I can tell you right up front that my Uncle Richard was like a 2nd father to me and I loved him dearly and will miss him greatly. Some of the very best memories of my childhood & entire life were the times I got to spend with him. My brothers & I grew up in a small farming town near Saginaw and Midland called Freeland. My Uncle Richard lived in a far away “big city” called Lansing and had a hometown called Iron Mountain in an even more magical land called the U.P. So when Uncle Richard came to visit me or, better yet, take me on a trip to Lansing or the U.P. that was a truly magical & wonderful time!
Iron Mountain was completely unlike the flat farmland of Freeland. It was a mystical land of hills & trees & iron mines & had an actual downtown but most of all it had my grandmother’s house & my grandmother. My uncle was a teacher & we always got to travel up with him to spend a few weeks there each summer. The trip was an adventure by itself. First we got to go across the huge Mackinaw Bridge. Then we got to eat at what seemed to me to be exotic gourmet places like the “Big Boy” that we didn’t have at the time in the Saginaw Valley. My Uncle always stopped there on our trip & treated me to double-stacked Burgers & shakes too! Then we got to Iron Mountain. It was a great place for a kid to have fun. We went to parks and lakes and playgrounds and on and on. In the winter, when we went up for Christmas, my grandmother’s house always had a beautifully decorated tree with an angel on top & outdoor lights too. There were special treats and presents from Santa too! Somehow, my Uncle Richard always made sure that Santa always knew exactly what his nephews wanted from the big Sears catalog!
My Uncle Richard showed and taught me much more too than just how to have a good time. He showed me how a man and how a Christian should act. There was no finer an example of a gentleman than him. He always carried himself with class and dignity everywhere he went. He always seemed to be calm, in control, and kind even when the rest of the adults I saw in the world seemed to be prone to bad fits of flipping out. I can remember only one time as a kid ever seeing him get mad. It happened on one really hot summer day when he was out cutting my grandma’s grass and doing trimming. He was working his butt off and me and Glenn were being, well, real butts to put it bluntly. That’s the only time I ever heard him get even really angry and that didn’t last long.
As I grew older, I noticed something else about my Uncle Richard: he always took the time to think of others & be considerate, even deferential, to them. He treated his mother like a saint. He was patient & kind to my own mom. He treated strangers like they mattered even if they had just met that day. He was concerned about the school and the kids he worked for. I noticed all the people in his neighborhood & church seemed to like & respect him too. They all seemed to say nice things about him & his character & work. I was old enough to know that sometimes adults just talked that way because they felt they had too but, when it came to my Uncle, I could tell they actually really meant it. And he gave freely of his time & treasures to others without complaint, kind of like it was how he assumed life was meant to be lived. He thought the best about everyone.
He certainly treated us kids with kindness and respect too. Not like adults, but not like babies and not like we didn’t matter. He was at every birthday, Easter, and Christmas Party for us. He never missed a birthday card; $1 for every year was the standard! Later when I got older and less cute and adorable, he stayed involved in my life. He took me and my brothers to more MSU football, basketball and hockey games than I could count. I really felt like I arrived in the world the day my mom thought it was ok for me to take the Greyhound bus from Saginaw to Lansing for an MSU football game with my Uncle Richard. I remember that trip well. It was way back in the Coach Daryel Rogers’ days with Eddie Smith “the mad bomber” at quarterback. I remember that MSU was playing Miami-OH and was heavily favored but were almost upset. MSU was behind 17-14 late in 4th QTR and I started to cry – the world was ending for me! Uncle Richard said “Don’t worry and don’t cry! It’s just a game and its not over yet!” MSU came back to win 21-17 so the day was saved. I knew Uncle Richard had followed MSU sports very closely and went to most games either to work as a ticket taker or to watch. To my knowledge, he didn’t have any magical influence or power over the outcomes. But on that day, to a sad little kid, he did! To celebrate the big MSU comeback win, we went out for a special Pizza which then became the custom after every game from there on out.
He went to all my “big life moments” as we say these days: as many of my ball games as sanely possible for a man living 100 miles away, band concerts, church confirmations, HS graduations and so on. He was there for them all for me and it was exactly the same way for my brothers. He even took me out to Rock Island, ILL to visit his alma mater Augustana College to when I was looking for a college. He never tried to “steer” me there or tell me what to do in life and always supported my choices with a nice salting of friendly questions and sane advice. His love for me was so unconditional that I think my college choice might have been the only thing that I did that he ever expressed disappointment with. I let him down by selecting the USMA; a vastly inferior choice to “Auggie” to him (especially in football at that time since Augustana was on a streak of 5 straight div III titles in the 80’s). Nevertheless, Uncle Richard drove out to New York to see me often while I was there. When I got married, He accepted my wife Dawn just like she was his niece. He even went to our wedding in Portsmouth Ohio though I am sure he hadn’t ever heard of it. These were my events, but it was the same for my brothers too.
Later, when I had kids, he treated them as if they were very special just like he did me & my brothers. He took my kids to ball games too. And now, not just MSU sports but Lansing Lugnuts games too! The same special care he showed me & my brothers for birthdays, Christmas, etc. he also gave to my kids & even grandkids. He loved all of them deeply & showed it too them as often as he could. One of my yearly family highlights was coming back to MI from whatever military base we were at to go see Uncle Richard. The focus of our visits was always going to dinner with him. That was our special family time with him. And, generous as always, he never let me pick up a dinner check despite my military job allowing me to afford to. He said if I tried, to spend the money on the kids. I finally knew he might have thought that I had finally arrived in life when he finally let me pick up a check at around age 45!
But the best thing of all I think I can say and thank my Uncle Richard for showing me was how to really love others. The very best example I can cite of him doing this was how he took care of my grandmother like he was the “man of the family.” Some of you may already know this, but my grandfather Richard H. Hosking died young back in 1955. So, for the better part of 30-odd years, my Uncle Richard took care of his mother & made sure she was protected & helped. He went up to help her with her house every spring, summer, & Christmas school break. He listened to her and carried out her wishes always as best he could. When he bought a new Ford car (which he did every few years because my grandmother wanted to remain loyal to the company where his father worked), it was like my grandma got a new one too because she got his old one which, if you know my uncle’s habits, was basically like brand new anyways!
Most of all though, my Uncle Richard listened to his mother about Christ. He faithfully took her to a Lutheran church with her nearly every Sunday they were together. Going to worship was an important event too: my grandma in a nice dress, my Uncle Richard in a suit & tie, and we kids wearing nice clothes too. That’s the way my grandma wanted it and my Uncle Richard made sure of it. She also wanted to make sure we grandkids were raised as Christians. My mom had that job. But uncle Richard helped a lot with that too because he knew the importance of faith that comes from hearing of the promises of Jesus spoken. So he bought us bibles, Christian books, & took us to VBS at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Iron Mountain. So I guess this is were I will end it; with a antidote about my uncle’s journey with Christ. He was baptized & he knew hearing those gospel promises made in those waters again & again was faith & life. So he followed the Lord’s voice joyfully. He didn’t berate or badger us kids about belief or church or give lectures. He just followed His Savior’s voice that said “You are mine, your sins are forgiven.”
Yes, my Uncle Richard was very special to me & was what we might consider a “secular saint” or a “prince among men”. But he also knew he was a sinner who needed a savior; that he was a beggar who needed a breadline. So he followed Our Lord’s voice & ate the bread of life all his days on earth. We love you & will miss you Uncle Richard. I love you & I will miss you. Goodbye for now but not goodbye forever. We will meet again!