It’s with a great deal of sadness I report the passing on Dec. 15th of a dear friend, Dick Earthman of Las Vegas, NV.
It’s close to 38 years ago not when I first met Dick. I had been involved in field training bird dogs and would purchase pigeon for training purposes. The person I purchased them from was active in racing pigeons. I listened and was truly fascinated! I joined the local Norco, CA. club; Dick was a member. There were a good many flyers that shared their knowledge in those early days, which I’ll always appreciate, but Dick took a special interest in me.
There were many things Dick did for me in getting me on track. But one thing in particular that truly stands out I’d like to share.
It was my very first year of flying. Our club had a special y/b race. I participated. No question, Dick had good pigeons, good producing breeding pairs, but one pair in particular was decidedly better, truly a “hit” pair. This pair bred an incredibly high % of outstanding pigeons. He placed a youngster (Norco 2331) off this pair in my loft to compete in this special race (actually there were two races involved.) She won 1st place in both races, one being a 350 (a loft of prestige here; we shared a good amount of the prize money). Can you imagine, with me being a new flyer, how that felt? Later I asked Dick why he placed a youngster with me off his “hit” pair. He certainly could have placed her in lofts with “proven’ top handlers. His answer, “I had a good feeling about you”… I was sure happy to hear that!
She, 2331, went on to perform at the top in o/b’s. And she played a big part in me outright winning the CA most prestigious “Disney Award, 101 lofts and above.” This award is open to the entire state of CA. Involved were top flyers like Brad LaVerne, Art Hees, etc.. Again, can you imagine how that felt? Very important, winning this award would not have happened had it not been for Dick placing 2331 in my loft.
This story doesn’t end there; my company transferred me to our headquarters here in Detroit. Before leaving, I gave her back to Dick. He was so appreciative…after all, she was a champion and he bred her. 2331 was a “special” pigeon!
Now here’s the kicker… after I was here in Detroit for several months, the postman brought a box to our door. Yes, it was her, 2331! In the box was a scribbled note simply saying “She should be with you”. No question, having here made a difference. It meant so much to the success I’ve enjoyed. She’s in the pedigree of most of my breeders – going back maybe 5 or 6 generations. When I look back, seeing the no. 2331 brings a smile. You’d think after all these years I wouldn’t feel so emotional when I tell the 2331 story, but I still do.
Dick had strong feelings towards the Bekaerts and was very knowledgeable of the different Bekaert families, especially the Waterhouse family. He loved the breeding side of the sport. He had a great memory…band #’s, pedigrees, performance records, etc. He loved to talk Bekaerts! With me moving here to Detroit, I had access to the good ol’ Beakert families. I’d send Dick one or two every now and then; he appreciated this quite often they worked out. Looking back, I’m happy I did this.
Dick sure had success flying his Bekaerts. He seemed to always be in the hunt. But it was the prestigious, more meaningful longer races when he did his best… the races that truly mattered (when he got serious!). Give him a “special” race from Stockton (350)…watch out!
Thought I’d pass on a humorous story that Dick’s son, Jeff, shared with me recently. One race day, Jeff and his dad were waiting for birds when here came this dark check cock bird soaring in and trapped; Dick removed the marker and placed it in the clock, turning and stamping the time. Realizing the clock had stopped, he frantically opened the clock, removed the marker, and headed down the street a few hundred yards, running as fast as he could, where another flyer patiently waited for his birds’ arrival. He asked, “What are you doing here?” Dick said, “I got a bird and my clock stopped; I’m using your clock!” Luckily they were very good friends, so the guy agreed, thinking he was pulling a prank. Would you believe the bird took 1st place (300 miles)!!!
Dick Earthman was an incredible man…and it went way beyond pigeons. He taught high school for 55 years and substituted for 5 more. Dick was tough… he wouldn’t put up with bad behavior. But it didn’t take him long before the problem students became good students and they ended up liking and respecting him! Many kept in touch with him long after they had graduated. Dick had a bit of a tough exterior, but the truth is he was a kind person and genuinely interested in others. Andy it didn’t really take that long to see that side of him. Dick also had a quick wit and a great sense of humor. He was fun to be around.
Very importantly, I wish to acknowledge Dick’s wonderful wife and best friend, Carol. She was so supportive of her husband. She passed away 5 years ago. Carol was quite a lady; Dick was quite a man. They really cared for each other. Both had such a zest for life. Dick was so lucky to have had her, but that went both ways.
Dick has always been very close to his sons, Jeff and Dan. Quite often when we talked, he would tell me something that had happened regarding them. He was so proud of both…. Couldn’t say enough good about them. These are tough days for Jeff and Dan. Both are in our thoughts and prayers.
Our friendship stayed strong for oh so many years and I’m happy for that. I have so many never-to-be forgotten memories. I feel honored to have been Dick’s friend. It’s hard, yes, but I get some comfort knowing he’s with his wife and best friend, Carol. And he is at peace breeding champions and developing his “Earthman Bakaert” family of pigeons. I miss him.