Goodbye Old Friends

On Monday, April 22nd, the RFC lost one old friend and I found out about the passing of another.  They are both on my mind.

During the summer of 1990 my wife Elli and I, along with a small group that evolved into the RFC’s initial Board of Directors, planned to launch our granting fund.  We arranged for a “Kick-off Benefit Concert” that was scheduled to take place in October.  I utilized my national contacts to line up the performers.  Richie Havens was one of the first people I contacted and he graciously agreed to perform for free.

I was so excited to have him in this performance that I insisted on picking him up myself.  I remember that trip well because I had a blow-out while driving to the airport on the interstate.  Fortunately, there was no one in the adjacent lane I veered into.  I was more concerned immediately afterwards about being on time to pick up Richie than I was about narrowly avoiding a serious accident. However, I’d given myself so much leeway that I was still a little early even after changing the tire.

Richie was so down to earth.  He traveled alone, required no special treatment and acted like anyone else, even though his presence did turn a few, mostly younger, heads in the airport lobby.  He wanted to see a little of the countryside, so I drove to Northampton on back roads.  It took a little longer, and I was a bit worried about time since the performance was just a few hours away, but it also suited me since I wasn’t supposed to drive over 50 miles per hour on the temporary spare tire.

Later that evening Richie gave a rousing performance along with Pete Seeger, Jane Sapp and Country Joe MacDonald before a crowd of 2000.  We launched our granting fund with the money we cleared that night and we’ve ridden that momentum ever since.  And Richie Havens remained a member of our Advisory Board until his death yesterday.  We will miss him.

In 1993, we received our first donation from Dr. Hilda Knobloch.  I noted the donation because it was larger than most, and Dr. Knobloch was the first donor we had in Savannah, Georgia (now we have two more).  In 1995, she wrote to ask if we had a charitable gift annuity program.  I chose my words carefully in responding:  “We have the ability to offer our donors a Charitable Gift Annuity.”

Before the turn of year Dr. Knobloch became our first charitable gift annuitant. She funded more gift annuities annually, until she decided she’d rather make outright donations.

Her note also started our correspondence and then regular phone conversations about politics and the efficacy of the work of progressive non-profits.  One incident in our relationship stands out.  We needed to know her birthday in order to set up the annuity.  I surprised her on December 14, 2010 with a phone call to wish her a happy 95th birthday.  I got such a great kick out of her delight.  I was reminded for the umpteenth time how much satisfaction working at the RFC has given me.

I received word yesterday that Dr. Hilda Knobloch died earlier this month at the age of 97.  She was a preeminent child developmental pediatrician and principal student of Arnold Gesell.  She had moved to Savannah when she retired in 1982.  Hilda was a remarkably intelligent person, committed to economic and social justice in general, and improving the lives of children in particular.  She was among the best of her generation.

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