Who else knew Dick?
Memories of Dick - from Janet Brown
W.B. Yeats wrote: "Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends".
Dick Messalle was such a friend. He was so intelligent and well read that the IQ of everyone was lifted when he was part of the group. He also had such a wonderful sense of humor and a warmth which made one feel accepted and valued.
My friendship has been with Pat, but Dick was an added bonus. Over the years they arranged for me to usher at various theaters with them and took me regularly as their guest to the Quotidian theater, adding a richness to my life I could never repay.
Dick and Pat helped me set up my Little Free Library, supported my grandson's political fund raisers, and even once lit the pilot on my gas water heater.
I used a yard rake from Dick's collection and his orange bow saw, feeling glad to have these tangible reminders. Dick was a most special person.
Carl's Memorial Speech
Thank you everyone for coming. I’m Carl and I’m Richard Messalle’s son.
My sister Renee just spoke a lot about my Dad and beautifully described what a special and unique person he was. I don’t want to stand up here and repeat the same things she said so I’ll try to add a few things.
Obviously everyone here in attendance knew my Dad in some capacity. Everyone here has their own memories of him. Growing up with my Dad, I have a lot of memories that I certainly cherish. It’s impossible to talk about them all but I’m sure some of them you can relate to in some fashion or another. When we lose someone so dear, memories are all we have left; I will hold on to them and treasure them forever.
– I’ll remember my Dad as one of the most voracious readers I’ve ever met; he had an unquenchable thirst to continue learning throughout his life. Renee mentioned all the formal education he had but in addition to that, he always loved reading a book, looking up information or the challenge of just trying to figure something out. That being said, he would always be willing to put down his book and give you all the time you wanted.
– I’ll remember my Dad for being the one of the smartest guys in the room but absolutely never flaunting it.
—I’ll remember my Dad for babysitting my young son Andrew while Andrew’s Mom and I were both active duty in the US Coast Guard and working crazy schedules. My Dad loved taking walks with young Andrew and showing him simple and fun little things such as jumping in a leaf pile or playing under a garden hose in the hot Washington DC summers. I actually think he tried to teach my young son Pythagorean’s Theorem or Ohm’s Law while he fed him in the high chair but I’m thinking it was a bit too much too early for the young lad to digest.
– I’ll remember my Dad for being quiet, kind and patient. He was a good listener. Partially because he was a courteous man but he was also truly curious to hear what you knew about the topic being discussed.
– I’ll remember my Dad for being successful in the stock market but never wanting to “waste money” on a new car or a fancy designer suit. I think he got more satisfaction out of giving to charity vs. himself.
– I’ll remember my Dad cooking the family big breakfasts of eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, pancakes and toast every Sunday morning and taking us all to Church.
-- I’ll remember my Dad doing the dishes and cleaning up after dinner every night; he said if your Mom is going to cook meals for the family, the least I can do is clean up.
– As with most people who suffer the loss of a loved one, I find myself constantly remembering my Dad when little things come up that remind me of my time with him – like changing out an electrical wall outlet, cutting the grass, teaching my son to drive or watching my son do his Math homework or even when I‘m trimming my beard in the mirror.
– I’ll remember my Dad for being a great husband to my Mom. He loved my Mom so much. They spent 55 years together and honestly I probably never really appreciated how much they deeply loved spending time together until I was grown up and out of the house at college…. (of course, me being out of the house may have had just a little to do with them finally enjoying themselves). I truly believe they were meant to be together. I swear, they were like two peas in a pod. They enjoyed the simplest things together like taking walks, holding hands or watching PBS television shows. It really hit home how much they were in love, when my mom recently told me how much she just missed my Dad’s hugs.
– I know I am running out of time but I could go on and on about my sweet memories of my Dad.
My Dad wasn’t a CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. He wasn’t an astronaut that the world watched walk on the moon. He wasn’t a hall of fame athlete. You all probably know he wasn’t the kind of guy who sat in front of the TV all Sunday watching NFL Football or was out all Saturday golfing with the boys. He was an honest, smart and good man who was true to himself and to what he thought was important in life. I wish there were more people like him because the world would be a better place. I wouldn’t change him for anything. I have great memories of my Dad. I love him and I miss him dearly.
