1932 – 2017
Words of Remembrance for Brother Richard Leo McAlice, FSC
August 23, 2017
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
By William C. Wolff, AFSC
Good morning everyone.
The Brothers, Richard’s family and all of us at LaSalle School wish to thank everyone who helped with the arrangements for today- everyone at McVeigh and of course everyone associated with De LaSalle Hall in Lincroft, and to Bishop Hubbard, Father Donlon, the co-celebrants and everyone here at the Cathedral.
I really wish I wasn’t here today. I wish we were not doing this. But because we have no choice but to do this, to do our best to acknowledge the life of this good man, and say thank you and goodbye to our friend and brother, there is nowhere else I would rather be.
Richard had relationships with many, many people. Because he preferred one on one situations, and respected privacy and didn’t gossip, I challenge anyone who would claim to have a true and complete understanding of all the things that interested him, the depth of his faith, or all the people and causes he helped.
He would speak to a group, but only out of obligation and only when he could give proper consideration to what he would say. I learned quickly to never say to Richard in front of a group, without warning, “Do you have anything to say”.- Because he would very often say “I think not”. But when it was the right time and I called on him in advance to consider sharing his thoughts, he would smile and respond with one of his Richard Leo-isims, “Most assuredly Bill, I will call upon what little I have…. “ and then he would be eloquent.
I know we all have our individual stories, our memories of time spent with him, our visions of him in action. Over the course of this last week, I’ve received messages from a number of individuals, and as I undertake this challenging task this morning, I intend to call upon the words of others to help me tell a bit of the story of Brother Richard Leo McAlice.
Brian Barr and Bob Conway, both shared similar observations of Richard.
Bob wrote that Richard was always a “behind the scenes man “never looking for any credit or fanfare but he was forever doing kind things for his boys, his Brothers, the Board members and people in general. I always loved having conversations with him and he always made me feel that I was truly a “Brothers Boy” something I’m more proud of than anything else in my life next to being a good Dad. When I think of young boys in need and their relationships with the Christian Brothers I always think of Brother Brice Wilder, Brother Augustine Loes, Brother Aloysius, former Brother Al Hyland, and last but not least Brother Richard Leo McAlice. There were many others but other than Saint John Baptist de LaSalle who started it all the aforementioned Brothers taught me much about life, my faith, the right way to treat others, prayer, and many other things that make up who I am as a person.
Brian shared that: Never one to seek attention but in his field of child care a true treasure trough of knowledge, wisdom and expertise. As a leader of personnel a supreme example of what a role model of decorum and adherence to a greater mission looks like in following the path of our founder St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle.
Richard did things his own way, but not with disrespect or purposeful disregard for anyone. He could seem distant, guarded and hard on the surface. Listen to me, Brother Richard could be tough and intimidating when he felt it was necessary. There are legendary stories of his “speaking privately” in his office with kids when they needed it, when they were going in a very bad direction.
There were times he seemed impossible to read. Shortly after I became Executive Director I traveled New Jersey to spend time with the leadership of the New York District of the Brothers. We talked about many things, and I clearly remember asking the Brothers if they had any advice for me with respect to Richard. They each shook their heads. “None of us are sure what’s going on with him…” one said, Another said “working with Richard is like sitting down to play poker when there are only 48 cards in the deck, and Richard has removed and is holding, somewhere out of clear sight, all four Aces. “But Bill”, he said, “He will never use the cards he’s holding back in order to hurt you or anyone, it’s just his way”.
The legend of what might happen if Br Richard met with you privately was a valuable tool for him, and he wouldn’t use that to harm one of the kids in his care. But he would use that time to speak honestly and directly to a young man in trouble, something they were almost certainly unfamiliar with, and something that was powerful in combination with the way he conducted himself.
He had a reputation for no nonsense and toughness, and in reality, he was also intensely observant, firm in his views, and filled with emotion and kindness.
