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    Colleague's death is a loss to community

    By MARC YACHT

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 3, 2001


    Richard E. Hosking of Clearwater was recently shot and killed. Perhaps it is fitting that this loving father, active church member, good neighbor and assistant director of the Pasco County Health Department was laid to rest on the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

    Richard was, after all, a Vietnam War veteran. He worked in the mortuary during his tour of duty and his job was to prepare casualties for the final journey. His added responsibilities were to gather personal possessions of the victims of war and send all items safely home.

    Such work would be especially trying for most, but not for Richard. When he talked about his contributions in Vietnam, he always spoke of his efforts with pride. I can imagine Richard in his fastidious and meticulous manner carefully attending to the detail of every fatality. Richard was a very organized and deliberate person. The war dead were his charge, and how tenderly and carefully he would meet those needs.

    Recently an angry caller spoke to Richard. Somehow, the chatter turned to Vietnam. The caller had lost a loved one there during the time Richard served. Richard assured him of the respect and caring that a loved one received in preparation for return. Somehow, the complaint melted as the two spoke of someone unfortunately lost at war.

    As a family man, he adored his wife, son, and delightful 15-year-old daughter. If I bragged about my children, Richard would brag about his. After all, his daughter is a straight A student, serious minded and an absolute joy. His son was working and holding his own. Richard loved to talk about his family -- for example, a twin sister who lived up North and a brother living close by. He was proud of his family and cherished them.

    Richard was the volunteer neighborhood repairman; one neighbor said at the memorial service that when you borrowed a tool from Richard, he came with it. I can imagine that Richard, with his love for detail, would want to know how to fix faucets or hang ceiling fans or tackle sprinkler systems. One story has Richard mowing a neighbor's lawn due to his friend's illness. "You could always count on Richard," seemed to be a common theme at his church service.

    Richard was active in his church as a Sunday school teacher. Furthermore, he worked with youth, and reaching out to one may have ultimately cost him his life. He and his family were devout in their religious beliefs and appreciated for their church activity.

    Richard at work -- and I have known him for 15 years -- was a very responsible, careful individual. He was a master of detail, with a penchant for fact-finding. His work was meticulous, well thought out, carefully planned, neat. He was punctual, precise and candid. He did not enjoy public speaking, and occasionally I would give him that task. He was active on many boards and committees, but did not seek attention or limelight. He worked quietly, accurately and effectively.

    Richard and I were opposites. I tend to be more global, certainly not neat, a little more relaxed perhaps, and more visible in my board and committee activity. Richard was the inside man, I was the outside man; it was a wonderful, balanced partnership. He kept me out of trouble, and I trusted him fully.

    His 32 years of service allowed a vast knowledge and network of state and private-sector people and resources. He was widely respected for his skill and compassion. Richard was fastidious, deliberate, organized, but he also cared. He cared about public health, he cared about disturbed youth, and he cared abut the state of our communities.

    There have been unceasing calls, e-mail and letters from people who have been touched by Richard. Shock and disbelief are expressed for his senseless death, along with urgent concerns for his family. It has been a very painful and reflective time for many.

    When I think of Richard and his family, his community, his church and his work, I am reminded of Norman Rockwell, the artist and illustrator who had such a positive sense of American life. I look at Richard and his family as a representation of Rockwell's works. His renderings depicted the ideal American family, the ideal community, man at work and families at prayer. Richard's commitment and life are what Rockwell drew and exulted. Losing Richard in such a violent way is akin to taking a knife to a Rockwell family portrait. But a painting can be repaired; Richard cannot.

    Richard was, in the true sense, a public servant.

    This writing is a tribute to Richard. I loved him, I love his family. He was our brother. I will not forget him.

    - Dr. Marc Yacht is director of the Pasco County Health Department.

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