Renee's Memorial Speech
Welcome everyone. Thank you so much for coming today. Carl and I wanted to share a few memories about our Dad before the service started.
I wanted to start off by reading this lovely poem that I saw recently.
Train of Life
At birth, we boarded the train of life and met our parents, and we believed that they would always travel by our side. However, at some station, our parents would step down from the train, leaving us on life's journey alone.
As time goes by, some significant people will board the train: siblings, other children, friends, and even the love of our life.
Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum. Others will go so unnoticed that we won't realize that they vacated their seats! This train ride has been a mixture of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.
A successful journey consists of having a good relationship with all passengers, requiring that we give the best of ourselves. The mystery that prevails is that we do not know at which station we ourselves will step down. Thus, we must try to travel along the track of life in the best possible way -- loving, forgiving, giving, and sharing.
When the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty -- we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who continue to travel on the train of life.
And let’s remember to thank our God for giving us life to participate in this wonderful train ride.
I am so glad that I was on my Dad’s train for 51 years. And thanks to those that joined the train at one time or another. His stop and his step down was so very unexpected for us – but he left so many great memories, and we are so grateful he stepped off on a high note!
We have all loved hearing what others thought of my Dad – and am so happy that it was what we knew of him. The prevailing theme – he was such a kind and gentle and smart person. And several people said he was a “Renaissance Man”. And I totally agree – he loved to learn and knew a lot about everything.
He was so happy in his recent move to Greenspring where he had a big office surrounded by at least 1,000 of his books, all in one room. And most importantly my Dad loved math and data. He had a bachelor and master’s degree in Math. He worked for the Navy using his math skills. And in going through things in his office – we saw that my Dad doodled math everywhere. And he did at least a sudoku a day. I have great memories of him helping us as kids with homework, which he enthusiastically did, and especially of course with math. My high school friends even fondly remember his tutoring us in math. After retirement, he even spent many years tutoring various students – even his grandsons. Just recently he helped Brandon and me with some math homework and sent us detailed descriptions and steps to help us. And he was still the volunteer Treasurer for the Four Corners neighborhood association, which he had been doing for many years.
After grad school with his advanced degree in Mathematics, he met my Mom on their first day of work at US Navy, David Taylor Model Basin as they were both trying to find the math lab! My Mom worked there until I was born. And then, when I was looking for a summer job in college, I decided to apply where my Dad worked. This turned out to be the start of my government career as well, and I eventually worked in the same Directorate with my Dad for the summers and then for 7 years after college. It was a great chance for us to know and see each other in different ways, learn what my Dad did at work, have similar co-workers, etc.
After my Dad retired, he had so much fun taking liberal art classes at the community college. He also loved going to see plays with my Mom, so they both ushered at various local theaters for over 30 years. And he even directed and acted in some community theater plays.
Despite my Dad’s quiet demeanor – he definitely had had a wild and adventurous side …. He loved rollercoasters. Even as recent as about 5- 10 years ago, he was still going on roller coasters and rides at Disney and Universal with my husband and niece and Brandon, and even on the water slides at the water parks. When we were younger, he took us on a hot air balloon ride. He loved to bike – biked to work, biked with friends, biked long distance rides of 100 miles, and biked as a family. He did Hang gliding for a while – and even bought one. I remember playing in fields while my Dad would hang glide off of small hills. He even bought a Unicycle.
He also loved science fiction, and he introduced us to Star Wars as kids. And I was able to take my parents to the new Disney Star Wars theme park in February, right before Covid. And I just took him to the movie theater at Thanksgiving to see the new Dune movie, which he loved.
My Dad was always around and involved when we were younger. We always had family dinners, he made breakfast every Sunday (where I was introduced to and then loved scrapple), he washed the dishes every night for my Mom, and was always willing and around to assist us with our school and homework. And then he continued to be present and involved in my life as a grandfather to Brandon, especially since we lived somewhat close by.
He set such a great example for me of what a father and what a spouse should be. And I am so happy that he met the love of his life, and that he and my Mom had such a wonderful marriage of 53 years – best friends - truly soul mates.
In summary, my Dad had a fun life on that train for 79 years, sharing 55 of those years (70% of his life) with my Mom! He left many great memories for me and for others.