Chris Flowers, who lived at LaSalle for several years posted a message he titled: “To Brother Richard”, on Facebook last week, when Chris learned that he had passed away Here’s a portion of what he wrote:
I was a 14 year old boy, it was 1989. I had arrived at LaSalle, with a very difficult past and an uncertain future. I was terrified, excited, unsure and confused. There you were, a stocky strong, red faced man with the warmest smile, but you were no pushover and yet had an understanding of what could turn a troubled young man into a confident, hard working, merciful and productive member of the world. I have 3 years worth of memories, some funny, some of me getting into trouble as young men do but one sticks out. One of the supervisors had died suddenly, we were lining up for breakfast, I remember seeing you hugging a fellow staff and sharing your grief in tears. I had never seen any other man except my father cry, yet at the same time, you comforted a friend and showed me that a man can be strong and compassionate. You were a model of a man, exemplifying Christian behavior to boys like me. You helped change my life.
You and your fellows were without a doubt put in my life by God, I know this to be true. I am father of 5, I am sober and close to Christ, to God, to The Holy Spirit and that is due in large part to LaSalle and men like you. I have spoken of you over the years to my children as I told them my story, a story that will always have you and LaSalle in it. I am heartbroken. I also will rejoice, for our Heavenly Father had you in His embrace, I imagine He said “Well done, good and faithful servant” .. May we all be thus.
God bless you and keep you for all eternity and Thank you for being the right kind of man to help so many young men.
I remember that morning Chris talks about. Bill Cassidy, Br Richard’s right hand man in Group Living, had died the night before. To say we were all shaken emotionally is an understatement. People came to work and walked around in a daze. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I am almost certain the man that Chris recalls Br Richard embracing was Don Card, another key leader in the program. They were both heartbroken, weeping, and needed to comfort each other.
St John Baptist de LaSalle wrote in his meditations, his instructions to his brothers, that: Children are drawn to do what they see done, more than to what they hear said.
As I got to know him better, and through the years, I learned more and more about Richard’s family and his early years growing up. He would describe his visits home, and I learned about his sisters and brothers and what he loved so much- the array of nieces and nephews and their children. It revealed warmth, a fondness and such pride. Last evening, I heard so much love expressed for Uncle Richard , with recollections of his smile, his laughter and great pleasure at family gatherings.
Richard liked many things. He loved collecting lighthouses. He told me it reminded him of growing up in Rhodes Island. He loved NASCAR, and for years could be relied upon to adorn himself with Tony Stewart’s bright orange colors on the Monday mornings after his favorite driver had a successful Sunday. He wouldn’t hold back reminding other fans of NASCAR here at LaSalle, that his driver, his Tony, who he got to meet by the way, had cleaned up over the weekend.
He loved the camp the brothers own along the Hudson River in Lake Lucerne. He knew the healing power the place held, and at his encouragement, I experienced that more than once myself. He especially loved the times spent there with his family.
I’m sure he never sent an email. He never had a cell phone. He wanted nothing to do with voice mail and he had a system for when to answer the phone in the community- and when not to answer, that only a few ever understood.
In 32 years I never saw him wearing black along with the white collar symbolic of his religious order. I have no idea why he broke with that, but I don’t believe it was defiance nor was it any lapse of faith. He was so proud of the mission of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. I think one of his greatest joys was to observe so many lay staff, with diverse backgrounds and religious traditions, enthusiastically engage with the mission.
His 37 years of service here spanned near ¼ of the more than 160 years of the school’s history. My goodness think of that. LaSalle opened before the Civil War, and the man we are here for today about was on this campus, making an immense contribution, for nearly 25% of the time it has been in existence.
And throughout that time, Richard loved evening social. Although it has evolved over time, it was the point in the day, after prayers and before dinner, that the brothers would gather together to talk, reflect on the day, argue a bit, and yes, enjoy libation. Brother enjoyed cocktail hour.
I appreciated the access to the community afforded to me over the years, especially after my affiliation. Although I would struggle from time to time with some of the rituals of prayers and the personalities of the guys, the community was and is a place of retreat and personal nourishment. In the midst of my hardest times, Brother Richard was there for me. He was there as well when I had news to celebrate. And the community benefited from its openness, and with Richards keen guidance, from the presence of the Lasallian volunteers, the young college graduates who volunteer to work in Lasallian ministries across the country, while also living in community.
