Monday, August 29, 2005

Dick Newcomer – Goodbye to a good friend…

Today I attended a Memorial Service for a very good friend of mine, Richard (Dick) Newcomer. He died of apparent Heart failure; this coming a few days after he had surgery to repair a chronic back problem. His heart was suspect; the surgeons had postponed the surgery once already while they ran some tests on his heart to see if it could stand the stress. I guess they didn’t run enough tests because it failed him just a few days after the surgery was complete.

Dick and I were colleagues at the Saudi Investment Bank in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in the 1980’s. I was in charge of the bank’s computer systems while Dick was our Public relations manager.

I think I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone who was more open and friendly than Dick was and certainly there was no one who enjoyed life more than he did. Every day was an adventure for him. He traveled extensively throughout the world and truly enjoyed learning about and living in different cultures. He was fluent in French; a skill that served him well when he was stationed in Francophone Africa. He shared a couple of vacations with my wife and I; one in Egypt and one in the Seychelles. His two children, Jeff and Kelly, joined us for the Egyptian trip. This trip was during the Christmas and New Years Holidays of 1985-1986 and was culminated by the best New Years Eve party I’ve ever attended. It was held on a luxury cruise boat, the “Nile Beauty”, on the Nile River. Dick’s impromptu dance that evening with a Belly Dancer was a highlight of the party and of the trip. After I left Saudi Arabia in 1988, Dick stayed, finishing his career with SABIC (Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation). When I returned to the Kingdom on a consultant basis, I almost always stayed with him at his apartment in Riyadh. We had many fine evenings; talking, watching movies, visiting friends and drinking siddiqi; the local homemade liquor. He returned the favor once; visiting my wife and I in our home in suburban Chicago. Dick and I went to the local liquor store and purchased a bottle of Famous Grouse Scotch - one of Dick's favorites. We spent the evening on our back porch, chatting about old times and polishing off the bottle. I'm not normally a Scotch drinker, but it sure went down fine that evening. I think the company had a lot to do with it...

Several years ago, he retired and returned to America, taking up residence in New Mexico.

A very nice obituary / life story about Dick is posted here. I’d like to add one story, one I shared with all those who attended today’s service.
One morning when I was working at the Saudi Investment Bank, my phone rang. It was Dick telling me that he had been taken to traffic jail and to please find someone to GET HIM THE HELL OUT.

I made sure he was OK and then went looking for our Arab "fixer" at the bank, Sami Arab (great name for a Saudi, yes?). F/Y/I, practically every company in the Kingdom had an Arab "fixer" - the guy you went to when someone was in trouble, or needed a visa right away, etc. Sami was in Aref Fadil's office and they were chatting about something. When I told them that Dick had just called me from traffic jail and wanted someone to come down and get him out, they both dissolved into laughter. I thought Aref was going to pee in his pants he was laughing so hard.

When I talked to Sami later on, he told me they thought they could get Dick out that same day but as I remember it wound up being the next day. Dick's offence? He had made an illegal U-turn at a traffic light. This was an infamous corner, on a hugely overcrowded street, and everybody and their brother used to make illegal U-turns there. Evidently, the police had decided that it was time to begin enforcing the illegal U-turn rule. They had a few squad cars and a bus waiting to nab the unwary. Dick tells me that when he got onto the bus, the others already on it exclaimed "Hey! We got an American!" From that day on, that intersection was known at our bank as "Newcomer corner".

The other funny part of the story was that he had a passenger in the car. This was another American and my very good buddy, a guy who I had recently hired to come and work in Saudi Arabia as a consultant. They had just come from some sports club, I think, and were dressed in swimming trunks or gym shorts or something similar. So Dick went to jail dressed like that. And the passenger? He didn't have a drivers license (not a Saudi Drivers license nor even an American one) and yet the police wanted him to drive the car home.
I loved you Dick and I’m going to miss you very much. I’m going to miss your smile and your sense of humor. I’m going to miss your joie de vivre. I’m going to miss being on your email list – where you shared jokes and insights about the Middle East in general and Saudi Arabia in particular. And I’m going to miss your Christmas letters – letters that my wife and I looked forward to each year. I’m glad I got the chance to renew acquaintances with your children today. I’m glad I was able to meet your grandchild and the rest of your family and some of your friends today; they all loved you too, and were a reflection of you and a life well lived.

Au revoir my friend, and may you Rest in Peace. I hope there is a heaven, for you have surely earned it.

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