Ruth Bass: Remembering Richard Lipez (Ethiopia)


    Richard Lipez is shown in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the family of Worku Sharew, second from right, a student Lipez and his wife brought to the United States to attend school.


RICHMOND — The Berkshires lost a remarkable man this month, whose life was lived below celebrity radar but who had impact on a wide circle of people, friends and people he never met. Dick Lipez.

College-educated, Peace Corps volunteer, community activist and novelist, Dick had a special, multi-faceted view of life. He wrote a column that was both intellectual and hilarious, emanating from a mind that produced deep thoughts in a readable way, often injected with his unique twists of humor. He could make a reader think and laugh out loud.

Very tall and deep-voiced, Dick was always worth seeking out in a group, just to hear what he had to say about anything on a given day. His Sampler columns — his first writings for The Eagle — started before I worked there and were an editor’s joy. No mistakes, nothing to fix, crisp and thoughtful and often funny.

I still remember one about the couple, written way before anyone talked about helicopter parents, who kept their toddler in a giant Tupperware container to make sure the world didn’t hurt him in any way. One senses that his two talented offspring probably grew up in a less constrictive atmosphere than that.

We were email, Christmas card, casual encounter, longtime friends, and I treasured his support of my writing, actually saving some of his notes. Still, I learned many new facets of Dick’s life from the recent Eagle story and the obituary, both wonderfully written. But I would disagree that his gay detective was perhaps his greatest legacy.

Nothing will last longer than the effect he had on hundreds of people who considered him a friend, plus those he helped to a better life or inspired to think, always without seeking a credit. One notable example was when, with no fanfare, he and his husband, Joe Wheaton, gave a home to a terminally ill man and took care of him through his last days.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her website is



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