YAM Notes: September/October 2015

By Marty Snapp

Richard Munoz—aka Dick, aka “Moon”—was killed May 29 while riding his beloved motorcycle on I-95 in Philadelphia. Despite wearing a helmet, he died instantly when the bike flipped.

“I am very comforted by how this happened,” says his wife, Gail Howard. “Richard had a near-perfect afternoon of many hours, then died without any pain, lingering, or suffering with disability. If we were to have choices about how we would die, I think Richard might have scripted something like this. A fulfilling day and then simply gone. I already miss him terribly, but am well positioned to move comfortably through the next months and years with great memories of our 32 years together.”

It was Richard’s wish that no funeral or viewing be held. Instead, he asked for a party. “He thought those things were very depressing,” Gail explains. “He didn’t want to do that to his friends and family. I do expect at some point to have a celebration, which must be a happy event for him to approve. No dirges and no talk about mortality. Only music and fun.”

But that hasn’t stopped his many friends in our class, especially his teammates on the freshman crew, from mourning deeply.

“So sad to hear this news about Dick,” says John Born. “He always projected such a bubbly, happy, optimistic attitude that was easily transferred to all around him, right from the first days at Yale. Correct me if I am wrong, but I remember a Yale Daily News photo of ‘Moon’ mounted atop of the Bladder Ball in the freshman quad with a giant grin on his face. Same old guy that we saw last year in Philly as a gracious host to our group’s cocktail party. RIP.”

“Oh man, the news about Moon is so sad,” says Bob Emmett. “I think John’s right about the Yale Daily picture. Moon was just the type of guy who would get up on top of the ball. I also remember some of us trying to convince him in the back of the bus to Derby that if you rowed fast enough in the rain you could avoid getting wet! He could really make me laugh. I’m really glad to have had one more chance to see him and talk to him when we got together in Philly. It just goes to show you: Seize the day. We just don’t know what’s around the next bend in life.”

“He was one of a collection of Silliman freshmen living in McClellan Hall when we met in 1963,” recalls Peter Parkas. “I have vivid recollections of frequent morning coffees in the Common Room at Silliman College at which Dick was one of the regulars. We settled all the issues of the world and of Yale College frequently. As Tom Opladen ’66 recently wrote, ‘We always enjoyed his energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and interest and concern for other people. His sense of humor and irreverence were endearing and could always cheer up a dour day.’

“I also recall, but not so vividly, road trips with Dick and others (at various times, Wade Eaton, Jeff Steele, and Joe Cohen, among them) to various women’s colleges between the Hudson and Boston and between New Haven and Vermont. Wade recalls a Spring Break road trip he, Dick, and I took to Texas. It included a night in the French Quarter after which we temporarily ‘lost’ my car and took a trolley back to our B&B. Thus began Dick’s long love affair with Texas and Houston.

“Senior year, while rooming with Opladen (who graduated with us, though remained affiliated with ’66), Tom O’Brien, Dick Grote, Bill Mantis, Charlie Sumner, Jack Watts, and Mike Ladd in a third-floor suite overlooking Wall Street, Dick committed a memorable faux pas. It was a warm spring day, the windows were open, and only Tom Opladen was present. Coming into the living room of the suite a bit tipsy, for no apparent reason, Dick dropped his trousers, walked over to a window and mooned no one in particular. Unfortunately, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin and his young daughter, who lived in a house at the corner of Wall and Temple, were passing by at the time. Opladen saw an enraged Coffin rushing into the College and told Dick to leave and let him handle it. When Opladen denied that he had done it and refused to identify Dick, Coffin filed a formal complaint. All eight suitemates were threatened with disciplinary action by Master Elias Clark. Dick stepped forward, took the rap, and was ‘rusticated’ for two weeks, living off campus at the Taft Hotel. Wade recently described the incident as ‘pure Munoz.’ Ironically, many had already nicknamed Dick ‘Moon,’ and his e-mail address to the day of his death was SpanishMoonZ@gmail.

“Dick later entered Texas Law School with me, but after a month or so pulled out. Not for him. He finished that academic year teaching at Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and was then drafted. While serving in Vietnam, he was blown or shot out of a guard tower and returned with injuries from which he apparently fully recovered. Then it was the Wharton School at Penn and an MBA, which led him to a career in insurance in Philadelphia, Hartford, and back to Philadelphia. Along the way he married Maria and they parented three daughters and a son. He remained close to all of them during his 37-year marriage to Gail after he and Maria divorced.

“A few days before he died I got a card from Dick—with an antique Harley-Davidson pictured—looking forward to our return to Philly and a visit before or after The Game when we will be in New Haven. It was over before I responded. We have lost not only a classmate who touched many in very special ways, but a good soul. We will toast him at our 50th reunion and hope that Gail will join us.”