Reflections, Ruminations & Refractions
When Richard Redle died March 6, 2015 and was buried March 11, I, like his family and friends filling the Columbus Community Church thought we knew Richard.
He’d been wounded in World War II. But had never received the Purple Heart he’d deserved, even though he gave up his turn after asking the ship doctors to treat the sailors who’d had been wounded and were in worse shape than him.
He’d inhaled burning fuel oil fumes from the ship on which he’d been stationed which had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the cold waters near Alaska and even after medical treatment he would spend the rest of his life living on oxygen bottles and finally being transported in a wheel chair.
But he never lost his humor and many of us were fascinated by his re-telling of his near brush with death by either drowning or burns.
Yet after the war, this small Montana rancher and farmer still grew a large patch of sweet corn and gave it away to friends or folks who needed it more than he.
Richard was one of the first members of the church when I arrived in 1995 to retire in Columbus after 28 years in the diplomatic service. The Congregational Church was and remains a friendly community church in the friendly town of Columbus and with every Sunday’s announcement by Pastor Tracy Heilman that the church still opens its doors to anyone, no matter the race or theological preferences. So I felt very comfortable basking in the glow of warm friends and families who come to the church.
Richard was one of the few authentic heroes I’ve known (the others being a former Turkish commando who’d died while scuba-diving off the coast of western Turkey looking for old amphora. Although it wasn’t legal, Mehmet wanted to donate these clay pots, many of them going back to the fourth century BCE to one of the many small museums whose collections were pitifully small).
The other hero was a Vietnam pilot who’d been shot down over Hanoi and was killed before his plane hit the ground in a ball of fire.
But Richard was still special not only because I’d known and liked him but also because he was the kind of pivotal turning point in life when I didn’t know any home town heroes. So when the service was over and his flag draped coffin was taken to the cemetery, my wife and I remembered the man who we’d known as one of the most humorous and caring men.
Rest in peace, Richard
Dave Grimland is a Columbus resident and former U.S. diplomat, having served as a cultural affairs officer in Athens, Greece, public affairs officer in Nicosia, Cyprus, Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey and Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was also the deputy director of the U.S. Information Office at the embassy in New Delhi, India. His career with the American diplomatic service spanned 28 years