Walkin’ man

RDS welcome home sign

Welcome home, Dick Schmidt!

Dick is home and spent the holiday weekend taking walks in between naps and eating a bit more, including Hilary Abramson’s chicken noodle soup (i.e., Jewish penicillin!). We are big fans of homemade soup!

He’s spending more time up reading and communicating with people, and he’s so happy to be back in his regular life… as am I. Never have we felt so lucky to have more time on the planet, together and with other loved ones.

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Walking Woodside… about a half a mile now, which will increase with time.

Here’s to many more walks and time in the sun for us—and we are thankful for all of you who’ve been so supportive and kind on our journey.

RDS Woodside 10 mph sign

Not likely to exceed the speed limit… yet! 

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Cora and Connie

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Cora, Dick and Connie

There cannot be enough mahalo in the world to properly thank these two women for caring for Dick for 16 days, bringing their warmth, good care and good food in a chilly house in the clouds in Pearl City, Hawaii.

Their love and warmth and long friendships with Dick have made all the difference in his recovery, and we wish Connie Raub safe travels as she wings her way home today to Colorado Springs. We hope for clearing weather over the summit so Cora Johnson can return home to Minden, Nevada, soon, but we are selfishly glad to have a bit more time with her in Sacramento, too.

It has taken a village, in every sense of that phrase, and we are grateful to all of you who have read and supported Dick’s journey from afar. We love you all.

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He’s baaaack!

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Dick and Salesi

He’s home, AND he’s a media star on TV and in the Honolulu newspaper he worked for in the ’70s, now called the Star-Advertiser.

We are so grateful to Pamela Foster and the AED Institute for organizing the Celebration of Life that honored Dick today before boarding his Hawaiian Airlines flight home to Sacramento… exactly one month after he collapsed with a cardiac arrest in the Honolulu airport.

Dick got to meet, among others, Salesi Maumau, the Honolulu firefighter who administered chest compressions. (Salesi’s parents live in Elk Grove… it IS a small world after all.)

You can read the story and watch the video here:


And here’s the video of the TV coverage from KHON2:

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Love, ascending


for Jenna Tanigawa

At 9,375 feet, winging away from Hawaii,
I opened the little plastic bag,
its green closure yielding easily, and,
glancing at the traveler next to me in 14B
absorbed in a movie on his phone,
I took a bite of love.

Love tasted like turkey and cheese
wrapped in simple bread. Love tasted
like it had been assembled by a busy mom
that morning, early, as she got her
little girl ready for the day
before getting herself ready
for the day, as moms do.

Love tasted like the ride that young mother
gave me to the airport the morning
I had to leave my love in the care of good
friends—eight days after his triple bypass,
seventeen days after a cardiac arrest
felled him, seventeen days after
strangers pumped his chest and
applied the pads that shocked him
back to life.

Love tasted like nine days of care
in the hospital before his surgery,
like the talented, dedicated team
whose surgeon took photos for us
on his phone of the flabby heart
and then the repaired one.

Love tasted like the blessing of friends
who sent support from afar, the island ones
who brought warm clothes and blankets,
who came to sit with us, like the people
who took their house in the clouds
off the market to rent to us, a sweet place
of refuge when we so needed one.

Love tasted like the gift of a defibrillator
like the one that saved him
and the training that went with it—
from this mom who’d made the
sandwich and tucked it into a little bag
with a napkin and two energy bars
for my flight home.

Love tasted like deep breaths
when tears of gratitude came
at 12,400 feet, at 22,670 feet,
at 35,135 feet, our cruising altitude
into an approaching night,
aloha buoying me across the Pacific
to a careful descent and a landing
so gentle I barely felt the wheels
of the great craft kiss the ground,

—Jan Haag


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Hauoli la hanau

RDS TSR 2016

Dick Schmidt, birthday celebration February 2016, The Sea Ranch, with his traditional Hostess cupcake.

I have to share this today, on his 76th birthday, though he asked me not to out him on his day… because so many friends and loved ones have been following his journey, and he’s overwhelmed by all the love. But not quite a month ago this man died in front of me and was brought back to life by a series of miracles administered by angels passing as strangers.

And though I am beyond grateful for Dick Schmidt every day, on this day, my own imperfect heart bursts with adoration for this kind, kind man, whose great heart has been repaired by talented and loving hands, to give him more time to share his generous self with so many who admire and love him.