Thanks Dad – I love you and you will be missed.
My Memory of Dick Messalle - from Terry Cortese
My strongest memories of Dick Messalle center around the dining table in the house on Harding Drive. This was where I had sleepovers with my best friend, Renée, and had the opportunity to become part of the household routine. Meals were a time when one could plainly observe a certain principle within Dick’s philosophy of parenting: children are adults in training.
Though he never stated it explicitly, this could be felt in the way he listened to his children’s questions and observations and used whatever subject was lighted on to create a lesson in values and conduct. Dick would provide guidance on looking at different people and events through the lens of reason, analyzing cause and effect, rather than reacting emotionally or demanding conformity. This might sound like a dad-habit that made everyone roll their eyes. However, with Dick’s style and delivery, It was anything but.
I remember being questioned by another child at the dining table about why I was holding my fork “upside down” in my left hand while I ate. The tines pointed toward the plate and my index finger rested on their curved converging base. I had seen my father eat this way, and he’d explained to me that he’d picked it up during a year he’d spent in France. Much more comfortable to him as a “southpaw” than the American fork holding protocol, it was also more efficient as there was no need to “switch hands” once you’d finished cutting your food. As a kid, you know why you do things sometimes, but when someone asks you, it seems too embarrassing to explain. So I think I didn’t say much or maybe I mumbled something terse.
But, Dick turned this into a “teachable moment” for all five of the children at his table. It was not only a lesson about tolerating difference, but a lesson about appreciating that difference. He turned his own fork over in his hand to demonstrate… Look how sturdy this makes the fork for cutting a piece of meat or spearing a couple of green beans from your plate! Why you could even shake this fork at a young child who needs a stern talking to, again he demonstrated. I think he had a slight smirk with this last comment, but I am not sure that any of us children caught his humor! As I remember it, we were all listening and watching intently.
Dick’s deep concern for raising all his children to have values that would help them grow to be good and successful people (always in complete partnership with his wife, Pat) is what keeps coming back to me as I turn over memories of him from my childhood. It was not something I fully appreciated or understood at the time. What I did know was that I always felt accepted whenever I was in the Messalle household. Now looking back, I realize I also learned quite a bit about what it takes to be a good parent.
I am very grateful to have had Dick as a role model in my life.
Love to all,
In lieu of flowers
Dick Messalle Memorial - Memories from David Moran
I would like to share some of my memories of Dick with you and your family. He was a very special friend in more ways than just a close professional associate. I will not be able to travel to Silver Spring to attend Dick’s Memorial Service, but I hope that these brief thoughts help to preserve that special character that he gave to all of us.
My earliest recollections of Dick are technical in nature, we first met when I was in the process of transferring into the High-Performance Dynamics Branch and he asked me about the nature of my doctoral dissertation. I showed him my thesis and added that I had gone on to find an exact solution to the problem of ship resistance in a towing tank as a closed series of complex mathematical functions. He came back the next day and told me that he found that my series was divergent. I had known that, but did not expect anyone to look deeply into the work to find that the answer was correct only after one included the rate of decay due to friction of the waves moving along the towing tank wall.
Well, I knew from the start that Dick and I were going to get along excellently in the technical arena. Bear in mind that it only took me 4 years to come up with the conclusion he had realized overnight.
We had a joint love of riding bicycles, and early in our friendship we challenged each other to commute the 13-odd miles between Silver Spring and Carderock. After a couple of weeks of riding this route, we were discovered by one, then two, and then I think up to about 12 fellow bike commuters. Since I lived the farthest from Carderock I started the ride and picked Dick up at his house. We then added riders along the route until we had a true peloton racing down the Rock Cheek Parkway toward the laboratory. We quickly found that the Parkway was owned by the US Park Service, and they took a dim view of our racing against the cars along the C&O Canal roads. We were frequently pulled over by the police for this infraction and asked to see our drivers’ licenses as identification. Dick always made it very clear that “we were not driving … sir” and therefore did not need drivers’ license. I am still surprised that we never had to spend a night in the Park Service Prison.
