The Richard Scott Scholarship Fund was formed in 2013 and its purpose is to reach out and support men in exactly the same way Richard Scott reached out and touched countless men at the Minnesota Men’s Conference through the generosity of his kind, powerful and humble presence.
In Remembrance Of Richard Scott – Written by Bruce B. Heller, Los Angeles, CA
Since 2009, I have journeyed three times to the forest beside Sturgeon Lake where I communed with the men I now know as my brothers. Among them was a man named Richard Scott. As a newcomer, I found him intimidating from afar. His appearance was that of a medicine man from a tribe in the American Southwest, and I felt inclined to revere him as an elder. He had the presence, breadth and slow gait of an Ent of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. He wore a thin, braided headband across his forehead and grey mane, walked with a staff, and his face resembled an older Hemingway. Once I was brave enough to approach him, I was surprised to hear the hippie cadence in his voice. He lit up and said “Hey, man!”, as if were old friends. His eyes smiled as if seeing me was the best part of his day.
During an outdoor ceremony on a chilly, drizzling night, I saw Richard huddled under a thick woven blanket nearby. I sat with him, and he offered to share his blanket. His massive hands holding mine, we kept each other warm. I thought that maybe I should use this opportunity to ask him to tell me stories, and to glean from him some wisdom that I imagined would transform my life. But sitting there with him felt like such a gift in itself. Me and an elder, huddled under a blanket, asking nothing of each other but warmth, sharing more than stories: kindness, kinship, connection. Stillness. A mere moment on our journey together. I was the young man hoisted upon the shoulders of Iron John.
Each year Richard brought with him an assortment of knives with hilts he’d made from deer antlers & bones, decorated with rings of cedar, walnut and cherry wood. At the closing of the 2010 Minnesota Men’s Conference, Richard, the eldest man in attendance, gifted one of his knives, sheathed in leather, to the youngest man — 14 years old — as a blessing, a ceremonial passing of our traditions, and a reminder to all that our stories must be carried from generation to generation if they are to endure. His blessing was more profound than we knew: Richard would not join us again at Sturgeon Lake. The following year, his health began to decline.
In early 2012, my struggle with addiction dragged me to a rehab in New Mexico. Upon leaving, I felt the need to reach out to those who had blessed me — those whose presence I’d felt at my back throughout my month in treatment. I sought out Richard Scott who I knew lived in New Mexico. I learned that he’d suffered multiple strokes in the preceding months, and was living at a Veteran’s home nearby. I drove to meet him. His wife had warned me that he might not recognize me due to a gradual onset of dementia. She also gave me a tip: bring him chocolate-covered pretzels.
I found him reclined in a wheelchair in a hallway near his room. He was still an oak, but his shoulders, too broad for his chair, reminded me that such a formidable man just didn’t belong in a wheelchair. Though he had no need for his staff, he still wore his headband. I greeted him and told him who I was and where we’d met. Though I didn’t see recognition in his eyes, he greeted me the same as always in his sandy voice, “Hey, man!” as if he’d just stumbled out of a bus at Woodstock. We sat, ate lunch, and spoke of our lives. I learned of his service in WWII. Like me, he was an artist and teacher. We bonded over that, and I showed him some of my drawings while we munched on chocolate covered pretzels.
I could see that he was mostly there, but not a lot. I still don’t know if he knew me, but that wasn’t important. He was still Richard — gracious, kind, and full of stories. In our time together, I wish I could say that I learned the true meaning of life, or that a crow wearing a crown flew into the window and perched on his knee to tell us a story. Nothing like that. We just shared moments. As men. As brethren. As kindred spirits. We didn’t have to know each other’s names.
Eventually he grew sleepy. I wheeled him back to his room, and helped the nurse lift him into his bed. We sat for a bit. I made sure he knew where I’d stowed the bags of pretzels. As we exchanged a few parting words, I held his massive hand in mine. I pulled his warm woven blanket over him. And waved goodbye. And wept on my way home.
Richard Scott passed away on March 11, 2013. In my Los Angeles apartment, I keep one of Richard’s deer-bone knives within sight. He’s still there, reminding me of why we gather every year by the lake to honor and bless each other as men. So many others knew Richard far better and far longer than I, but no matter. It takes but moments to connect with another in profound ways. I have found many such moments with the wild & wise men by the lake. I know I am not alone in this.
I hope to meet you sometime by the lake. In the spirit of Richard Scott, I will greet you as an old friend, and seeing you there will be the best part my day.
Bruce B. Heller
Los Angeles, CA