David Anderson was an LV here for two years, and last fall, he moved ahead to pursue a Masters Degree from Lewis University, near Chicago. Dave sent me a message the other day…
I really don’t know where to begin when thinking of Br Richard. Through my two years living in the LaSalle community my experience as an LV was highlighted by many aspects of my time there and one of the biggest was the relationship between Br Richard and myself. Br Richard to me was the perfect example of what a Christian Brother should be. He was kind and generous and he made living in another state much easier. Though I only knew Br Richard for two years I can say confidently that he was one of the best men I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Some of the best times I spent with him were our after dinner cigar smoking sessions. I could talk to Br Richard about anything but most of all we shared multiple laughs. I was lucky enough to see Br Richard a few months ago but it still saddens me to know he’s gone. I’ll miss him dearly but I know he’s happy in heaven.
Br Brice had his SCOTCHY POO… but Richard simply had his Canadian Club, and then there was his coffee with dinner, which was burgundy poured from a jug of Gallo, and then on occasion, Christian Brothers brandy. Maybe you could find fault in his appreciation of spirits, but it was never about excess for him- he was simply happier and at ease and it meant fellowship.
On special occasions Br. liked to bring out the Jameson. He would say Jameson with his interpretation of an Irish brogue. Some of you know this story, but I will share it as it just epitomizes the feistiness of this man.
Over the last few months while he was at de LaSalle Hall, I visited him several times. The second time I went down, I thought I would cheer him up a bit, and bring him two airplane size bottles of Jameson. When I shared with him what was in the little gift bag, he laughed and said Bill, I assure you I need for nothing at all here. Everything I could want is available to me, but I will most certainly hold on to these in my room.
Well, I came to learn that having a bottle of booze in your room at de LaSalle Hall, even in a miniature version, was not favored by the management. The head brother, a really wonderful man who sat with Richard during his last hours, informed Richard that he needed to surrender them. I am told Richard offered that they were a gift, and otherwise of no interest to him at this point to consume, and he would prefer if they remained in view. No, Richard was told. It was necessary that the bottles be removed.
Ok Then, Richard offered, at which point he took the first bottle firmly, spun off the cap and downed it in quick one gulp, and then, of course, repeated the same with the second bottle. He then said something like, Here then, you may remove the bottles.
I got a phone call not long after that….. “were you the one that brought…..Yes…. I said. Fortunately, my visiting privileges were not revoked, nor was I patted down at the door when I returned. The care that Richard received at de LaSalle Hall was, by my observation and in Richards own words, simply wonderful.
Richard would often talk about how much he enjoyed movies. He would go to the theater, but more often he watched in the community house. John Wayne was a longtime favorite, but he really took pleasure in anything with…Chuck Norris. I was reminded last night that he sometimes referred to his time watching movies as in-service training.
Another love of Richards was music and in particular Sinatra. Earlier I mentioned Don Card, who would later go on to have the responsibilities that Richard had for so long, as the Director of Residential Services at LaSalle. Don loved Sinatra as well, and Richard and Don loved one another.
One of the most emotion filled experiences of my life was the funeral of Don Card. The service on our campus concluded with the playing of one of Don’s Sinatra favorites, “The Summer Wind”. If you know it, it’s a beautiful melody and the brief lyrics are wonderfully comforting and create a perfect visual of relaxation, fellowship, the company of loved ones, all in a tranquil environment. It is a place where you would want to spend all of your time, if you were able to.
A few days after Richard’s death, I had lunch with my brother Fred. We were enjoying a sandwich in one of Albany’s downtown taverns. The bartender was friendly, he had music on while he was working and the place was pretty empty. As we finished eating, my cell phone beeped and I looked down to see a message from Anne Moscinski- It said “ Julie (Don Cards wife) just suggested to me that I think about the reunion of Richard, Bill Cassidy and Don. It made me smile”. I thought to myself, Anne, its making me smile too. I closed up my phone and as I placed it in my pocket, the voice of Frank Sinatra singing The Summer Wind, filled the space. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think The Summer Wind in on the play list of most places like the one we were in. I must have had some sort of expression on my face, as my brother asked me if I had received a bad message or if something was wrong. I paused for a bit, listening to the lyrics, and said to him No Fred, the message is a good one, a good message indeed, I have just been assured things are all right.
