Opinion

Auburn loses a friend who had so many stories to tell | Whale

He often arrived at the Starting Gate Restaurant fresh from a high school baseball, basketball or football game, white cap on head, striped green shirt curving over his protruding belly, khaki pants, tennis shoes.

And during his almost nightly tenure at the restaurant, friends could count on hearing the latest about the local sports scene or the stats of a star athlete or team showing promise.

A fragment from Auburn's colorful history.

And, of course, a story or a joke or 20, a few printable in a family newspaper, many not, from the guy at the counter, second seat from the left, straight on til closing.

Richard St. Pierre, a lifelong resident of Auburn, died April 17 at age 73.

"I'll miss his stories," said Alana Kiourkas, a waitress at the Starting Gate.

All of us who knew him will miss his stories.

Richard knew a lot of people. The Gate was not his only hang out, nor were we who knew him there his only friends. He was a community man, and he belonged to the community. And from what I saw, he tried to stop in for a chat with as much of that community and its people as he could every day.

Always with a baseball cap on his head. Indeed, it almost came as a shock to discover there was an actual top to his head.

Born in 1940, Dick, his sister and his brothers grew up on Meredith Hill between Auburn and Kent. He graduated from Auburn High School in 1959 with a scholarship to study journalism.

For reasons he explained to me but I have since forgotten, he did not pursue the scholarship. Instead, he went to work for Miles Sand and Gravel. He always seemed to me a bit wistful and nostalgic about that scholarship, wondering, as we all do now and then, how things might have gone had he pursued another path.

I have no doubt Richard would have been a very fine sports writer. He was a born reporter.

Maybe that's part of why I got along so well with him. He always made a point of mentioning some piece I'd written for that week's edition of the Auburn Reporter. Not mere courtesy either — he had actually read it.

To me Dick was like a newspaper, carrying himself from place to place, full of the latest news and harmless gossip. Often, he leavened his considerable trove of stories with some bit about the pasts of the people involved. For his sake, coaches like the great Ernie Ames, baseball and basketball players and characters long gone threw on folds of skin and came to life again.

He brought to life for me and others who took the time to listen an Auburn they had never seen or known, until bits of it began to take shape at the outermost boundary of their memories. He talked about places and buildings and watering holes whose life was exhausted long before my eyes opened on the world and of which mere shells remained when I was a little kid. Meredith Grocery, Gallagher's Corner with its mouth watering icy root beers, the Silver Slipper.

He had a lot of stories to tell about Auburn attorney Alva Long, who once before a gaggle of pretentious biddies looking down their long noses at him, flicked out his dentures and used them as an ashtray. How Mr. Long led a campaign that kept parking meters out of Auburn.

Often this living repository of stories pushed me to the newspaper archives of the White River Valley Museum to consult old news clippings that confirmed what he had said.

He was also generous. Seems he was forever providing rides for people, a practice he continued even when they took advantage of his generosity.

In my mind's eye he will always be the small-town fellow, the guy stayed that way long after the town in which he grew up ceased to be small.

Those who knew him, who knew of his love of family, his many friends and of Auburn High School know how much poorer we all are for his loss.

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