Thank you to David Rudesill for allowing us to post this here. I think it represents what a lot of thought of Willie’s generosity.
I regret not being here in person, but it’s very important to me to share how much Willy has meant over the course of my life.
I walked into the Santa Cruz table tennis club as an adolescent, 13 or 14 years years old. I was greeted by men with smiling faces and encouragement to play this sport that ties our lives together. I’ve always know Richard as “Willy” and along with Jim Langley, Jon Pierre, Stephan Pollard, and many others, I was welcomed into what has become a second family for me.
Willy sits at the center table of this ping pong family of ours. I see his big smile, that grin of encouragement. He was a man that lived with a sparkle in his eye and he was always only encouraging of me and my brother as we progressed over the years. Willy never said a word of discouragement to anyone. He was an ambassador to the Santa Cruz Table Tennis Club and a man of supreme integrity and character. Willy always encouraged me to improve, and back in the day always stood just beyond the barrier rooting me on to beat Hans, or Jim, or Charlie, or Chris, or Peter…a list of amazing men that I cannot entirely name right now. But Willy was steadfast in his support of my brother and I, clapping and cheering when we did well, offering some helpful advice if I lost in the 5th.
There are people in this life that are not blood related, but in time become like family. Willy is such a man to me, and I will forever hold him in the inner sanctum of my heart as a fatherly man who ushered me through adolescence and then my twenties with smiles, laughs, fun, and unwavering integrity.
When I think of Willy I think of how he played table tennis; his back hand serve, his pendulum serve…Willy played table tennis like lightning waiting to strike, and when he went all in he threw the entirety of himself into a backhand punch or Forehand slam that was like getting hit by Mike Tyson. When he went for the kill the ball did not come back.
Willy loved the game of table tennis, it’s what brought us together in life, the thread that connects our lives. Somewhere along the way I loved him like an uncle or godfather and I can picture his radiant, caring smile right now, and I will Willy’s smile and love for life with me for the remainder of my own.
I’m very sad he’s left us, it’s very emotional to write these words and I’m glad that he’s surrounded by his table tennis brothers and sisters that loved him so much.
With love, David Rudesill