Fair winds and a following sea
September 18, 2012
I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of my friend, Rick James. Rick was a remarkable man and an asset to Northern Nevada who will be sorely missed by his friends and family. To his widow, Paula, and children Jennifer and Jeremiah, I offer this tribute to an extraordinary man.
I first met Rick in the mid-1990s when he introduced himself as a parent of one of my freshman students in the Naval Junior ROTC program at Carson High School. I had the good fortune to have both of his children in my class in the next few years.
Rick mentioned that he played the bagpipes and volunteered to participate in some of our NJROTC ceremonies. We immediately decided to initiate “parading the beef” at our annual Naval Ball and Awards Ceremony.
At formal military mess nights a highlander playing the bagpipes traditionally presents the beef to the president of the mess. The first time Rick performed this function; he came into the banquet room in full Scottish regalia and looked to be about eight feet tall.
His assistant placed the plate of beef in front of one of the senior cadets, who sampled it, stood up and announced to the assembled guests that the beef was “fit for human consumption” to the laughter and cheers from his classmates. This became one of our traditions for a number of years.
After the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, our school superintendent at the time, Mary Pierczynski, asked the school principals to have ceremonies honoring veterans around Veterans Day. With the encouragement of principal Glen Adair, the CHS NJROTC unit initiated a veterans’ recognition ceremony that is ongoing.
At the end of each ceremony, following a moment of silence and the playing of “Taps,” Rick played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes to a hushed audience.
When his son, Jeremiah, enrolled in the NJROTC program, Rick volunteered to advise our fledgling drum and bugle corps and used his considerable musical talents to encourage many of our cadets to participate.
Rick also participated in the annual recognition ceremony honoring our prisoners of war, conducted on the third Friday in September behind the Capitol.
I cannot begin to estimate all of the ceremonies in Northern Nevada where Rick played the bagpipes or the trumpet. I am sure that it was in the hundreds.
In memory of Rick James, I offer the sailor’s farewell, “fair winds and a following sea,” old friend.
• Charles “Skip” Cannady is a retired commander, U.S. Navy. He also is the former senior naval science instructor at Carson High School