February 14, 2011

An abrupt end to a full life


Union Leader Correspondent
Patriot Guard Riders line the entrance to the First Parish Church Saturday.
DERRY -- If anyone understood the mystery of God’s timing, it was Richard Hunter.
With just two months to go to his retirement from his job as a municipal employee on March 31 — his 65th birthday — the devoted husband and father died Feb. 7, after a brief bout with cancer.
“He was diagnosed just four weeks before he died,” said Beth Hunter of her husband. “When he first got the diagnosis he vowed to fight it, but he never got the chance.”
Feeling more tired than usual after his regular workouts at the gym, Hunter went in for a routine checkup and some blood work in January. His doctor discovered cancer in his lungs.
“At that point, they said with chemo he’d have maybe 12 to 18 months,” said Beth Hunter.
But then doctors found that the cancer had spread to his liver, bones and brain. After his first week of radiation, Hunter became so physically weak he needed a wheelchair to get to and from his many doctor’s appointments. The next three weeks were a “nightmare of doctor’s appointments and blood transfusions,” said his wife.
Days before he died, Hunter’s family made their way to his Derry home to say their goodbyes.
“His son arrived Monday
 morning, and Dick died Monday night — as if he was waiting for him to get there,” said Beth Hunter. “He died in peace and I firmly believe he’s in heaven. That’s the one thing that brings me peace.” 

Hunter, 64, lived a life of selfless service to others. He was a former state representative who was also a proud combat veteran of both Vietnam and Iraq; he volunteered hundreds of hours over the past 25 years as a member of Kairos, a Christian- based prison ministry; he was an active member of First Parish Church; and he worked the second shift doing maintenance for the town of Derry. 
Hunter was profiled in an “Off the Clock” feature in the New Hampshire Union Leader last May, in which he explained his work with Kairos, one of two Greek words for time, he explained. Chronos is time we measure, the root of chronological time, as measured by man.
“Kairos is a special time, like when a baby comes into the world. It’s God’s time,” said Hunter. 
He had true compassion for the men he ministered to in prison, and stayed in touch with many of them for years after he met them, some even seeking him out after their release from prison, just to thank him in person for helping turn their lives around. 
Although he will be buried in spring, it was standing room only during his memorial service Feb. 12 at First Parish Church, said fellow parishioner and friend, Margi Ives. 
“He touched so many people’s lives from so many different places — he guided young people through confirmation classes, he did the prison ministry, and he was on our church Katrina team when we went down there to do some disaster relief,” Ives said. “When we got the news that he was gone, it took our breath away.” 
A devoted motorcycle enthusiast, Hunter was also a member of the local chapter of the national Patriot Guard Riders, motorcyclists who ride together in honor of fallen veterans, often standing vigil during funeral services. On Saturday, they showed up in force to pay respects to one of their own, said Patriot Guard Rider state captain Bobby Broneske of Londonderry. 
“We had 50 or 60 flags — maybe more — outside the church for him,” said Broneske. “We were all shocked to hear. With all he was involved in, Dick was also very active on missions with the Patriot Guard Riders. In fact, the last mission we rode together was the funeral for Lance Cpl. Geary here in Derry. He’s going to be missed by a lot of people,” Broneske said. 
Hunter’s wife said the two were counting down to his retirement, when they would make full use of the 32-foot travel trailer they’d purchased a few years ago, so they could see the world together. 
“We had so many plans,” Beth Hunter said. “This happened so fast, I can’t really wrap my mind around it. I’m going to miss him so much.” 

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