On Saturday, July 30, long-time Village resident and community activist Richard “Rich” Wilder passed away. Rich was a former member of the MVF Committee on the Environment and Transportation, Development and Public Facilities Committee, who worked hard to protect Montgomery Village. Even after serving his time as a member of the committees, he dutifully attended almost all meetings—as well as the Montgomery Village Foundation Board of Directors meetings—to stay informed and share his knowledge and insights.
Rich was also a dedicated member of the Friends of Whetstone Lake (F.O.W.L.), where he inspired Village and area youth to care for their community through cleanup service. On cleanup days, he would often be found rowing around the lake, gathering trash and telling stories. Rich’s dedication to the wildlife and environment in the Village helped protect our natural surroundings and keep the community clean for generations of Villagers and wildlife alike.
Rich’s passion for the Village was shared with his wife, Jane. The pair fell in love with Montgomery Village after their first visit, bought a home here and were married under one of the infamous gazebos. Together they actively fought projects that would adversely and negatively impact the community, including the proposed M-83 highway. His technical expertise as a scientist at NIST, and his interest in local government, politics and the environment often provided a unique point of view to hot topics in the county and community.
In the summer months, Rich enjoyed the Summers at South Valley Park concert series, and could often be seen in the front row of most concerts. A lover of all types of music, he encouraged others to attend, and even took it upon himself to help clean the paths in South Valley Park to make it easy for residents to get to the music pavilion. Rich was also always on the lookout for a good story for the Village News.
Rich’s dedication to the Village and the environment, as well as his jovial laugh and commentary at meetings will be missed, but his sentiment will live on.
Tribute from friend, Mark Firley:
To attempt to summarize the life of another person in a limited time and space requires an act of either foly or hubris. When the life is that of a friend and as complex as that of Richard Wilder, one almost begins to despair that one is adequate to the task.
It is tempting at this point to launch into a recitation of life and yes, there are some bare facts that might illustrate: 81 year old male, whose white hair and bearded visage reminds one of William Blake’s painting of God the Great Geometer. A native of Maine, his life course drew him to be a successful consultant engineer to a diverse clientele from NASA to the nuclear navy. A proud and contributing member of the Isaak Walton League, among other conservation groups. He was a significant asset to Transit Alternatives to Midcounty Extended (TAME) and educated himself to the point where he was regarded as a community based expert on stormwater management.
But a curriculum vitae however impressive, misses important aspects of the blessing we took from Rich’s life and work. I ask your indulgence in joining me in a more personal reflection.
I had the blessing of knowing Rich for over three decades, and in that time, we shared many quests from animal rescue to local politics. To be fair , we often started out from quite a distance jbut I can remember being happily surprised to find out how much we could heartily agree
I am going to take a huge risk in finding an adjective that somehow characterizes what I knew of Rich, and if pressed, I would use the single word ‘caring.” Rich truly cared about people, starting with his beloved wife Jane, he cared about his family and friends, he cared about his community and he cared about the world he would leave to future generations. And that caring translated to an almost unbelievable stamina to work for the betterment of the object of his concern.
I do want to touch on that stamina for a moment: for when Rich committed to a cause, he was wholly invested in it: I remember his participation in what on reflection seems a long series of cleanup efforts at Whetstone Lake - If the job was heavy, or smelly or otherwise less than glamorous, Rich was there, powering through it all without regard to “how it looked.”
I sometimes thought of Rich less as a community organizer and civic leader, preferring to think of him as a “force of nature.” For nature was his concern, and the force he brought was taken the distance to accomplish work. I often marveled at his energy and drive, for no matter how seemingly small the need, he gave of his time and energy generously and whole-heartedly. I can remember counting votes in HOA elections, rowing volunteers for the Friends of Whetstone Lake, . His tireless work for the annual “goose count’ nothing was unimportant or beneath effort in his world.
He cared, truly, for his country and the world of which it was a part – He held his politics and the patriotism that both informed and nurtured it closely. For my own part, I was surprised at how often we’d start at what seemed to be poles apart yet managed to come to a respectful and civil agreement. Rich’s sense of fair play was never far from any conversation.
He cared for his beloved Jane, and I had the privilege of his support through some of the trials I’d been through lately, and I remember his unfailing concern for Jane’s peace and well being. In some of those talks we reprised long careers in engineering and found even more in common. What took me somewhat by surprise, though I confess it should not have, that his care for country blossomed into a deeply patriotic outlook, even if our partisan starting points diverged.
We in the community were blessed by his devotion, his tireless effort, and mostly for his caring – his genuine love for the places and people he let into his life. How shall we remember him and the blessings he brought to us? By taking example from his dedication and love of community – we vow, in your name, my fallen brother, to take cause from your works and continue your struggle to create a better place for ourselves and those dear to us – be they our kin or the humblest of God’s creatures.
There is a term in an ancient language of the First Nations peoples – the Oglala Lakota call it Tiospaye – to treat all as extended family. Rich did that for me, and I suspect, for any person or creature that occupied his attention.
May the Great Mystery welcome you home, my brother, and may all those you touched rejoice in memory so that the pain of your passing beyond us is gentled as you worked to gentle our condition. I can only hope I have done your spirit justice.