A side of Dick Lutz that would probably not surprise many, but that may not have been directly experienced by many, was his generosity – with his time, with his possessions, with whatever someone needed. As we became good friends through editing The WIRE, we exchanged a lot of favors and advice, but it was lopsided; he definitely did more. The biggest favor is still almost unbelievable to me – when I renovated my apartment, he let me move a large room’s worth of stuff into his apartment, and cheerfully tolerated its dispersal all around the place for seven months. I was always relieved when there was something that I could do for him. I wish I could do him the ultimate favor now...
How to describe a man like Dick? He was kind, generous, dedicated to the community paper, smart. He liked to help people. He was handy and liked to fix drawers, fences, and other things that gave me pause.
One time, my bread drawer was broken. I told Dick I thought it was “a three-minute job.” Well, it was not a three-minute job. It involved his taking pictures of the back of the cabinet and manufacturing a replacement for the broken part. It was a two-hour job. After that, whenever I showed him something that needed fixing, we’d look at each other and say, “Three-minute job,” and laugh. Yes, he had a good sense of humor.
He was an excellent pianist. He came late to plant ownership, but he fussed over his small collection and worried when one wasn’t doing well. He loved children, although he had none. One day, we were sitting for my 18-month-old grandson. Dick and Jo discovered how funny it was to push his mother’s foam exercise roller down the stairs. It made an excellent noise. Dick somehow intuited that it would give Jo, otherwise so dependent, a sense of power. They spent a good 45 minutes playing that game, and Jo laughed and laughed.
Dick always wanted the latest pictures and the latest tale a proud grandmother was anxious to tell. But maybe the best way to sum him up is to say that, ten times a day, I think of something I want to share with Dick – something political, something funny my grandchildren did, a small factoid that only he would appreciate – and then realize with a start that I can’t. Like a phantom limb, Dick is still a part of me, even though he’s not here anymore.
I think we all expected that Dick Lutz would be hovering over The WIRE as a benign presence for years to come. I will miss him.
Here are some thoughts I have about Dick.
I worked with Dick for more than a year as part of The WIRE staff. Dick brought real, old-fashioned journalistic acumen to The WIRE. For one thing, he was a stickler about getting the facts right and recording them with integrity. He had decided opinions on many subjects, but he was always careful to confine his opinions to editorials so that his readers had a fair chance to make their own assessments.
As an editor, he relentlessly challenged cozy assumptions and excised personal opinions from articles. He knew that the news can be shaped by what an editor chooses to cover or not cover. He was a human being, so he had biases, but I watched him scrupulously examine his assumptions to try to uncover and combat the biases in his thinking.
Dick believed passionately that information was the life-blood of the community. He saw it as his duty and his honor to keep Roosevelt Islanders informed about any and all matters that could impact their personal and civic lives. He believed in the power of journalism to combat corruption, to promote safety, to build community, to foster decency, and to enrich lives. He put his time, money, and care into the service of that passion. I firmly believe that Roosevelt Island is a better community and a better place to live as a result of Dick’s efforts.
I will miss Dick, the man. He was good company: friendly, curious, well-informed. Conversations with him were always interesting: far-ranging, intelligent, and free of any self-serving hypocrisy. He had a combination that I admire: he knew a lot, but he was aware of the limits of his knowledge. He was always ready to rely on and learn from anyone whose knowledge was deeper in some area than his own. That made him intellectually honest. I will miss that.
One of Roosevelt Island’s bright lights has gone out, but we are all better for the fact that it shone on us for so long.
I have never known anyone like him and I never will again. My words won’t do Dick Lutz justice, but I will try...
Author, journalist, radio and TV station manager, photographer, pilot, tech consultant, pianist, cartoonist, mentor – all of these describe what Dick excelled at. But, what he was best at was being an activist, fighting for the least among us or for rights he thought unjustly denied.
He was a founding member of the Maple Tree Group, formed to advocate for resident representation and control on the RIOC Board. He used his 20-year stint as publisher and editor of The Main Street WIRE as a verbal battering ram to advocate for justice and fairness in all aspects of Island life. He loved this close-knit, multinational, diverse community and believed strongly that, without a community newspaper to inform and motivate action, the Island would eventually lose much of its character and cohesiveness. He, therefore, fought to keep The WIRE alive through sweat equity and, often, financial sacrifice.
Dick Lutz, center, with Linda Heimer, left, and Judy Buck in December.
It was a commitment he continued to honor even after he had stepped away. A few weeks ago, due to personal obligations which demanded my attention, I asked Dick if he would temporarily take over my duties as chief proofreader for the last two WIRE issues. Although unfamiliar with some of our new procedures, he delved in, and even left behind a list of style and journalistic rules for the benefit of WIRE staff. It seems fitting that, after more than a year since he retired from The WIRE, he would make a final contribution to his beloved newspaper again just before his demise.
Dick had a voice that commanded attention. He also had a keen sense of humor – you sometimes didn’t realize you were being teased until you saw the small, contained smile and twinkle in his eye. A lover of people, young and old, Dick was genuinely interested in their stories – what made them who and what they were, and his investigative reporting skills swayed some to reveal more than they realized. He encouraged many to do more, be more.
He was the ultimate friend, always willing to help someone with a computer problem, a handyman task, or in need of writing acumen, sage advice, or simply a shoulder to lean on. He was so bright, so generous with his time and resources, and so determined to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Dick could be difficult at times, especially when under pressure or on deadline. He sometimes referred to his experiences in television management saying, “There was no time to be courteous with Guiding Light coming up right behind you.” But you always knew under that sometimes rough exterior, there was a warm teddy bear. He wasn’t perfect; who among us is? But Dick was a man of principles, ethics, strong convictions, and a belief that we should all do our part, however small, to make the world a better place – and that he did in spades.
On a personal note, Dick was my closest and dearest friend for the last 21 years. I cannot believe he is gone and I am devastated by the loss. There may be smarter, warmer, kinder, wiser, more generous people on this earth, but I don’t know them. To me, he was one of a kind, so special, and his absence will create a void in my life, and in those of many others, that no one will be able to fill. Rest in peace, my dear friend.
I already miss Dick Lutz, even though I saw him infrequently throughout the last few years. I felt safe knowing he was around, serving this community as its gatekeeper and a rock of sanity in the turbulence of our Island life.
He always cared and could not help getting involved in any matter that seemed unjust to him on any level, personal, local, or global. So many subjects were on his agenda. In some, I was lucky to join him, as were many others.
I remember the effort to protect the Island from over-development and keep its open green spaces, the ongoing, never-ending efforts to establish local elected representation, the effort to learn and help the process of fair privatization in all of the Island’s buildings, and so on. Occasionally, I took part in The WIRE work and witnessed his managerial skills and generosity towards his workers and friends.
His agenda was to pursue the better and the good, very often at his own expense, whether it be health, time, or money. He believed in just causes. Not knowing how a struggle will end never stopped him. Did he know his heart would stop? Did we lose the last fighter?
My sincere condolences to you and all of The WIRE family on the untimely loss of Dick Lutz. He was a fine man and I always enjoyed his company.
Public Safety Chief
The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation was deeply saddened to learn of Richard Lutz’s passing. Under Mr. Lutz’s leadership from 1996 -2016, the Main Street WIRE expanded beyond a donation-driven periodical to a bi-weekly newspaper of record for all Roosevelt Island residents. He made The WIRE synonymous with diverse, thoughtful, and professional community journalism. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends.
The Roosevelt Island