STRAIGHT TALK: Loss, living life and saying goodbye to 3 friends

Steve Stefanides

Two weeks ago I had the honor of saying goodbye to a great friend of more than 45 years when I drove up to the National Cemetery in Bushnell, Fla. My friend Rick Robbins had lost his long battle with the ravages of the effects of Agent Orange and his exposure to that deadly toxin during his service in the late 60s during the Vietnam conflict.

Rick Robbins

I first met Rick when he went to work in law enforcement in Concord, N.H., when I worked as a firefighter and later as a deputy sheriff. He served his adopted community with honor and distinction, rising to the rank of lieutenant before retiring. He would later move on to become chief in a smaller New Hampshire community and then to finish out his career as a state liquor inspector before retiring and moving to Florida.

I watched his kids grow up and would work with Rick as a “dive buddy,” while working underwater assignments for our individual law enforcement agencies. He loved his children and adored his grandchildren when they were born. He gave back to his community in many ways and relished the joy of riding his motorcycle. He belonged to a number of organizations, but delighted in his affiliation with the Blue Knights, a group of motorcyclists with a law enforcement background.

This last weekend I also attended services for two additional men who had also served their nation, raised their families and contributed to their communities.

Bill Broderick

Bill Broderick was 96 years young. He had been part of the Omaha Beach landing in World War II and was a lifelong Red Sox fan. He had brought up his nine children and mentored his 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren to be as kind as he was and to live their lives in a respectful and honorable way. Bill and his wife were my neighbors for a number of years here on Marco until his health began to fade and circumstances necessitated a move to Naples.

One of my fondest memory of Bill goes back to 2004. This occurred when the Boston Red Sox finally won the World Series. The smile that Bill would display was legendary. This came when the win was clinched after sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in four games, having last won the coveted title the year before he was born in 1919.

Lastly, on Sunday I had the privilege to attend the memorial for another friend when the community said its final goodbyes to Monte Lazarus – another gentleman who had made his mark in life by service to his nation, his family and the community he adopted and loved. You never had to wonder what was on Monte’s mind, for he would tell you. But he would give you the opportunity to tell him what you thought, a rarity in today’s world.

Friends spoke in loving terms as they described Monte – from the reading of his accomplishments by his loving wife of 11 years, to poignant memories by his daughter, to an emotional letter from Mike Murphy who just wanted to say thank you to a friend for that wonderful gift of friendship.

An attorney, loving father, committed civic activist and the best friend to a loving wife. All these attributes came through loud and clear as friends and colleagues came together to say, “Thanks for the Memories,” to a unique gentleman who we shared this wonderful paradise with.

As I reflect upon those that I have said my goodbyes to in these last two weeks, I do so as I recall their contributions to our nation, their families and the communities they lived in. Each of these three men gave of themselves to ensure when they left here, they’d be leaving the world a little better place than when they came to it.

They may have not done it in the same manner, but all did it in their special way. I would hope that we all take that into consideration as we move forward and put away the Mass cards, the programs showing their resumes and the words spoken or written by those that eulogized these three individuals.