William Richard Windes
January 21, 1957 – March 14, 2004
March 20, 2004 By John Rick's Brother-in-Law
We are here today to remember and celebrate Rick’s life and our hope in
his resurrection. There are many ways to remember Rick’s life and many
themes to touch on as we honor him. As with any life, there are sad
,happy, and idiosyncratic events that occur, and when I/we finish
speaking here, we would like all of you to have the opportunity to share
thoughts or anecdotes about Rick. Think of us/me as merely the catalyst
that begins this eulogy.
Rick was born in West Germany. The family returned to live in South
Dakota, Alabama, Oklahoma, California, and Hawaii, all over, but not in
that order. They returned to Germany when Rick and Michele were in high
When I first met the Windes family back in 1976, I heard a lot about
Rick, the swimmer and Rick, National Merit Scholar Finalist. 8th in the
world at 800 m in swimming, a candidate for the Olympic trials while
still a teenager, only to be sidelined by mononucleosis. I thought, yes,
but I run faster than he can swim. All-league in 400 m, and the captain
of the swim team at Santa Monica High. He swam at my high school when I
was there and little did we know that our paths would cross and I would
marry his sister.
When they were kids Rick, Robin, and Michele used to play board games,
usually Stratego or Risk which he won or sometimes Clue which someone
else could occasionally win. And once, proving his
I was told that he pretty much could go to school anywhere he wanted to,
having been accepted at the top schools in the country. He ended up
sampling many of them, as he sought to figure out who he was and what he
wanted to do: North Carolina State, UC Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Georgetown,
Bartending School, and finally, finishing his degree at the University
of San Francisco, where he ended up making his home with Cris.
I was impressed and slightly intimidated, especially when Rick, the
knowledgeable one, began asking me my opinion, maybe less asking and
more orating, on the successes and failures of the Confederate Army at
The battle on Antietam Creek, or the events at Foggy Bottom under
Coronel Mustard on Saturday the 5th of May 1866, or some such date that
the rest of us failed to appreciate . We all have stories of Rick’s
amazing memory and interest in the Civil War, his ability to speak to
any topic with precision and knowledge of the most minute details.
One of my favorite anecdotes on Rick’s ability to talk comes from my
mother. A few years back, when my parents visited Rick and Cris in San
Francisco, they were treated to a show called Beachblanket Babylon and
they went out to dinner in triangularly shaped restaurant. As the meal
arrived, Rick , enthusiastically and characteristically, launched into a
topic on something that required a great deal of explanation. He talked
and talked. The food began to grow cold. Cris waited patiently and Rick
continued on. Finally, with his gentle nature that Michele and I have
come to respect and admire all through Rick’s illness, Cris reached over
to Rick, patted him on the arm and said,” Don’t forget to eat.”
When he was so sick and being treated for diabetes, I thought he was
supposed to watch his diet, eat fruits and vegetables, drink milk, and
go to sleep at eight, but he seemed to eat whatever he could find and he
drank a lot of Coca Cola. I have a picture of him in my mind holding the
door of the refrigerator open, leaning over and evaluating the contents
of the frig for minutes at a time. Deciding, evaluating the pros and
cons of each item. Since he didn’t really have a bedtime, he would often
read until late into the night, or work on the computer, and of course,
he would get hungry and go foraging in the kitchen.
Once upon a time we had a large dog named Jack and we fed Jack dog jerky
from a large Costco bucket that had emblazoned on the side the word
jerky in large letters. As it was late at night and Rick had only one
good eye, he failed to detect the name of the species for which the food
was intended. So in the morning when I went to get a treat for the dog,
I cried out, “ Hey, where’d all the dog jerky go?” Sheepishly, he
admitted that it had tasted pretty good. The story is now legend in our
Rick would travel by air, boat, train, or car. He had this indomitable
spirit and never quit wanting to experience life. We picked him up once
in Dana Point just two years ago in our little 17 foot boat when the
neuropathy had deadened the feeling in his feet. His feet flopped as he
walked onto the dock. Everything bobbed and moved on the water, and
Rick, with staff in hand steadied himself and eased onto the boat. We
motored two very pleasant hours down the coast to Oceanside, stopping
for Rachel to surf and JM to fish on the way back. He was happy with
He worked for the Army as a civilian for many years, and he loved opera.
He was the founder of the Masters Swim team in San Francisco. He skied
using the unique Japanese technique of Akimbo, arms and legs akimbo.
(How someone could swim so well, better than 99.9% of the human race,
and ski with that Japanese style fascinated me. But then I heard that he
fell off the high dive onto the pool deck when he was a kid. That let me
know that he was an athletic mortal.) He was an uncle who cherished his
nieces and nephews. I have fond memories of the children riding on his
shoulders when they were little and he was healthier. He remembered
their birthdays and sent them gifts.
On Robin’s 12th birthday, Rick had left for the US to live in Santa
Monica and swim for a certain coach, the rest of the family was still in
Germany. Bill picked Robin up from school and there was a lovely bouquet
of flowers on the seat for her 12th birthday. The flowers were from
Rick. This was her first bouquet and it was special to receive them from
Rick since he was so far away and they missed him.
He was the protective big brother, once taking the heat as a kid when
his sisters ran away from his supervision.
Rick was tough and fought his ailments for a long time. He suffered from
AIDS, and later had to deal with the loss of feeling in his feet as the
medicines’ life prolonging side effects took their toll. He became blind
in one eye, learned to live with the annoyance of diabetes, and suffered
the withering effects of a liver that stopped doing its job. He
continued to swim when he could, and to provide leadership to the
Tsunami swim team. We thought he was gone many times but he amazed us
all by rallying. He was resilient and he wanted to live.
He took communion last Thursday and found hope in Christ’s resurrection.
As we mourn our loss and remember his life, we will do well to remember
his resiliency, his hope.
When life gets difficult and things are tough, I’ll remember Rick, and
the effort that he made to live and enjoy the gift of life that God gave
Tell me not , in mournful numbers--
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
and things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is EARNEST!
and the grave is not the goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
WAS NOT SPOKEN OF THE SOUL.....