I met Rick Pietschman in 1997. He was the Controller for a national discount book store chain when I was hired into the accounting department. Though he was technically my boss, we became fast friends. I have so many fond memories of him.
I was obsessed with beanie babies back in those days. I’m not sure how I managed to get Rick to jump on the bandwagon with me, but he did. We would sometimes become privy to inside information about a new shipment of beanies, and we’d rush out during our lunch hour to see what we could score. Whereas I just thought beanies were cute and cuddly, Rick was convinced that they would one day make him rich!
Then there were the jokes. Rick got loads of them in his AOL inbox, and he would often share them with me. I still remember his laughter as he told me a not so clean joke about a guy who had taken a trip to Jamaica. The punch line was, “Welcome to Jamaica. Have a nice day!” I have to admit that the joke was hilarious, but Rick’s laughter made it all the better. We laughed so hard that day. The next day when I got to work, I found a slip of paper resting on my keyboard. It said simply, “Welcome to Jamaica. Have a nice day!”
In 1998, I was involved in a car accident on the way to work one morning. Though I wasn’t injured, I was incredibly upset and couldn’t stop crying. I called Rick to tell him what had happened and that I’d be late for work. Within minutes, he was at my side. I’m not sure if I ever told him how much that meant to me, but I have never forgotten it, and I never will.
The following year, I had the opportunity to be there for Rick. For some time, he had been treated unfairly by upper management. And when they terminated his employment one morning, I followed him out the door. Without a moment’s hesitation, I left my job behind. I still remember how incredibly touched he was at my show of friendship and loyalty.
I started a new job a few days later, and Rick moved back to his home state of Florida. We kept in touch by phone and email over the next six years. He often talked of moving back to Tennessee, but never found a suitable job here. The last conversation I had with him was in 2005. I wish I could remember more about it, but I remember only a few things. He was planning a visit to Tennessee and wanted to see me. And when I mentioned that I didn’t know if I’d recognize him, he said that he “still looked the same, but his waistline was bigger.” And then there was the laughter that Rick was so well known for. I will never forget that laugh.
For the past five years, Rick’s whereabouts have been a mystery to me. His phone was disconnected. My emails went unanswered. My Google searches were fruitless. I couldn’t even locate him on MySpace or Facebook. Until a couple of weeks ago. I did another Google search and came across a newspaper article that confirmed my worst fears. Rick was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005.
Rick Pietschman didn’t get rich from his beanie baby investment, but he certainly enriched the lives of all those around him. He didn’t travel to Jamaica, at least not that I know of, but his laugh brought about many nice days. And today, as I mourn this incredible loss, it is my hope that Rick is resting peacefully with our Lord, and that he is aware of just how many lives he touched during his 49 years on this earth.
Goodbye, my friend. You were, are, and will always be, one of the closest friends I have ever known. I will love you always.