Richard Eric Munske, 72, who died Nov. 26 of acute aggressive leukemia at Winchester Medical Center in Virginia, was, at different times during his life, an engineer, an editor and an electrician.
But those endeavors were only part of who he was. A habitue of Washington's beat scene in the 1950s, he also was a painter who, according to his wife, lived by an aphorism, origin unknown: "The mediocre artist paints his life. The true artist lives his art."
Dick Munske sought to live his art through disparate enthusiasms and often divergent inclinations.
He was born in Brooklyn into a military family. His father was a veteran of the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II, as well as an accountant for the Brooklyn Dodgers and a military governor in postwar Japan.
At his father's insistence, the Brooklyn boy ended up at Texas A&M University, then an all-male, all-military institution. Although the semirural school cultivated his science and math side, he left because it failed to nurture his artistic leanings.
He dropped out, moved to the District and in 1956 received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from American University. He also did graduate work in geology, mathematics and philosophy at American.
In 1956, he took a job as a geophysics aide in the geophysics laboratory of the U.S. Geological Survey, but his energy and passion were devoted to his painting and the District's budding beat scene, the avant-garde cultural movement often associated with writers Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs and poet Allen Ginsberg.
When he wasn't painting large, abstract canvases in the Jackson Pollack style, some of which he sold, he was hanging out at such beatnik gathering places as Tasso's, a coffeehouse near Dupont Circle, and the Coffee 'n' Confusion Club, a Foggy Bottom bistro. In a 1959 Washington Post article, a D.C. police detective described the club on New Hampshire Avenue as "real beat."
It was no liquor and bring your own poetry, the article noted. "You gotta dig 'em," the detective said, describing a scene where beat characters with two-month-old beards sat and discussed literature and politics, listened to poetry readings or played chess. It was Mr. Munske's kind of place.
He also taught at Georgetown Day School for a period and, between 1956 and 1961, worked for several companies as an engineer and a statistician. He was an editor for several trade and technology magazines throughout the 1960s.
Mr. Munske wasn't necessarily a great artist, his wife said, but he had "the flamboyant character of the artist."
She added: "The titles he came up with were often as good as the work itself."
A founding member of Les Amis du Vin, an international society of wine connoisseurs headquartered in Silver Spring, he loved eating and drinking and had a nose for wine and single-malt whiskey. On frequent trips to Scotland, a place he loved, friends often tried to find a whiskey he couldn't identify by taste or aroma. They were rarely, if ever, successful.
He stopped painting in the early 1970s but continued to do wiring and electrical work for the arts community. He also founded Munske Electric in the early 1970s, specializing in renovation work. He retired in 1994.
In addition to his artistic interests, he collected rare books about World War II and other topics. A big, bearded man, he resembled Ernest Hemingway and collected Hemingway first editions. He often did electrical work for Second Story Books and accepted his fee in books.
He lived in Washington until his retirement, when he moved with his wife to a country home in Yellow Spring, W.Va. He also lived for brief periods in Spain and Paris.
His marriages to Karen Munske, Norma Connor and Pat Howell ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 32 years, Roberta Rochford Munske of Yellow Spring; a daughter from his third marriage, Erica Wileman of Bethesda; and two grandchildren.