Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Dear Annie,

             I’ve been trying to write this letter to you for a while now, and even though I am currently myself a writer full-time, I’ve had a lot of difficulty finding the right words to use and I’ve worried that what I have to say will sound either flat or scripted, or even irrelevant.

            Nevertheless, I wanted to share some personal thoughts with you.

Like so many other people, I was a friend and big fan of your father’s.  We went to Pasco High School together and then later we were in the same fraternity, Sigma Chi, at Washington State University.

I moved to Pasco the day before my junior year started.  I didn’t know a soul and I was very shy back then.  Pasco is a small town and people who live there all grew up together, going to elementary and middle school, bonding and making tight connections.  I felt like an alien.

However, your dad befriended me, even though he had nothing to gain by it.  As I said, I was really introverted back then, almost terminally shy.  Your dad was the opposite of that, so gregarious and accommodating with everyone.  It was rare to see him not smiling.  He had a big, toothy grin that was immediately infectious.  The girls all thought his dimples were adorable, plus they loved the idea that he had hair like John Travolta--long, parted down the middle and feathered.

I spent quite a few afternoons playing basketball at his house and for several years we went to the hydroplane races together on the Columbia River.  Invariably, your dad knew everyone that lined the riverbanks and he’d spend most of the day saying Hello and catching up instead of watching any of the races.  He didn’t care about boats—people were what mattered most to him.

I was with your dad for a wedding the day before Mount St. Helens erupted in May of 1980.  We were in Pasco and when we woke the next morning the sky was an eerie plum color, almost as if it was bruised and in pain.  There was no social media back then, so we were fairly certain a bomb had been dropped somewhere.  Driving back to college in your Dad’s Chevy Nova, we heard the news about the volcano on the radio.  As soon as we did, as if on cue, ash began to fall, thick as snow but lightly gray colored, like dust and lint shook loose from a vacuum bag.  Your dad loved music, and he had an 8-track of Jimmy Buffet, so he played the song with the lyrics, “I don’t know where I’ma gonna go when the volcano blows.”  We put it on repeat, singing along as loud as we could, hardly able to see out of the windshield since it was so covered with ash.

As you already know, most of us called your dad “Rockin’ Rod.”  In high school he somehow landed a gig as a DJ on the local radio station in Pasco.  He worked late evenings, but we’d stay up, call in and request really obscure songs that your dad would play and mention our names in the dedication.  We thought that was pretty cool.  We were friends of a celebrity and this celebrity proudly let everyone listening know that we were, indeed, friends of his.

There was a group of us who were pretty close for a while—Rod, Justin, Rene and me.  Your dad dubbed us “The Four Musketeers” and he always grinned wide whenever he used that moniker.  It made me feel special, included, as if I belonged to this unique tribe or club reserved for only a few lucky people.

I have so many wonderful memories of your dad.  I could go on and on.

Annie, I can’t even try to imagine what you’re going through, but I did want to tell you that your father was a great man--not that you don’t already know it.  Anyone who can leave such a lasting imprint on the hearts of others has lived an incredible life, just as your dad did.

When I think of him, he’s smiling.  He’s wishing everyone else the best and he genuinely means it.  He’s showing all of us how to live life in full, teaching us how to be better than we ever thought we could be.  There’s a welcoming glow in his eyes that says, “I’m here if you need me.”


Len Kuntz


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