Miller: So long, Rich Mayfield
In this space, SDN columnist Rich Mayfield has staked out his unique perspective for many years. As a former Lutheran pastor, ardent liberal, humorist, philosopher and, to some, great annoyance, Rich tackled some thorny issues over the hundreds of columns he’s written in the Daily. He also wrote a great humor column when the fancy struck him – a skill that won him a Colorado Press Association Award this year.
Earlier this week, Rich told me he was hanging up his columnist hat, saying “it was time.” He wasn’t interested in penning any kind of “good-bye” piece, so I figured I’d do it for him. As most of the best columnists will do when they retire (and oftentimes they have to die before that happens), Rich will be missed by many while his absence will be celebrated by some. No doubt readers have noticed that in both letters to the editor and in online comments, Rich’s columns almost always received a great deal of attention, much of it negative. The nature of the beast in column-writing world is that your fans will mostly stay silent, while your detractors will yell very loudly – thus did it sometimes seem Rich’s column was nothing but a lightning rod for controversy.
But Rich had many fans, and while I have no way of quantifying it, I’m certain they outnumbered his detractors by a large margin. Even those who disagreed with Rich, especially on some of his more strident and daring pieces, no doubt found entertainment in reading them – even if it was just to get angry. They called him a “hater,” a bitter person who obviously had an unhappy life that inspired him to vent in his awful columns.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Rich is one of the more well-adjusted men I’ve ever known, and he embodies what is to me one of the greatest attributes of any person: tolerance (except, of course, for those he viewed as committing an injustice). I learned this early on, when I invited him to start writing columns for the Daily sometime in the mid-1990s. Late, although I’m not a Lutheran or even a Christian, Rich agreed to marry my wife and me in his church, and he helped us work out what it meant to make a marital commitment and, just as importantly, how two people with widely divergent religious beliefs could make it work. So when Jen and I celebrated our 10th anniversary this past January, I sent Rich a note thanking him for his advice early on. It helped a lot.
I bet he gets a lot of those kinds of notes, and I suspect many members of his former congregation miss the ability to tap his even-handed wisdom when it was needed. Whatever you may have thought about Rich’s unorthodox take on religion, if you knew the man at all you’d know it was all part of his own personal journey to make sense of all this. His nature, though, was that of someone who said what he thought, and that doesn’t always fly with purists.
Rich didn’t say, but I suspect part of his reason for retiring from column writing was based on the nasty comments of those who didn’t agree with him. One doesn’t write a newspaper column for as long as Rich did with thin skin, but it certainly can get tiresome. The advent of websites with anonymous commenters who feel free to be quite vicious has made it a somewhat uglier world out there, and I can’t blame anyone for asking “who needs this?”
So take care, Rich, and thanks for all those years of sharing your thoughts and wisdom. You will be missed.
Summit Daily editor Alex Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 668-4618.
Note: I know Rich will keep plenty busy with his other writings and explorations. I’ll miss his voice in the Summit Daily at the same time I hope to hear from someone else who might be interested in penning a weekly column. All that stuff about comments aside, it can be enormously gratifying and a lot of fun.
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