Bicycle commuting was our joy, but not always the safest way to travel. We were chased by dogs, sworn-at by irate automobile drivers, knocked down by wet autumn leaves that had no traction on our tires, and even fouled by the storm grates that had been designed with slots parallel to the road and just slightly wider than a bicycle tire. All that, plus the Park Police, bicycle commuting was not an American priority in the 1970’s.
Racing home usually was the most exciting since we started as a peloton and dropped off riders along the route. Our nemesis was Gabor. He had the finest racing bike and was super-competitive, always in the lead, until we got to the steep climb up from the river to the highlands. Dick and I could challenge him on the climb and one of us usually beat him to the top. If we lost, Dick would always intone Gabor’s perennial favorite saying, “If you had cleats, you could ride better.”
Our favorite bike activity was distance riding whenever we could escape from work and home duties. We rode with teams from all over the country on 50 mile and 100-mile tours … well, they were called tours, but they were always races. Our hardest ride was the Tour of Delaware where we discovered that although all of the roads were flat, the wind always blew about 30 miles an hour into our faces no matter which direction we traveled. Dick’s windbreaker became an artists canvas covered with all of the memorial Tour Patches that he had earned from these rides.
We even planned our own two-person tours around the area … again only when we could get away from our other responsibilities. The best was one week that Dick and I rode up to spend a few days at a National Bicycle Conference at Dickenson College in Carlisle Pennsylvania. A 120-mile ride through rural Pennsylvania seemed like nothing to us, but we quickly discovered that there were some mighty steep hills in those Pennsylvania Mountains. Only Dick’s encouragement and badgering got me there.
Having arrived the hard way, we were greeted by the other participants who had driven to Carlisle with their bikes on trunk racks as show pieces. So, we “Real Men” decided that on the return trip to DC we would go around those darned mountains and ride through the valley to Gettysburg. Well, it rained that day, probably set the national records for rain fall. We arrived in Gettysburg about noon on a Sunday, exhausted, wet, hungry, and dispirited. Of course, nothing was open except for a 24-hour laundromat, so we gathered our coins and send everything we owned through the drum dryer while we sat in our underwear waiting for something to wear. The rest of the trip was not much better but before we got to Silver Spring, Dick, the optimist, was already planning our next ride to West Virginia. Little did I know then that someday I would be living there.
Biking slid into Hang gliding for us, and together we bought a hang glider and taught ourselves to fly. The glider would only fit on the roof rack of my Volvo station wagon … so I became the official driver as we searched the countryside for good soaring hills with farm pastures for landing. My favorite memory is of the day Dick landed in the manure pit at one of the farms that we flew north of Baltimore. I asked him (politely) how he figured he was going to get home since there was no way he was getting into my Volvo. We finally found a hose hooked up to a farm pump and washed him down completely. Unfortunately, no Gettysburg laundromat to dry him off so he rode home wet but smelling a lot better.
We did not limit our adventures just to regular sports. There was always a challenge in Dick’s mind. One day he suggested that we climb the emergency ladder up the side of the maneuvering laboratory towing tank, hanging out over space about 50 feet above. I was elected to lead and as I climbed the steel rung vertical ladder I discovered that the bolts holding it to the side of the tank were rusted and broken. Being a confirmed acrophobic, swaying ladders give me the willies and I called down to Dick that he had better prepare for whatever fell from my stomach onto his head. Somehow, we reached the top of the tank and had our first stroll along the length of the curved roof. Luckily, we found a hatch to an interior ladder, also with rusted bolts that yielded to our prying, so that we could descend inside.
These are only a few of the adventures that Dick and I experienced, but I hope that this small selection helps us all remember that our lives are constituted through events that we experience with friends. Memories of others are not just personal recollections, but rather segments of existence with which we have recorded and tested another person’s life and realities … those precious memories that have touched our souls.
We often unfortunately have to say goodbye to friends, but we never have to say goodbye to memories …
We have known Dick for over 40 years. We were lucky enough to meet him and Pat through a social dinner group which was dubbed the “Gourmet Group” and through it became firm friends during the ensuing years.
We shared many wonderful times together, memories of which we will cherish forever. We remember his love of cycling early on, his thespian pursuits, and, always, our dinner conversations ranging from local and world news to family happenings just to name a very few. Those were such fun times.
Dick, you were a joy to be with and we will miss you.
Love, Ralph and Mary