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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Remembering Dick Arikian

dad says:
The world lost a prince today.

You always knew when Dick Arikian was around. He had a way of making himself know. Maybe it was the sound of joking coming from around the corner. Sometimes it was a coworker yelling out, "Security!" More often, it was the sound of Dick's laughter -- a big, booming laugh, which carried like a cannon shot -- that let you know he was already lighting up the day of someone around him.

Dick collapsed this morning with a heart attack. His son Mark and his wife, Jean, were with him. He was 76. He was a damned good man.

He was a product of Taunton, Mass., a sometimes gritty, sometimes struggling former mill city. Those dark days rarely protruded into Dick's view of the world. There was always something to laugh at, someone to share a joke with. There was also always someone he could mentor and help.

Beyond his amazing personality, he was one of the most helpful guys the world has ever known. Somethings weren't his forte -- oh, could he get angry at a computer like you wouldn't believe -- but he was a multitalented guy and one of the most knowledgable people you could ever meet. It wasn't until I read his obituary this afternoon that I'd known he'd been an instructor for much of his six years in the U.S. Air Force. It seems to make sense. He was a teacher, a learner and a helper, all at once.

He also wasn't a slacker. He worked hard constantly -- even when he was playing. He was loyal to his card games, more than could be described. He also had, depending on how you counted, retired some three times but just kept coming back. He was like a bad penny, as the expression goes, except he somehow made people happy on his return haunts. He had a long list of community deeds, too -- all going to show you that he just wouldn't stop working and wouldn't stop trying to help.

Among his retirements he counted work as a newspaper photographer, work as a television camera man, and a career with the Taunton Fire Department, where he ended up as a lieutenant. People matched Dick's judgment with their lives. It's hard to think of someone more deserving of such trust.

I remember one morning I was on my way to interview the valedictorian and salutatorian at Taunton High School when I heard about a house fire nearby on Broadway. I think Dick Arikian was already there. The fire seemed pretty insubstantial; no flames were visible and light puffs of hazy smoke drifting up from the house, slowly. A half-dozen firefighters seemed to be going into the house and out of the house with no sense of urgency. Dick took pictures of them working. He relaxed and chatted for a while -- you could count on him for an easy conversation as much as you could count on hearing that big laugh.

I think he glanced over at the house and said, simply, "It's over." I thought he meant the fire. He meant the house.

It took a few minutes and then seemed to happen all at once. Sheets of flame were engulfing every room, giving each window seemingly a look into hell. The homeowner was reaching for her just-rescued cat when she looked behind the firefighter holding the cat and stopped in shock, noticing that all of a sudden a quiet little smoky thing had turned into a roiling inferno. Dick knew his work.

He also knew people. Me and mom ran into him one morning around the corner at Tooey's. It was a place particular to Taunton: Odd, friendly and somehow weird-but-familiar in its offering of baked beans with most breakfast plates. It was the perfect place to run into Dick. mom had never met him before, but seemed to instantly like him. Neither of us had a clue that he'd paid the waitress for our bill behind our backs before he left. It was just another little offering of help from a man known for always helping. He made another friend.

It's odd: You can search the Internet for a man who worked several jobs for 50 years and find few references to Dick Arikian. A man who contributed so much, who helped so much, who did so much, who made such a mark on the town he'd just about always called home -- has little of a mark on this big mess of computers we call the Internet. That, somehow, is fitting, too. He never trusted the computers. Never liked 'em. Didn't have much use for 'em. He liked people.

Of the few references to Dick, most point to pictures he took of Taunton itself. He loved the city, and the people of the city loved him back. It was love, and it was well deserved.

9 Comments:

  • When you're on your own, it's very easy to get lost. When you work at the Taunton Gazette, it's very easy to go days at a time without a warm word.

    But not when Dick was around. I always looked forward to seeing him. He'd come over to my desk and have a joke, a smile, a jar of candy, a hug. It made a difference in my life.

    Dick was a man with a big personality, a big laugh, a big heart, but never a big head. He'd do anything for anyone.

    It's been a while since the last time I worked with Dick, but his loss is still tremendous.

    I can't count how many time Dick left the newsroom, asking me "Do you think you can manage without me?"

    And tonight I wonder how the world will.

    By Anonymous Catherine, at 16/8/07 00:25  

  • We're printing a number of his photos along with some memories of him, this is what I wrote:

    "Security!"
    "Hey Lee, ya behavin'?"
    "Never, that's boring!"
    "Good girl. That's what I wanna hear." Which was followed by a booming "HA HA HA!"
    That was the common greeting Dick Arikian got from me when he sauntered into the newsroom after shooting yet another news story that none of us had heard about.
    From the first day I met Dick in 2001, he made me feel like I was one of his kids. He always took care of us, providing us with large tubs of candy or pretzel rods from BJ's, which I always took as a deliberate attempt to sabatoge my diet! One night, a former copy editor and I blamed him when he bought a gallon of root beer from Henry's Root Beer Stand and gave it to the night crew, of which I was a member that night. The two of us claim to have "gotten drunk" off root beer, thanks to him.
    He had an uncanny way of going to an assignment, shooting one or two pictures, and capturing the absolute essence of the assignment with such ease. Whenever someone found out I worked at the paper, the first person they would ask about was Dick. They always referred to him as "that older gentleman." That was followed by, "Boy, does he know his stuff!"
    He sure did. And everyone knew him.
    Working with him was one of the greatest pleasures of my life. I said to my aunt the other day, "He's one of my most favorite people on this planet." And although he couldn't run a computer to save his life, I'll always treasure the knowledge and good times he brought.
    When he left the newsroom, he signed off with, “If you guys can handle things, I’ll be going. Gotta go lose some money at the Elks.” I hope we’ll be able to handle things as we so often assured him we could.
    I have so many great memories of Dick, and they'll forever be a part of my life. I think of Dick, and I smile.
    — Lifestyles Editor Leeanne Hubbard

    By Anonymous Auntie Leeanne, at 16/8/07 13:04  

  • He is in heaven!
    Take care guys,
    Aunt Marselle

    By Anonymous Marselle, at 17/8/07 04:00  

  • I have known 'Rick Adikian', as I named him some years ago, since the mid-60s. At the time, the Gazette was family-owned and really a fun place to work (and play). Reading the other tributes, I really cannot add much, but I do believe that he is the first to have called me Nance, instead of Nancy.

    May you rest in peace, my friend. You will be missed, as you touched peoples' lives with kindness, generosity and humor more than you ever would have imagined, just by being you.

    By Blogger narerozi, at 17/8/07 19:18  

  • Dick Arikian was my Grandfather, we called him "Ja", and after returning to Georgia where I'm going to school I "googled" him and found this blog. It warms my heart to hear all that you have to say about him.

    By Blogger Michaela, at 19/8/07 17:49  

  • Dick Arikian was my Granfather. I loved him very much and I miss him very much.

    By Anonymous sydney arikian, at 20/1/12 23:28  

  • Sydney, I'm sorry for your loss. He was a heck of a good man, and I miss him still.

    A bunch of people who worked with him at the newspaper are still in touch on Facebook. If we can ever help you or your family with anything, please just let us now.

    By Anonymous Mike Stucka, at 21/1/12 01:37  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger MeTheSheeple, at 4/9/15 14:50  

  • I was just looking at some gorgeous wildfire pictures, and thinking Dick Arikian would appreciate the heck outta them.

    By Anonymous Mike Stucka, at 4/9/15 14:51  

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