Hauoli la hanau, Dickie. Happy birthday to you!

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Dickie Dean (master tour guide) at Manele Bay (actually named Hulopoe) beach, the island of Lana’i, Hawaii, with his favorite red Jeep. (January 2015)

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Doin’ what he does best, shooting photos in Hawaii. (January 2016)

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All systems are go

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Cardiac P.A. Tim Berkley examines Dick almost three weeks after his triple bypass. 

Almost three weeks after his triple bypass, Dick returned to Moanalua hospital in Honolulu today for a follow-up appointment with cardiac physician’s assistant Tim Berkley, one of the incredible team of caretakers who repaired Dick’s heart.

I got the full report from Dick and his on-the-ground carewomen, Cora Johnson and Connie Raub, and Dick is coming along very well. He has very little pain, is off the heavy-duty meds, is walking daily, and his blood sugar numbers are very good.

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The X-ray of Dick’s heart, pumping away stronger than ever almost three weeks after his triple bypass.

The upshot is: All systems are go. He’s been cleared for takeoff this Friday when he’ll be honored with a Celebration of Life at the Honolulu airport by some of the folks who revived him after his cardiac arrest Jan. 15. Dick will get to meet the people from Hawaiian Airlines who called 911 (Heather Tononaka) and fetched the AED (Chris Ohta), applied the pads and administered the shock. We hope he gets to meet the Honolulu firefighter, Salesi Maumau, who did chest compressions, too.
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Dick and Dr. Tim, as he calls him, one of the amazing team of professionals who cared for Dick before and after his CABG (bypass surgery) Jan. 24.

The women from the AED Institute will also be there, including Pam Foster, the former emergency room nurse who moved to Hawaii in 2004 to make the installation of AEDs in airports and in public places across the islands her life’s work. She and her colleague Jenna Tanigawa came to visit Dick the day after his cardiac arrest to tell him that he is the 50th survivor in a Hawaiian airport, a statistic of which he is very proud.

After all the fanfare, Dick and Cora and Connie will board Hawaiian Airlines flight 20 to Sacramento, and this time he’ll do just fine, returning home 76 years young and ready to stride into the rest of his remarkable life.

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Dick Schmidt, 76 years young as of Feb. 13, with his newly repaired heart, stronger than ever. 

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Cocoon man

Photos by Cora Johnson

The recovery continues at the lovely little house called Aloha Moon in Pearl City, above the historic harbor of the same name.

Dick is alternately being pampered and exercised by Cora Johnson and Connie Raub, two of the best women on the planet—who cocooned him for warmth and gave him a foot rub and also accompany him on daily neighborhood walks. They also took him on his first outing since coming to the house Jan. 30, driving him to an exotic retail experience unique to Honolulu called Don Quijote, where he posed with his formerly favorite drink.

He returns home in a week, Feb. 15, a month to the day of his cardiac arrest, where he’ll be sent off in a celebration of life in Honolulu and warmly received (even if it is a Sacramento winter outside).

RDS at store with Pepsi

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His sweet baby face

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Dick Schmidt, February 2019 (photo by Cora Johnson)

When Dick’s mother Elizabeth was alive, she was always so happy when Dick, who had a beard for a good sixteen-plus years, shaved it off. She’d pat his hairless chin and exclaim, “There’s my baby boy!”

She was on to something because Dick did look younger without his beard, though in his prime he had a healthy, dark beard that I think gave him a rather distinguished look. Of course, as he’s aged and the beard has grown as white as the hair on his head, it gives him a different look. I still think he looks distinguished, but Dick calls it “just old.”

After his cardiac arrest, Dick made a half-hearted attempt with a plastic razor in the shower to eliminate some of his face foliage. But by the time of his surgery, he was just letting it grow. He had to decide whether to keep it or shave it. I was good either way—fuzzy or not fuzzy, I’m just happy to have him upright in the world, his newly repaired heart chugging away, stronger than it’s been in years.

In 2004, Dick wrote a letter to a friend in which he detailed the story about how he came to have the beard. Here is part of that story:

“The beard ‘took root’ on my previously ever-smooth face due to the unexpected influence of two hippie girls from San Francisco, in October 1968. That’s when I was a participant in a Sierra Club Wilderness Outing to the Big Island, where our group was destined to camp on various beaches, moving several times during the 10-day outing, as we explored the island.

