In 1988, as a new kid in Washington and having read William Raspberry’s columns for several years, I called him at his Washington Post office. I told him that I was new in town and found myself in a somewhat precarious situation. I gave him the details and asked if he would help. To my great surprise, he said, “Come on over and have lunch with me.”
I found a true friend that day. We talked long and deep, exploring some of the deep caves of the human experience. Over time, he became my tutor; he helped me understand and navigate the Washington mirages, whirlpools and smoke.
Our friendship was a measure of his character. He was a well-known and respected Washington figure, and I could not help him or hurt him; he did not need to give me anything. But he gave generously and continued to do so for almost a quarter-century.
When I left Washington in 1995, Bill and I stayed in touch. In 1997, he interviewed me for one of his columns. After that, he interviewed me three or four more times. Bill is a primary reason I have been able to succeed as a writer.
Bill was one of the most honest people I ever met. Every spoken or written word that came from Bill Raspberry was true. You could trust it; it came from an honest heart.
The last time I saw him was on Oct. 24, the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Princeton (my dad’s ship). Over a long lunch, Bill and I talked about our fathers. As I told one story about Dad, I wept. Bill’s eyes grew red and he just silently nodded. It was a classic Bill Raspberry moment; pure empathy and deep respect for the secret places. When we parted, he embraced me. I felt a chill in the air as I walked to my car.
A few weeks ago, he stopped replying to e-mails. I knew he was sick; his silence concerned me deeply.
For two weeks I’ve felt like I should call. But I was busy. Now he is gone.
I am forever grateful that this great man’s path crossed through my life. I cherish the deposit Bill left in me, a treasure of his great wisdom, kindness, humor, generosity and genuine care for others.
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