Richard Lee Pickel, a retired Captain with the Concord Fire Department, died March 15 of cancer. He was 85.
Mr. Pickel made a courageous stand against cancer of unknown primary origin and died at home in Concord. He was the devoted husband of Barbara Ann (Culkins) Pickel for nearly 62 years.
Mr. Pickel was born in a farm house on the outskirts of Middletown, Pa. on November 26, 1928. He was the fifth of nine children born to the late Levi Grant and Margie (Miller) Pickel. His mother was an excellent cook, making traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dishes on a wood burning stove.
Mr. Pickel graduated from Middletown High School in 1947, where he played baseball and football. As a boy he worked the family farm in Round Top, Pa. and remembers that he was out plowing the fields with a horse the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Mr. Pickel had a strong work ethic and was blessed with physical strength and stamina. His motto was, “Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.” Even in his early 80s he could take an ax and split multiple cords of wood. He was an avid outdoorsman and would return to Pennsylvania each November to hunt deer and turkey with his relatives. In his last days he read poems about the woods by Robert Frost, including the “The Wood-Pile,” about a cord of wood decaying in the forest.
Mr. Pickel, known as “Pick,” lived in Concord 60 years and worked as a firefighter for the Town of Concord for 32 years. He retired in 1987. If something needed fixing, he took it upon himself to do it. He was responsible for keeping the ambulance licensed and equipped, and was instrumental in establishing and teaching a certified Emergency Medical Technician training course for the town’s firefighters. He also represented the firefighter’s union in negotiations with the town.
Previously, Mr. Pickel worked two years for the Town of Concord’s Highway Department. He also operated the town’s voting machines periodically, starting when the earliest automated model arrived in the 1960’s. He worked as a carpenter on his days off and also ran a wood stove installation business.
Mr. Pickel was a U.S. Navy veteran. He enlisted after high school and served five years as a machinist’s mate on the destroyer escort, the USS Maloy, DE791, concluding his service during the Korean Conflict. He cruised the seas of the Caribbean and the East Coast. He said the Navy taught him to be a man. It also taught him to shine his shoes, a habit that stuck with him for life. Mr. Pickel shined pots and pans until they sparkled, as well as ax blades and his numerous tools.
Near the end of his Navy tour in 1952, he met his future bride – Barbara Culkins of Concord – and the two married and raised four children, including identical twins. Later, they were devoted grandparents to their grandchildren in Atlanta.
As newlyweds, the couple moved to Pennsylvania for a year where Mr. Pickel worked at Olmstead Air Force Base, in Middletown, repairing jet engines. The couple returned to Concord in 1953.
Mr. Pickel planted a huge vegetable and flower garden every year and did battle with a persistent groundhog. He took his family on camping trips to New England and Canada, and later enjoyed trips to Ireland and Germany. He also enjoyed writing poems – for his wife and friends. He loved to read the newspaper and he sang freely in a beautiful tenor voice.
Mr. Pickel could add figures in his head quickly and was a crackerjack Cribbage and Pinochle player, teaching the game to friends at the Concord Council on Aging. He knew what cards were left in play and – more importantly - had a very good idea of who held what.
The neighborhood children and dogs loved Mr. Pickel. He would drive the children in his tractor-style lawn mower, towing them in a little cart. His box of dog biscuits was always at the ready. Mr. Pickel could often be found in his shed, among his tools and the treasures he collected at flea markets and antique stores.
In addition to his beloved wife, Barbara, he is survived by one son, R. Daniel Pickel of Reno, NV, three daughters, Elizabeth (Michael) Hearn of Atlanta, GA; Virginia Lee Pickel of Hudson, MA; and Mary Lou Pickel of Alexandria, VA.; two grandchildren, Katherine Elizabeth Hearn and John Thomas Hearn, both of Atlanta, GA., two brothers; David Pickel of Middletown, PA and Clyde H. Pickel of Falmouth, PA., and numerous nieces and nephews. He was also the brother of the late Mary Kardesco, and his late brothers Ray, Marlin, Carl, Lee and Martin Pickel.
The funeral will be held on Friday, March 21, from the Dee Funeral Home, 27 Bedford Street, Concord Center at 9 a.m. followed by a funeral Mass in Holy Family Parish, Monument Square, Concord Center at 10 a.m.
Visiting hours at the Dee Funeral Home will be held on Thursday, March 20, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. where officers and members of the Concord Fire Department will serve as honor guard.
Burial will be in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord where officers of the Concord Fire Department will serve as honor guard and officers of the U. S. Navy will present military honors.
Concord’s town flag will fly at half-staff on Friday, March 21 in recognition of Mr. Pickel’s service to his country during the Korean Conflict and for his many years of service to the Town of Concord.
Contributions in his memory may be made to Sumner Redstone Burn Center, MGH, 55 Fruit Street, GRB 1303, Boston, MA 02114.
Arrangements are under the care of Susan M. Dee and Charles W. Dee, Jr., Funeral Directors, Dee Funeral Home of Concord.
To share a remembrance in Mr. Pickel’s guest book, visit www.deefuneralhome.com.