For my friend Bill . . .

My friend Bill Dietrich passed away the other day and I've been broken up ever since I heard . . . 

There's so much to say right now, but I can't quite find the words — other than to say that my life was richer for knowing him and I was always honored and humbled to be among his friends.  If you'll bear with me and read the story below, I'd be much obliged.  

I first met Bill at the Garden Court in Palo Alto in late 2001 or early 2002.  There was a riot of people over in a corner and I was drawn over by the sheer magnetism of the moment.  I don't remember exactly what everyone was talking about — it was probably some bellyaching about the then-current malaise in the business — but I remember there was this guy at the center of the clutch with a knowing smile and a sparkling eye who sported a bowtie and glasses and whenever he spoke, everyone grew quiet.  I leaned over to my buddy Du Chai and said, "who is that guy?" and he just whispered back reverently: "Dietrich."  To this day, I haven't forgotten the instant and powerful sense of recognition.  I'd never met Bill prior to that moment, but I knew him straightaway: he was a character from a Fitzgerald novel . . . not one of those main characters, flawed, vain, and imperfect, pinballing through the world.  Instead, Dietrich was someone that people talked about through the warm gauze of memories: a man of generous spirit and quick wit, a man who saw others for what they were and loved them for what they were.  A man who sheepishly and gracefully accepted their love in return:

"Do you remember that party at Deitrich's all those years ago?" Tom Buchanan asked Daisy across the vast expanse that separated them, even thought they sat but a few feet apart.  "Yes, Tom," she sighed.  A moment passed.  Then another.  And a wispy smile came across her drawn lips:  "The stars that night hung so low," she remembered, "I thought I could stretch up on my tip-toes and touch them.  And the people . . . the people.  Absolutely everyone was there and they moved so impatiently just to see all the other people who were there.  It was like watching a waltz in old Vienna-town.  And Dietrich!  Oh, dear old Dietrich!  I don't think he moved a step that night.  The party seemed to rotate around him like the planets around the sun."  Tom gazed over at Daisy and felt some of the old, forgotten feelings swelling in him again.  "That Dietrich!" he chuckled as he reached for his Gin Rickey, "Always so quick and witty . . . and, boy, did the ladies ever love him!  You should've seen him at the mixers; no girl from Bryn Mawr or Sarah Lawrence could resist his charms."  Daisy laughed now, that sweet exciting laugh that intoxicated men and infuriated women.  "Oh, Tom, let's go to Pittsburgh!  Let's go right now, this very minute!  Let's go see Dietrich and it'll be just like old times again!"  "Yes, Daisy, let's!" Tom replied, as the old excitement animated his legs and his heart and he sprang to his feet crying out to the thin wafer of a moon that winked down at them "To Dietrich's!"

4 thoughts on “For my friend Bill . . .

  1. Dietrich is an amazing man who seemed to do everything right. A tremendous legacy and example for all of us. Thanks for the post Chris.


  2. Thanks Chris for the laugh when we need it. I remember a great Bill quote about stories like this: “My father would recognize it; my mother would believe it.”


  3. He represents the last of the type who sent thank you letters to the GP at the end of a fund’s life. I wish he’d had more time to enjoy the accolades following his amazing gifts to CMU and Pitt, but no doubt he planned it this way. Thanks Chris for a fitting tribute.


  4. Chris,
    This is so good in English (even before Fitzgerald), I almost swore in Russian.
    I never knew Dietrich, but you made me miss him.
    Thank you.


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