“I’d always been a clean-shaven, fresh-faced young man, and, embarking on this 10-day outdoor adventure, planned to remain as pure. I’d always used an electric shaver, and knew there would be no outlets in the Hawaiian wilderness, so I borrowed my dad’s Remington electric shaver, which had a built-in battery. This was (if you’ll excuse the expression) cutting-edge technology in the ’60s; a corded electric shaver with a built-in rechargeable battery was an uncommon luxury then.

“The main drawback of an early-years battery powered shaver was its short charge life. You could get maybe three shaves out of it before it needed to be plugged in for an overnight charge. My plan, for the 10-day adventure, was to shave every third day. That way I would return to Sacramento looking just as respectable, with regard to facial hair, as when I left.

“It so happened that, within this large group of campers (who came from many different states and were a wide variety of ages) four of us were from Northern California. We were in our mid-twenties, and kind of found each other early on and began to ‘hang out’ together. We’d hike as a group, gather together at meal times, and pitched our tents nearby each other whenever we’d move to a new campsite.

“This foursome consisted of me, a guy from Stockton, and two authentic hippie chicks from San Francisco, Marilyn and Joan.  They actually lived right in the heart of the Haight-Ashbury District, on Cole Street, in a tiny 3rd floor walk-up apartment.

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Dick Schmidt, 1968, and the two who convinced him to grow his beard.

“After breakfast on the morning of the third day, I was about to get my dad’s Remington from my tent at Hapuna Beach State Park, on the northwestern shore of the Big Island, to remove the first few days worth of beard. (Remember that every-third-day shaving plan mentioned earlier?)

“I casually mentioned to the others that I’d be right along, to start a hike we’d planned, after a quick shave with the battery-operated device. There was an immediate outcry from both hippie chicks as the words left my mouth.

“’No, man, you can’t do that! Let your beard grow.’ I explained that I’d never had a beard before and wanted to retain my familiar look. ‘Come on, man, this is the place to do it…you’re in the wilderness and camping on beaches in Hawaii.’ They were very persuasive, clearly alarmed at what was, to me, a natural, routine task to maintain decent personal hygiene. Their faces were practically distorted with bewilderment.

“They didn’t let up: ‘Look at yourself––your beard’s already started. It’ll really look good, man. Don’t shave. Why would you want to do that? Just let it happen!’  Well, this was quite some pressure––and logic––coming from these two free spirits, one of whom was braless, and, as she made her arguments, two protrusionary points beneath her shirt bounced around, punctuating her animated statements.

“What else could a guy do, being lectured and lobbied like this?  I yielded to the two hippie chicks from San Francisco. I didn’t shave that day after all––or any other day as the outing progressed. And, at the end of 10 days, I could see they’d been right: My beard, while still in its way-early formative stage, seemed to be taking on a good shape, and I liked the way it appeared.

“I decided to let it continue to grow, though I knew there’d be a bit of uncertainty (and even scorn) by family, friends and co-workers once I was home. Full beards were not yet that common––in the 1960s––on business people, being more associated with vagrants, mountain men, poets, hippies and wackos. People eventually adjusted to my new look, and the beard, though trimmed regularly, never left my face for over 16 years until the morning of January 18, 1984, when I shaved it off––and went to work.”

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Shaving the facial fuzz, February 2019 (photo by Cora Johnson)

Once again Dick made the same decision, and the girls—Cora and Connie—who are caring for him in Pacific Palisades in Pearl City, Hawaii, dutifully bought him an electric razor. Then Cora documented the ritual of beard shaving, Dick Schmidt-style.

I understand this: When you get a new lease on life, you go for the younger look.

He continues to get stronger each day in Honolulu, but he’s looking forward to coming home—clean shaven—Feb. 15, two days after his 76th birthday and, of course, a day after Heart Day. Though for Dick, every day is now Grateful Heart Day.

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His sweet baby face, February 2019 (photo by Cora Johnson)

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Mulling it over

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To beard or not to beard…

RDS walk

Update on Dick Schmidt from his care team in Hawaii:

Saturday he walked outside, on an actual sidewalk, for a respectable distance. Super Bowl Sunday he was rocking a sugar-free Pepsi and having some chips. (Good sign that his appetite is improving! I understand that there’s also been consumption of much healthier stuff, too.)

Note the beard growth. He’s trying to decide if he should keep it or shave it. Pro for keeping it: It’s easier, especially for now. Con: It makes him look, he says, like Foster Brooks.

RDS Super Bowl

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