Editor's Note: The following letter is by Upper Moreland Historical Commission vice-president Mariann O'Connor.
Many of you may have had the good fortune this year to attend one of the wonderful events and programs celebrating Willow Grove’s 300th Anniversary. But what many of you did not know was that Dick Sayer, President of the Upper Moreland Historical Commission, the person who gave birth to this Tricentennial celebration, was facing his own monumental event.
On Sat., May 7, 2011, Dick, with his ever-spirited nature and smiling face, came to see us off at one of our Tricentennial kick-off events, the Historic Sites Trolley Tour. The day before that event, Dick had been given the grim news that he had only 2-3 months to live.
And on Nov. 22, 2011, after a courageous 7-month battle with colon cancer, Dick’s fighting spirit, boundless energy and good-natured humor, were forever extinguished.
I have personally known Dick and his family for over 35 years. But for the last 4 years I was fortunate to have been Dick’s sidekick, his Vice President in the Upper Moreland Historical Commission.
Dick volunteered to an appointment with the Historical Commission back in 2007 and in 2008 took the reigns as its President. When Dick took office that January many of us thought that Willow Grove had just experienced another tornado!
Did he have plans for Upper Moreland! And you know what, I can’t think of one of them that was not accomplished in this 4 years.
Of course there were some hurdles along the way, but like Tonto and the Lone Ranger, taking turns as each other’s coach and mentor, we conquered each one of them. But the most memorable and certainly the most enjoyable were those times when I was the Laurel to his Hardy. Always seeing “hurdles” with a sense of humor was one of Dick’s most admirable assets. One certainly that I will remember fondly.
One of Dicks’ grandest accomplishments was Willow Grove’s 300th Anniversary Celebration.
In 2009 at a meeting of the Historical Commission, Dick brought up the 300th Anniversary of our town and was curious to know if there were any plans in the works for this grand birthday. Finding there was nothing planned, the wheels started turning, the plans unfolding and in late 2009 at another meeting of the Commission, I nominated Dick to Chair a committee to plan for our Tricentennial celebration in 2011.
Dick then went on to form a Tricentennial committee comprised of the most talented and dedicated of Willow Grove. He worked tirelessly throughout 2010 planning for this celebration for the community, often averaging 60-hour all volunteer workweeks.
Of course planning anything of this magnitude you are going to experience some challenges along the way. But Dick Sayer never saw or spoke of having problems or crisis – he referred to challenges that inevitably would crop-up as “alligators”.
I would often hear him say, “I’m off to slay a few more alligators today”! Fondly I would tell him, “With all these alligators you are slaying you could certainly make me a pair of shoes”!
As we witnessed, most all of the “alligators” for the Tricentennial had been slain. But unfortunately for Dick, his family and for our community, there was one “alligator” more powerful and vicious then most of us can possibly imagine.
One of the more difficult times I faced in our relationship was just the week before Dick died. Dick wanted me to visit so we could discuss matters of the Historical Commission and pass essential files over to me. A harder task I do not remember having to face.
As distraught as I was that day, Dick’s unflappable and relentless spirit somehow gave me the strength and courage I needed to face that moment. As his physical body was showing the ravages of this disease, of this “alligator” of monumental proportions, his gentle heart and valiant spirit were what transcended in that time together.
We were able to reminisce a bit that day and delightfully share a precious few more laughs. And taking his hand in mine, I was able to relay to him just how much he has meant to me.
But what I will always remember, as I thanked him for all he has done for our community, was his reply, “We could have done more, so much more”.
Faithfully and respectfully,
Mariann E. O’Connor,
Upper Moreland Historical Commission