Joni and I recently lost two friends, each of whom we had known for many years and had been very important to us. On the surface, they were very different: Dick Stroud was an African American artist, teacher, and Aikido master, while Betty Ann Miller was a Jewish philanthropist and spiritual leader. But their similarities ran much deeper.
We met Dick Stroud in the mid-1990s when his son, Ben, joined our son’s class at the Charles River School. I remember being immediately impressed by his intelligence, his genuine curiosity, and the calm demeanor with which he carried himself. He taught me a great deal about striving for inner peace and seeing beauty in the smallest, seemingly insignificant things. Dick passed away in June, and I will miss his humor, his generosity, and that warm, knowing smile with which he approached all things.
In 1997, when Gavin joined the Rashi Middle School, Betty Ann Miller was the first person to greet us and offer help in navigating this new experience. Her commitment to Jewish education was palpable, and she seemingly always did the right thing, both big and small, for others. Never wanting recognition nor accolades, she opened up her heart to us, as she had so often with so many others, and she persistently guided us by example. She died yesterday, and I will miss her spirit, her generosity, and the twinkle in her eyes.
It’s interesting that Dick and Betty Ann were such big-hearted people, because it was their hearts that eventually gave way. They strongly influenced my life and always conducted themselves with grace and dignity. They were the best of us.