by Gilles d'Aymery
Richard Macintosh (1933-2005)
"Let us dare to read, think, speak and write."
(Swans - June 20, 2005) Richard Macintosh, Swans columnist, friend and counselor, died on June 7, 2005, at St. Joseph's Hospital, Bellingham, Washington, following complications set in after surgery to repair a malfunction of his heart. He was 71.
Richard was one of the most gracious and kindest human beings I've ever met. A teacher at heart, simple, sincere, with a refined mind deeply rooted in classical culture, he walked his journey through life planting seeds of decency and humanness with the deliberate intent of touching one person at a time. From the day our paths met in February of 2003, he provided me guidance and patient advice, supported my efforts, quietly helped me develop Swans' policies, and kept contributing his work in spite of his poor health. His thoughtfulness and sense of measure, as well as his indomitable -- and quite independent -- spirit, which even the Grim Reaper with whom he had had several encounters over many years could not tame, were an inspiration to all who knew him.
Richard was a humble man, very discreet about his past. He was born in Santa Monica, California, in 1933. He attended school in West Los Angeles, graduating from University High School in January 1952. He went on to Stanford University where he received a bachelor's degree in history in 1956. He played football both in High School and at Stanford and coached the game in various capacities for some 35 years, which, as he reminisced in "A Moment Of Truth," paid for his college education -- all the while pursuing a career as a high school teacher.
Some twenty-five years later, in his late forties, he enrolled at Wesleyan University (Middletown, Connecticut) where he graduated with a Master's degree in Liberal Studies. There, he was profoundly influenced by the late Professor Theodore Chadbourne (Chad) Dunham who was teaching European Literature and had been Thomas Mann's translator and companion as well as a friend of Hannah Arendt and Herman Broch. Dunham, in Macintosh's words, "didn't need to act 'big time,' or use his power on his students"; he was grounded, "secure in who he was," and devoted to widen young people's minds through critical thinking. He could care less about riches and laurels. As Richard commented once, "God, how I would hate to be a boot-licker like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. Better to starve."
But Richard Macintosh was starved for knowledge. Even though he kept teaching to high school kids -- "this is the only opportunity you have, but in rare occasions, to awaken a mind...by the time kids get into college, it's already too late..." -- he went back for more: this time, twelve or more years later, to Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah), where he earned a Doctorate of Education (Ed. D.) in Educational Leadership. He was just about 63 years old! By then, he could read the Greek Classics in the text; had found the time to read Marx, Lenin, Engels; could have competed with Charles Marowitz on Shakespeare; but he kept teaching kids...
Paul Stone, one of his former students, wrote that "[Richard] was one of the most popular teachers in our school and I'd like the opportunity to jog his memory about some school events, both at San Marcos and Santa Barbara High."
For fifteen years -- and here is another facet of his personality and free spirit -- as he was teaching in Santa Barbara, California, Richard used to live aboard a ketch, Leonidas, in Santa Barbara harbor. Living aboard grounded him in what was important: "The sense of who one is -- one's 'Being' -- is more important than how much 'stuff' can be possessed. Individuals are compromised by their own greed and then by other individuals who judge them by how much 'stuff' they have acquired. Such thoughtless consumption allows the mean spirited to control us."
For a time, upon his retirement, he and Jacqueline (Jacque), his second wife and companion, operated a bar, the "Loading Chute Saloon," in Creston, California. There, he officiated upon a cook who had been a murderer and had served his time... "What set him off?" wondered Richard in "Walking Wounded." What makes people not walk a life of integrity and probity?
He and Jacque eventually moved on to the Pacific Northwest and settled in Blaine, Washington, where he developed a training program in team-building, whereby a "team member represents the organization in microcosm....each participant accepts personal responsibility for the team's success....and none are powerless" -- a simple concept that I have tried to implement for years (with mixed success). Here again, his mantra was teaching.
Teacher, football coach, boater, bartender, team builder and trainer...in whatever capacity Richard Macintosh functioned, he was a people's person. He kept giving, always stayed in the background, "back-stage," with an underlying optimism, quintessentially American, that time and again over-rode his pessimism -- that the American Republic, built on mythified clay feet, Indian genocide and chattel slavery included -- would progress one person at a time. Like Chalmers Johnson and other scholars, he intrinsically lamented the death of the Republic and dwelled in the Classics to make his points.
Of course, the Republic, like in Rome, was a figment of the imagination -- and like Chalmers Johnson, Richard did not delve into class analysis. Some would find him "wrong" or "naïve." Maybe... But his intent was not...and he did touch one person at a time, including me. The little I knew of him grew into much respect and affection. He was indeed a people's person.
Next week, Richard's ashes will be scattered over the ocean he much loved. A fitting conclusion to a simple and yet much-emulated life...
His memory will perdure.