Monday, October 15, 2001

He knows meaning of 'neighbor'




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        If they ever open a Good Neighbor Hall of Fame, Richard Paquette is a shoo-in.

        For years, he's cared for his College Hill neighborhood and taken good care of his neighbors.

        Despite his 68 years, he's stooped to pick up trash on his street, on the sidewalks, in the gutters. He's planted flowers for his neighbors and mended their broken lawn chairs.

        No one asked him to do this. And he asked for nothing in return — particularly any special recognition.

        “I'm not here to toot my own horn,” Richard announced as we sat at his dining room table with his wife, Rosie, and their next-door neighbor, Mary Macpherson.

        Interrupting himself, he said, “You have to excuse me. Sometimes I slur my words a little.

        “I had a brain tumor. Surgery was in January. They aspirated the tumor and put in radioactive seeds. That did the job. It killed the tumor. So, here I am talking.”

        And helping others.

        Mary told how Richard planted flowers she bought but couldn't put in the ground. She had an auto accident in July. The crash injured her back and neck.

        For weeks she suffered constant pain. She was in no condition to get down on her hands and knees, pry mums, asters and hostas from their pots and plant them along her front, back and side yards.

        One morning, while on litter patrol, Richard spotted her plants still in their pots.

        “They needed to be in the soil,” he said. “That's their native ground.”

        He broke up the dirt just so and planted Mary's flowers, smoothing out his work so the topsoil appeared as if it had never been disturbed.

        His neighborly act of kindness touched Mary. She used to live in Clifton Heights. There, neighbors seldom spoke, much less got dirty planting someone else's flowers.

        So, Mary called me about Richard, her neighbor of four years.

        “Somebody needs to know,” she said, “there are people out here like him.”

        Richard waved his left hand at Mary as if to ward off her words of praise.

        “It didn't take much time. And it was easy,” he explained. “It was my pleasure to put in those plants, to make beauty.”

        He knows he could be taking it easy. A brain tumor is serious business. It forced him to go on permanent disability from his job as a microfilm clerk in the Hamilton County Recorder's office. He should be taking care of no one but himself.

        “That's not Richard,” Rosie said. “He's always helping someone else.”

        Richard blushed. He has his reasons for helping.

        “I'm a Catholic Christian,” he said. “I believe in neighborliness and love, concern for others. It ennobles us. Helps us grow. That's the only way to go.”

        On the day we spoke, Richard and Rosie were getting ready to move to a condominium. Their home had sold. They were simplifying their lives.

        Richard wondered how he would get along with the people on his new street.

        No need to wonder. He'll make friends with ease. Everyone welcomes a good neighbor.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at cradle@enquirer.com; 768-8379; fax 768-8340. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/radel

       



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