December 13, 2008
first met Rick Nadeau on the first day of New Faculty Orientation. He
was unforgettable. When I became president of the Chico Chapter of
the California Faculty Association, my predecessor, Beau Grosscup,
told me my greatest asset was our staff person, Rick Nadeau. He
admonished me sternly, and pre-emptively, to cherish Rick. It was
clear how much he loved his “buddy Rick,” and could not
bear the thought that his successor not pay Rick the respect that was
due him. Of course he was right. Rick and I became fast friends. What
was not to love?
Rick called me by a special name: Little Susie Cream Cheese. After our first Labor-Management meeting together he smiled and said: “I have you all figured out.” And, of course, he did. He said: “You come off all sweet and innocent, like Little Susie Cream Cheese from the Midwest, and when they are not looking, you hit them with a 2 x 4.” He laughed heartily, as he often did, because he thought the ability to be simultaneously charming and ball-busting was an important skill to have. I will never think of Rick without thinking of myself as Little Susie Cream Cheese, and how frighteningly well he understood me, being a devotee of human nature.
The best thing about being Rick’s friend and comrade in struggle, was his epic stories, stories oft-repeated that never changed, honed to perfect through years in the telling. Regardless of the subject, they were always heroic stories, David and Goliath tales about the little guy being screwed by the establishment. In Rick’s stories the little guy always won in the end due to the goodness of his fellow man, or through the benefits of collectivity. I was always uplifted by Rick and his unflagging faith in the basic decency of his fellow man or woman. And no matter how discouraged I was, he reminded me of the nobility of commitment and service to others.
When Rick retired from CFA, at his last Chico breakfast meeting, we gave him a shirt with a heart embroidered on the sleeve – a red shirt of course, with the heart on the LEFT sleeve. He loved it. But when he looked at the size he said he was flattered that I thought he was an XL, but he was playfully angry at me because he was going to have to lose some weight to be able to wear it. Since Rick’s passing Beau and I have kicked-around the idea of establishing a peace and social justice award at the Chico chapter, in Rick’s name: an award to honor and encourage people who do the work Rick so valued, and award to honor and encourage colleagues Rick would have liked if he had had the chance to know them, colleagues who would have come to cherish him as much as we did.
The last time I saw Rick was at the jazz concert Teresa Garcia arranged in the back yard of the house he shared with Diana and the three cats. He made me promise him two things, and I am not sure which will be harder to keep. First, that I would find a good man to love me who was worthy of me. And second, that I wouldn’t let people get to me so much. “Administrators are assholes,” he said, and beneath wasting my health on. Being a good Marxist, having studied at the feet of Herbert Marcuse, Rick was always much more Zen about Capitalism than I. He accepted it as inevitable that the Proletariat would be screwed by those who own the means of production; only complete social revolution would be the solution. When push came to shove though, he was much more pragmatic and voted for Obama, just like the rest of us (except Beau!)
I miss our dear comrade. I will miss his words and his gentle soul. Rest in Peace with your Mother Earth. And, if you were wrong, and there really IS and after-life, be sure to give ‘em hell there, too.