We had sad news this month. Our dear friend and Weeping Willow Books author Dick Jorgensen passed away on May 20. He would have been 93 in July, and he was so looking forward to a big birthday celebration. We published two of Dick’s memoirs—O Tomodachi (Friend) and Yuko, Friendship Between Nations—and were at work on his third, American Sensei (Teacher). You can learn more about Dick's work at his website dickjorgensenauthor.com.
He also was close to finishing a fourth book, But Not for Lunch, a collection of humorous short stories from his adventures during his retirement years. He loved to tell the story behind the title. After Dick retired in 1982, he showed up for lunch the first day and his late wife, Barbara, said to him: "Dick, I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch. Go out and do something.”
Dick had a zest for life that was extraordinary. He loved every minute and grabbed it with gusto and enthusiasm. He was a dedicated Japanophile, and loved all things Frank Lloyd Wright. His favorite composer was Stephen Sondheim and he could sing the lyrics to practically all of his show tunes. Until very recently when his illness slowed him down a bit, he swam several mornings a week with the masters at Los Banos Del Mar pool in Santa Barbara.
Last fall he once again traveled to Japan with his daughter Susan, and was able to reconnect with four of his students from when he taught at the University of Hiroshima from 1954-56 (the subject of O Tomodachi). The Santa Barbara News-Press did a wonderful story about his trip. On May 3, he happily participated in Weeping Willow Books’ 1st Thursday celebration at The Book Den in Santa Barbara. He was planning a trip across the country by train to Chicago in just a few weeks time.
Dick was diagnosed last fall with cancer and went through successful treatments, but struggled with a loss of appetite and, in recent weeks, some considerable pain. Even so, we all thought he was on a trajectory to full recovery. His death has saddened many, many people. All who met him experienced a man who lived life to the fullest. He was an inspiration and a dear friend, and we will miss him terribly.
We send our deepest condolences to his daughters Susan Dickinson and Anne Jorgensen Farkas, their spouses and his four grandchildren. His first great-grandchild, Owen, was born just a few months ago and Dick got to see him for the first time just a few weeks ago.
Here he is last fall in Japan, meeting with his students from Hiroshima in 1954-56.