Rick McConomy is gone. We shall not see his like again. You’ve read that last line before in remembrances of public people. It’s usually followed by a long list of accomplishments. And Rick had those aplenty. But I use it here in a very personal sense. I’ve lost an irreplaceable member of my band of sisters and brothers. This city has lost one of its great ones.
Rick took a piece of all our hearts with him. In a time of little courage, less empathy and scarce wisdom, Rick McConomy was a rare storehouse of all three, with enough reason and sanity to make this life bearable when things got too much for me and for so many others. He was the guy you went to for perspective. He was the guy who taught you how to do it with impish wit and a smile. And he was the guy who beat into your head that a stiletto was a lot more effective than a sledgehammer.
Yes, Rick lived a life of great purpose and achievement. His parents and those of his beloved Pierrette were, in André Malraux’s words, “Les gens engagées” and Rick and Pierrette certainly continued that tradition. Much of Rick’s life is known to you. Batonnier of the Bar of Montreal. Grand Marshal of the St.Patrick’s Day Parade. His leadership in Centraide, St.Mary’s and so much more. Advisor to many in power.
But the greatness of Rick is that he always found time for the everyday folks. The ones who keep things going and who sometimes need a helping hand. He treated them all like heads of state. And he never hesitated to pick up the phone and reach into his incredible network and sound a call of conscience that was answered by many usually too busy to care. Very few said no to an ask from Rick.
Rick taught me the following line from Yeats. “Being Irish, he was imbued with an abiding sense of tragedy that sustained him through the fleeting periods of joy.” People may be surprised but that was very much Rick. His strength — a strength he shared with us all — was that even knowing the end game in this leaky lifeboat of a mortal coil we are all in together, he instilled in us a passion for living it to the full and doing it with grit and savvy. And for being responsible for each other.
Rick taught us that the Irish “abiding sense of tragedy” could be harnessed to steady us on our roads of life. To teach us not to take too much too seriously and to have the courage to always be overcoming. Rick had that Irish glint in his eyes that recflected the sure knowledge that even as we hoisted a few pints for liberty and the smiles and songs burst out, the absurdity of life could hit us squarely in the face at any corner.
Rick made us believe in friendship. Rick was that warm, wise and witty corner of renewal we went to when the sham and drudgery, false pieties and betrayals got too much. And we came out of that corner renewed and revived like the Cinderella Man, boxer Jimmy Braddock, ready for the next round. Ahh Rick, “we hardly knew ye.” You went too soon. But as sure as anything in this world, Hizzoner Richard J. McConomy “is already in heaven and the Devil doesn’t even know he’s gone.” May the wind of the spirits always be at your back dear friend. You made it better for all of us to carry on down here.
(In photo with Rick and Pierrette at the Irishman of the Year breakfast two years ago.)