Friday was a day of learning of the departure from this side of life of two good friends, Richard Johnson and Harry Nordwick.
A longtime Madera County farmer, Richard and his wife, Lila, were regular fixtures at the Madera Valley Inn’s restaurant until about nine months ago. They would see pals there, and visit about everything from farming to politics (with Richard, the two often were intertwined). Their good cheer was infectious. One looked forward to seeing them there.
The people who worked at the restaurant liked the Johnsons and took good care of them. When the couple stopped coming in, they got worried and called to find out if anything was wrong.
There was. Richard had taken ill and was no longer able to frequent his favorite eatery. The tall, lanky, quick-to-smile farmer and his cheerful wife would be seen there no more.
On Wednesday, Richard died at 83, leaving a multitude of friends and a history of service to agriculture.
He was named Madera County Senior Farmer of 2005 (an honor he jokingly called “Ancient Farmer”). That honored his farming expertise and the many years of his life he spent on boards and in service organizations. Being chosen Senior Farmer ran in the family for Richard. His brother-in-law, the late Floyd Nelson, was Senior Farmer in 1987.
Richard and Lila, who were Madera High School sweethearts, were married 62 years. Harry, a former editor of this newspaper in the early 1960s and a longtime editor of the Salinas Californian, died Thursday. Harry and his wife, Lif, decided to move back to Madera in retirement.
Harry loved to talk with yours truly about the newspaper business during coffee hours at Trinity Lutheran Church in Madera. We were both old-fashioned newspaper guys who couldn’t understand how anybody could enjoy reading their news on iPads or cell phones. Shows how much we knew.
I used to try to talk Harry into coming back to work at the Tribune part time, but he always said no. “I’m out of it now,” he would say, “it’s time for other things.”
He was a full-blooded Rotarian, a member of the Madera noon club. I can never recall being at that club, either as a member or guest, when he wasn’t there. The Rotarians will miss him. He was an ardent practitioner, in what he said or did, of the Rotary 4-way Test: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
It was good to know you, Richard and Harry. Madera is a better place because you both lived here.