Remembering my friend Dick Rothermund
Seventy-five years ago, each summer the epicenter of activity for us teenage boys living on “Hilltop” was the side porch of the Rothermunds’ home on Chartiers Street. Bob, Dick and Ron were always in the midst of organizing some exciting activity.
It might be touch football, or one hoop basketball on Lafayette Street, or softball in Crums’ field. When the weather was bad, we played board games — “Mr. Ree” (a predecessor to Clue), “Foto-Electric Football” or our favorite, “All Star Baseball.”
Dick was my age and my best friend throughout high school. He possessed all the desirable social skills — he was a good pianist, a fine singer, an excellent dancer, a skillful basketball player and, most of all, a good friend.
When we were 16-year-old high school juniors, we had dates for the junior prom, access to our parents’ automobiles and no driver’s licenses. We began a weekly schedule of failing the driver’s test that was terminated just a week before the prom, when we finally were successful.
Dick studied industrial engineering at Pitt, graduated summa cum laude, and took a job with J&L Steel in Cleveland. He was drafted a few months later and ended up spending a year and a half in the Army in Japan, an experience he enjoyed more than I did my similar assignment.
After we returned from the service, our friendship was renewed. I frequently played golf with him and Ron. Their golf game was an order of magnitude better than mine, but they always were willing to put up with me.
Dick and I also shared an appreciation of jazz and occasionally would spend Saturday evenings enjoying it. The Suburban Room in Dormont was a good place to hear Harold Betters. Even better was the Point View Hotel in Brentwood, where Tommy Turk and the Deuces Wild performed.
The Rothermunds had a summer cottage at Van Buren Point on Lake Erie; Dick ended up owning it in later years and moved there for the summer as soon as the weather began to warm up. In 1960, my brother and I spent a very enjoyable weekend there with the whole Rothermund family. I am sure golf was our excuse for visiting, but spending a weekend with the family was a real treat.
Dick and I drifted apart after I got married and had no time available for weekend golf or Saturday night jazz clubs. Fortunately however, after one of our high school reunions, Sam Capozzoli suggested that we local alumni of the BHS Class of 1949 get together regularly for brunch.
This was a great idea, and soon our group had grown to nine, with Dick a prominent member. We met religiously on the first Wednesday of each month and had a great time reliving our youth and resolving the current problems facing society.
The ’49ers Brunch Club has shrunk with the passing of Don Schullek, Ray Fagan, Jack McGrogan and, most recently, Dick. The day after Dick’s memorial service, we officially celebrated his life and our memories of him.
It was indeed my privilege to be Dick’s best friend when we were in high school. My memories of him are precious; I regret that I was not a better friend to him after we became adults.