Tuesday, May 25, 2010

By Bob Aldrich

I wasn’t going to write anything about the loss of Raymond Lieberman until I realized the absence of a note from me might be considered indifference. Such is not the case as he was one of the closest friends I ever had in my lifetime.

We met at age nine when his parents came with him to my house for a Wear Ever Aluminum dinner party with all the foods provided by the salesman and cooked, of course, by him in this new fangled way (1932). The dinner was successful in that a few pots of cookware were eventually sold. My meeting Raymond was not. I hated him. He was “spoiled” by all standards, dominating and just plain obnoxious. This “cool” period continued for several years until we met in junior high and became tolerant of each other.

It wasn’t until the tenth grade when Adrian had built a new high school with an enormous swimming pool (25 yards long!) that we became friends officially since we were on the swimming team. He did freestyle and I did backstroke and became the diver on the team. The Liebermans had a cottage on Devil’s Lake and we had one on an adjoining lake, so we grew up summering “at the Lake,” where everyone knew everyone.

After practice during swimming season we would walk toward home down Church Street and separate with Raymond going north and I going south on Main Street. These walks became great fun as Raymond had vivid imaginations and was a wonderful source of laughter.
He was the first one in our gang to get a driver’s license and since his father ran a shoe store downtown, his family car was available until the store closed at about 6 p.m. His father was most generous in letting Raymond use it, too. And with gas at 19.5 cents per gallon, we could use it! (It was always full as I remember.) If we needed more (it did occasionally), we headed for Joe Scholter’s station where “gyp” gas was 14.2 cents per gallon. We’d take up a collection to get a gallon or two.

When John Wood graduated and started college (at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor) we would occasionally find some excuse to visit him. We were still in high school. It was only 40 miles away. The aura and excitement of Ann Arbor was stimulating to us all.

Jack Wood (John’s brother) and I decided to try to go the U of M and were accepted. Raymond went to the University of Iowa at Iowa City. So, in September, 1941, we set off for college. Then, Raymond and I started a letter writing exchange that further sealed our friendship (How I wish I still had his letters).

Three months later (Dec. 7, 1941), World War II began and eventually involved us all. Raymond and I continued to write. In the summer of 1942, we worked in war factories, Raymond and Tom (a mutual friend) in Kewaunee Manufacturing Company. I got a job in Fort Wayne, Ind., with my dad making material for the British was effort.

Eventually, we all joined the Army in some capacity. Raymond’s brother was killed in the Naval Air Corps in Corpus Christi, Texas, early in the war. It was a very difficult time for Raymond’s parents as well as for him. Raymond was in training to become a bombardier and even sent me detailed plans of the high altitude Norden Bomb Sight. (When I was in the U.S. Air Force in the Korean War, I went to an Air Power demonstration at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and saw the air crew do its job from 35,000 feet. I’m still impressed.)

After the war, Raymond’s parents retired and moved to Florida but soon decided to move on to California and settled in Burbank. Raymond joined them there and entered USC and again after going to Paris to work for the Marshall Plan and then worked in New York City as a writer. Katie and I benefitted by his stopping in Michigan coming and going! He had the great opportunity of watching our kids grow and grow and grow. Our Raymond didn’t arrive until 1968 when I was 45! We built the family home in 1959 so Big Raymond had the entire lower level with great space for visits anytime. They were annual events. Sometimes more.

We met in Europe several times: in London; for travel in Portugal and Spain; in Greece and to Crete and sailing the Aegean – one of the greatest trips of our lives! My favorite photo is one of these two hicks from Adrian, Mich., standing in front of the Parthenon in Athens.

And, finally, the best part of knowing Raymond was being introduced to his friends who became ours as well: Terry, Chuck, Marianne, Louise, Mickey, Edith, Bob Chapman and many others. He enlarged our lives with museums, music, opera, theater and countless other cultural pursuits. He expanded our senses, made us laugh and loved our kids (which was “reciprocated”).

We’ll miss him severely. May God bless him always.

Note from Kate Aldrich:
How can I condense the adventures we have had in our 62 years of friendship into a few paragraphs? The answer is I can’t. Life will be different now, not as interesting, not as challenging and probably, never again as much fun!

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