Note: I gave the following eulogy at my Uncle Dick’s funeral on June 17, 2019. Richard Williams, 68, passed away on June 13 in Lincoln, Neb. At the request of my Aunt Deb, I am posting it here in written form for those who were not able to attend the services.
To be blunt, it really sucks to be standing up here today but I am honored to be speaking on behalf of the Williams family, my Aunt Deb and of course, my late Uncle Richard.
I feel like other than my Aunt Deb, I was fortunate know Dick as well as just about anybody. It’s because we shared so many of the same passions in life and spent so much time riding around the Midwest in his old Dodge Neon enjoying them.
During these road trips, Uncle Dick introduced me to dirt track racing, Brooks and Dunn, George Thorogood and many of life’s delicacies that definitely aren’t appropriate to share in this setting.
Dick’s passions were quite simple: He loved dirt late models, Dale Earnhardt, the Iowa Hawkeyes, supporting our troops and of course, my lovely Aunt Deb.
I was lucky that for the majority of my life, Uncle Dick included me in all of the above. I know that there are many men and women here today who feel the same way. I’ve sat with many of you at races over the years. It was at the racetrack where he was notorious for opening his arms to just about anyone.
I have fond childhood memories of being picked up from my parents house at around 4 a.m. to make it to Iowa City for an 11 a.m. kick. We would then leave Iowa City in the third quarter – regardless of the score. Listening to Gary Dolphin tell us the outcome of the game was just fine, as long as we made it back for heat races at the Adams County Speedway. We would ultimately get home at around midnight and sometimes make it to Omaha’s Sunset Speedway on Sunday.
Crazy, right? Yep. To quote my 4-year old, he was “Crazy Uncle Dick.”
My wife first caught a glimpse of this back in 2009. I was working the early morning shift on KMA Radio in Shenandoah, which meant I’d arrive at the station at around 5 every day. Ashley was my fiancé at the time and courageously attended her first dirt race as the third wheel to Uncle Dick and myself.
We were out at the I-80 Speedway in Greenfield, Neb. – about a two hour drive from here. There was a rain delay, which is obviously problematic on a dirt track. Ashley – a rookie – just assumed that we would head back to Shenandoah and get to bed early.
Neverassume anything with Uncle Dick.
We waited out the rain delay, watched every lap of every race (even the support classes that nobody cared about) and made it back to Shen at around 4, just in time for me to hop in the shower and go to work the next day.
That is passion! That was Uncle Dick.
You had to be a special kind of cat to fully appreciate my uncle. One of his late friends – another great man who was taken from us too soon – Norm Mier comes to my mind. Back in the day, Norm’s son (Sean) and I would go to Hawkeye games with Dick and Norm.
Dick at a Hawkeye football game was one heck of a deal. It truly was an experience unlike any other. From his unconventional tailgates in the parking garage across from Kinnick to his belligerent attitude towards officials, everything he did resulted in great fun.
Norm Mier was a quiet, easy going gentleman of a man who only spoke when he had something to say, which was the total opposite of Uncle Dick. I always wondered how those two were such good friends but the older I have gotten, the more it makes sense to me.
Dick brought out the adventurous side in Norm and Norm likely kept Uncle Dick out of the jail.
I was fortunate enough to attend upwards of 30-something Iowa games with Dick and Deb during my childhood, which is why I was legitimately terrified to tell him when I chose to attend Iowa State to earn a degree in journalism back in 2007. I knew that he wouldn’t be mad at me over such a trivial decision. I just didn’t want to let him down.And I didn’t. We ended up having fun with it and I know he was proud of the way this all turned out.
The thing about Uncle Dick though is that despite his boisterous, outlaw mentality towards the world, he truly loved sharing his passions with others. In my opinion, that is his greatest legacy.
What you might not know about him is that he was a softie at heart. I saw this first hand on those long road trips to races, Iowa City and during other tumultuous moments in both of our lives.
I turn 35 in two weeks, which ironically is on the same day that would have been Dick and Deb’s 39th wedding anniversary. I can honestly say that some of the best times of my life were in our family’s box at the Adams County Speedway. This wasn’t just a hobby for us. Those Saturday nights in Corning define the Williams Family culture. It was our way of life, how we bonded and we can all cherish those memories for the rest of time.
Those great times were all the result of Uncle Dick deciding to share his greatest passion with us at one time or another.
I thank him greatly for that today.
He shared more than just racing and the Hawks with my wonderful Aunt Deb. When he wasn’t working at NSK and she wasn’t working as a nurse out at the prison, these two were inseparable. They truly were best friends. She was his heart. She will always remain in his soul.
And what a great sport she was over the years! I am quite confident that Aunt Deb didn’t grow up as a girl in New Market dreaming about horsepower and five-star offensive linemen committing to the Hawkeyes.
The last week has been difficult. I am heartbroken to standing here today but I can also say that I am comforted by one thing: knowing that Dick can now attend any race he wants. No more illnesses will be in the way.He can sit wherever he wants as well, which means we won’t have to show up three hours early like he used to make us do when I was a kid.
Grandpa will probably be right beside him, and the Hawkeyes are going to have a little extra help from above this fall.
I spoke with Uncle Dick about 12 hours before his death. It was a fairly typical conversation. During my time on the phone with Deb, he was yelling in the background – finishing her every sentence. We talked about last weekend’s dirt late model “Dream,” as I described the photo finish over the phone.
I want to share the last words Uncle Dick said to me during that conversation as I feel like they are an appropriate way to sum up the man, Richard T. Williams.
I was trying to figure out a way to get to his procedure the next day but also be with my wife, who has been experiencing minor issues during her pregnancy.
“They are your priorities!,” he yelled, referring to my wife and daughter.
He wanted me to stay with them. I did … and that was the last time that we ever spoke.
To wrap this up, as you all know, Dick was not a politically correct individual. This was his favorite personality trait of many.
So I want to leave leave you today reflecting on the messages that I know my Uncle Dick would want me to pass along one final time.
— Show the people you love that you love them every day. Hug them. A LOT.
— Even in its heyday, NASCAR racing was never as entertaining as the local dirt tracks here in Iowa and around the Midwest.
— Support our second amendment rights as Americans.
— Tom Osborne was a notorious cheater at Nebraska.
— ALWAYS stand for the national anthem.
— And last but certainly not least, GO HAWKS.