Here at North Country Public Radio, we have fond memories of Dick going back to our earliest days as WSLU, located in Payson Hall. Dick and Joan were "charter members" of the station, supporting us annually since the late '70s right up to the present time. Plus, they "donated" their daughter Betsy to us. Betsy is now our regional book reviewer and a contributor to our book club blog as well as occasional author, interviewer, and book program co-host. We are saddened by Dick's passing and offer our deepest condolences.
Ellen, for all at the station
I am saddened by Dick's passing, but will remember fondly his wit, astute (and humorous) observations, and kindness. In their quiet and unassuming way, he and Joan have made this world a better place in more ways than any of us will ever know.
When I arrived at St. Lawrence in 1976, Dick and Joan were the first departmental colleagues to invite me to dinner, and I've appreciated their continuing friendship ever since. For the past year, I've renewed that by visiting Dick in the assisted living section of Maplewood, enjoying thoroughly our conversations and his memories of growing up the son of a Hungarian immigrant father, his schooling at Phillips Exeter, the war years and his time in Japan immediately after the war -- in counter intelligence.
He was, even with some memory loss, always gracious and whenever he had gone on for a bit about his past, he'd invariably stop himself to ask me what I was getting up to. It's hard to capture his wit because it was so pervasive, but here's one detail: the day before he died, his nurse was administering some bitter-tasting medicine. He got it down and she asked, how was that? "Loverly," he replied, in his customary sardonic way. I'll miss these visits.
I want to publicly extend my condolences to Joan, Joe, Betsy, Judy, Andy and their kids. The Kepes family were our next door neighbors in Canton, not once but twice-- on Park Street and later on Goodrich. It was not always clear whose house was who's or which kids belonged to which parents as 22-24 Goodrich Street resembled a family compound more than two standing homes. I appreciated Dick's incredibly subtle and dry sense of humor as well as his treasured eccentricities. (He was a man who piped opera music into his barn on the premise that his chickens would then lay larger eggs.) He grew absolutely monstrous tomatoes which would annually overrun our kitchen. I believe he simply treated our kitchen as storage and was an early practitioner of "re-gifting." I recall that he would frequently return to our house to secure his unused vegetables so that he could share them with others.
He was also one of my father's very best friends in the SLU community and he and Joan were frequent hosts to all members of our family whenever any of us returned to Canton. He was a loyal (and sometimes I thought the only) listener to my KSLU broadcasts of the hockey games. After I graduated and moved to Manhattan, and before the Internet, Dick made a point to keep me up to speed on the SLU Hockey team by sending me, via this thing called "mail," scraps of printed paper he called "newspaper clippings." I know our family already misses him.
Bruce Carlisle '78
Dick and Joan Kepes were our role models and inspirations as organic farmers in the North Country who learned that one of the greatest pleasures of working with a garden is to share its produce. Our visits to their home in the late 1980s and early 1990s always included a grocery bag or two of fresh produce from their garden. Dick gave us plenty of wonderful tips that have served us well over the years in our own gardens. And eating with Dick and Joan (and others N.C. friends like Doug Rose, and Rich and Sue Rummel) were always festive occasions and opportunities for Dick to regale us with his wonderful, sly sense of humor. We were also always welcome to come swim in their pond, which helped us to survive some very hot North Country summer days.
I also enjoyed working with Dick on the Friends of the Owen D. Young Library Board and saw how his love of St. Lawrence and his devotion to the future of our library resources would help to guarantee special library acquisitions for the use of students, faculty, and Canton residents. Dick was always a great friend to Ramona and me, and we'll always cherish the memories of the time we spent with him.
I met Dick within months of moving to the area through my husband and in-laws. I have fond memories of his humor while attending the UU church with him. He was always friendly to me and I soon heard many stories of the Kepes and Crowell families, as well as other families. I want to say, and from David too, that we are sad to hear of his passing and are thinking of all of
Richard Kepes was my father's only brother and a beloved uncle to me and my siblings. He was, in all ways, larger than life, as well as fun loving and constantly on the edge of dry sardonic wit. We all carry loving memories of playing duck duck goose on the beach with him and had never realized the multiple, at times absurd, dimensions that only "Uncle Dick" could add to common board games. When Dick and Joan stopped by on our summer visits to New England, each of our childhood experiences expanded and flew into new heights and dimensions.
Richard Kepes lived out everything in life that his immigrant parents valued and have passed those qualities on to his own children and to his brother's progeny as well. A brilliant, warm and precious man has passed away and I hope that all who knew him will keep some of him in this world.
David A. Kepes
Remembering Mr. K is integral to remembering SLU. As a young person, a so-called faculty brat, our playground growing up was the SLU campus. I remember Mr. K taking us on Fall walks down the Avenue of Elms to visit horses at the stables or on weekend afternoons running through Richardson Hall while Mr. K corrected some papers in his office. He was often the designated driver of Carlisle/Kepes children to faculty picnics at Canaras Lodge, calmly smoking his pipe and ignoring the mayhem in the back seat. But most importantly, he and Joan were my parents' good and steadfast friends for decades, providing dinner, drinks and general intellectual - and always humorous - entertainment. While Mr. K experienced some memory loss near the end of his life, he was totally "on his game" at last Christmas dinner in Canton, pronouncing rather loudly I thought something to the effect of "Yes, Julie...so good in her selection of dogs, not so in her selection of men!" I will forgive him this last chortling remark (as always based in some truth) and say I will miss him. And finally, he leaves a wonderful wife and a few kids, who all, in their own ways, have inherited Mr. K's wonderful eccentric and witty perspective on the world. I thank him for lacing up my ski boots as a kid and for offering me a gin and tonic as an adult.
Julia Carlisle '82
Dick was one of the kindly souls who reached out to Martha and me when I arrived in 1967 to join the English Department. And like other stalwarts such as Frank Curtin, Bob Matteson, Doug Angus, Doc Delmage and Stan Holberg, he helped set a tone of excellence and humaneness that made the department such a wonderful place to start an academic career. He was also one of the funniest men I have ever met. Department meetings were never the bright spot of my day, but I could count on him to leaven things and get us through. And if I wandered into his office at odd hours, he always had a cheerful word. Most of all, we remember Joan and Dick's warm and generous hospitality. An evening at their table was something to look forward to, and you could count on Dick's wit to set the tone. They are among the people who made our St. Lawrence years special and who have helped us keep up with friends and the college over the years.
Dodge Johnson '67-68
I will always remember Dick's love of the outdoors, shared on walks on his land and on ADK hikes; his garden (and his chickens); and his droll sense of humor, which you'd miss if you weren't listening carefully. Forgive the cliche, but he was a gentle giant.
Neal Burdick '72