Bill Raspberry: 1935 – 2012

In 1988, as a new kid in Washington and having read William Raspberry’s columns for several years, I called him at his Washington Post office. I told him I was new in town and found myself in charge of a very high profile event honoring some African-American family champions. I said, “Mr. Raspberry, I’m white and I’m from Kansas. I can’t help that. But I don’t want to do anything stupid or embarrass anyone. So I’m asking you to help me.” He laughed and said, “Come on over and have lunch with me.”

I found a true friend that day. We talked long and deep, exploring some of the deep caves of the human experience. The event was a success, in large part because of his coaching. More than that, he became my tutor; he helped me understand and navigate the Washington mirages, whirlpools, and smoke.

Our friendship was a measure of his character. He was a well known and respected Washington figure and I could not help him or hurt him; he did not need to give me anything. But he gave generously and continued to do so for a quarter century.

Over the next seven years, we met often for breakfast, lunch, or in his office. Nothing changed when he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994. Bill was fairly liberal in his politics; I was fairly conservative. But the political chasm was never an issue. We discussed our differing perspectives with no fear of ridicule or polarization. He, a liberal, often encouraged me to submit my more conservative perspectives for publication.

When we left Washington in 1995, Bill was one of the few Washington friends who kept in touch. In 1997, he interviewed me for one of his columns. After that, he interviewed me three or four more times. Bill is a primary reason I was accepted as a writer.

In the past 17 years, I never went back to Washington without seeing Bill. We always met for long lunches and honest conversations. He was one of the most honest people I ever met. Every spoken or written word that came from Bill Raspberry was true. You could trust it; it came from an honest heart.

The last time I saw him was for a two hour lunch on October 24, 2011, the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Princeton (my dad’s ship). Bill and I talked about our fathers that day. As I told one story about Dad, I wept. Bill’s eyes grew red and he just silently nodded. It was a classic Bill Raspberry moment; pure empathy and deep respect for the secret places. When we parted, he hugged me. I felt a chill in the air as I walked to my car.

A few weeks ago, he stopped replying to emails. I knew he was sick; I asked when we could talk. He did not respond. His silence concerned me deeply.

For two weeks I’ve felt like I should call. But I was busy. Bill died yesterday.

I am forever grateful that this great man’s path crossed through my life. I cherish the memories of Bill’s great kindness, humor, generosity, and care.

Two years ago, he told me that he had prostate cancer. He wanted to talk about God that day. Every time we met after that, our conversation always came back to God. I tried to help; I do not know if I did. But I’m confident that someday Bill will tell me. He is unfailingly honest.

15 thoughts on “Bill Raspberry: 1935 – 2012”

  1. When you love someone, you can’t help but also love those who have played a role in who your loved one is today. So, this day, I am thankful for Bill Raspberry and the impact he has had on you.

    Beautiful tribute.

  2. Chris Hoffman

    I always knew he was a friend of yours. Thank your for the wonderful tribute you paid and sharing about your friendship.

  3. MarySue Hermes

    That was a beautiful tribute, Ed. Over the years, I somehow felt that I knew him, from what you shared about him. I am so sorry for your(and Washington’s) loss…

  4. Ed, I wish I had known Bill Raspberry. What a nice tribute. I love honest, kind people. Bill embodied both attributes honesty and kindness with you. I thank God for his voice in your life and for the conversations of discovery you two shared. Glad you visited with him in 2011, sorry you didn’t get to say goodbye.

    1. It is a rare privilege to have an accomplished friend who needs us less than we need him. It is also a gift from God for those willing to humble themselves. I know you celebrate that treasure, Ed!

      “It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us, as the confidence of their help.”
      Epicurus

  5. True friends never really leave us – their goodness somehow carves uncluttered pathways in our hearts where we can remember their words and savor the many smiles they gave you

  6. darrell a. harris

    Ed, I rejoice with you in the wondrous gift of friendship. But with you I also mourn this loss in your life.
    dh

  7. Through the years I have looked forward to the emails Ed has sent with comments about his dear friend. This loss will only be exceeded by the positive experience Bill brought to Ed and all of us.

  8. Marianne Paulus

    You two were well matched as friends. I am sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing with those of us who did not have the privilege of knowing him.

  9. Ed, I know you loved and appreciated this man very much as I’m sure he did you. I am sorry for the loss you must feel. Remember, always remember. Very nice tribute. rt

  10. Ed, thanks for sharing your story of friendship and love.

    “May The Lord bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, and give you Peace.”

    FRANK

  11. Ed, we feel for you these days because we knew of your close friendship with and deep respect for Mr Rasberry. It is a great tribute to you both that you found friendship with each other and it is a very interesting story how you too met. Bill will be greatly missed and my heart goes out to you because I know you will miss him tremendously.

  12. Ed, appreciate the great tribute. How the world longs for honest expression and feelings shared with integrity. You and Bill have a long standing history of both and is a far better salve than than the current explosion of agenda rhetoric.

  13. Mary Ann Weakley

    Beautiful tribute, Ed. True friendships such as yours with Mr. Raspberry, touch a soul deeply. They are rare. I weep with you at your loss, but rejoice in the beautiful memories you have gained.

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