered together.  Dick felt loved, deeply loved in this world as his life here drew to an end.  You can’t ask for any more from life.