Each year at LaSalle School, in May, we celebrate Founder’s Week. Each day of the week has at least one activity that is a celebration, in some form, of the Founder of our Lasallian community, both the smaller version we enjoy here in Albany, and the larger, regional and worldwide community.
On Tuesday of Founders Week we bring the staff and all the students together so we can recognize a variety of their achievements. In 2011, the last thing on the schedule for that year’s assembly was an acknowledgement of Richard, and his 60th year as a Brother of the Christian Schools.
Members of the Board of Trustees were alerted and many adjusted their schedule so they could be present and join to personally congratulate Richard. The following is what I said that day, which was followed by a resounding, standing ovation as Richard came forward.
The final recognition of service that we will award today is one that has special significance. Some thirty years ago, Brother Richard Leo McAlice came to LaSalle School where he has served for most of that time as the Director of Group Living, and also as the Director of the Brothers Community. Prior to that, Richard served at Lincoln Hall.
What’s of significance though, and what I wish to call to everyone’s attention today, is that 2011 is the 60th year of Brother Richard’s service as a Brother of the Christian Schools. For you students, sixty years is not something you can easily fathom. For us adults, we view sixty years as the majority of a lifetime, some portion of which we have ourselves, already led.
I think of the changes that Richard has witnessed and not just weathered, but also influenced. Over a half-century the call to religious life has changed. As the number of brothers diminished, he has endured the dire predictions, the second guessing, and suggestions that the vocation and vows that he and his brothers believe in and committed to had lost relevance. He saw changes in this agency that were on the one hand, clearly a threat, and on the other hand, clearly an opportunity for a future. Richard adjusted, and grasped hold of and embraced what he saw as the pathway to a ministry of a different form, but a ministry that at its core, could be vibrant, and rich and consistent with the vision and teachings of St John Baptist de La Salle. In his quiet and often guarded way, Richard offered the necessary fuel that enabled the emergence within LaSalle School, of a new, and welcoming and more broadly defined commitment to a Lasallian mission. He has demonstrated to us all, with the openness of the community and its resources, his confidence that the mission of the Christian Brothers can be, and will be, realized through lay partners.
His help to me has been immense. He is a father figure to more people in this room today than many of you could imagine. Like so many others, I share my joy, as well as my most serious challenges as well as my heartbreak, with Richard. We find comfort in the patience and insight he has, and wonder how it is that when we come to him, he already knows of our struggle and is prepared to support us.
To serve with him is a privilege. Forever faithful, we congratulate and celebrate, Brother Richard.
The following text is included on the award that we present today:
Richard Leo McAlice, FSC
on the occasion of your sixtieth year
from your La Salle School family
whose hearts you have always touched
Yes brother, our dear brother Richard, our dear friend, our mentor, you have touched our hearts and we are grateful.
We do wish it was somehow otherwise, and not necessary for us to be here. But because we must, then there is nowhere else we would rather be than to be here with you, to know you are at peace, and to have you with us, in our hearts, forever more.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Brother Richard Leo McAlice, FSC
Born Richard John McAlice in Pawtucket, RI, on April 16, 1932
Died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on August 15, 2017
Entered the Barrytown, NY, Novitiate in June, 1950
Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother Angelus Leo, on September 7, 1950
Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Barrytown, NY, in 1957
New York, NY
Incarnation School: teacher
Lincoln Hall: teacher
Lincoln Hall: prefect
Lincoln Hall: sub-director
Lincoln Hall: assistant executive director
La Salle School: prefect
La Salle School: director
De La Salle Hall: resident
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
McVeigh Funeral Home
208 North Allen Street
Albany, NY 12206
Viewing from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
125 Eagle Street
Albany, NY 12202
Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 am
Burial in St. Agnes Cemetery
SUFFRAGES FOR OUR DECEASED BROTHER RICHARD LEO:
District: 50 masses
De La Salle Hall community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass
Brother Richard Leo died peacefully at De La Salle Hall during the afternoon following a brief time in hospice care. May he rest in peace.