Ric Bourie was a traveling man. He was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. I was lucky enough to have met him, years ago when we both worked at the Union-News bureau in Hampshire County in the late 1980s.
We were both general assignment reporters, which means that we covered anything: A Town Meeting where the agonizing issue was deciding between hiring an art teacher or buying a new fire truck; a heated City Council meeting on declaring a tract of land fine for pricey development; a pig race at the Three County Fair. GA’s do anything and go anywhere to get a story. We were both at home going places.
As a cross country racer, he placed number 1 in New England in 1971 when he was a teenager. Maybe his love of traveling started there. Running for miles, taking in the changing views as his feet pounded the earth. Years later, at the Boston Herald, he had a weekly travel column, and in recent years wrote travel pieces from Vietnam, the Caribbean, Finland, everywhere. In the Caribbean he met George Martin, the Beatles’ legendary record producer, and was beside himself. He was such an unabashed fan.
Through his writing he transported the reader to places he had been. The articles aren’t for tourists, they are for National Geographic readers. They are for people who want to know more than where to book the cheapest hotel and plane fares. With his masterful command of words and rhythm, his articles were songs of glorious world.
Last summer I spent an afternoon with him and his family. We floated in the backyard pool for a long time. Got out, got in, got out. The day was hot, the water refreshing. We talked about anything. It’s hard to remember right now the content, but the context was an easy flow of conversation. He was happy although he wasn’t feeling the best health.
Ric had been to many countries and I’ve been to some. We connected in our love of the world. Like him, I’m always ready to get on a plane, train or automobile. Traveling is a privilege, an adventure. It’s exciting and rewarding and makes life way more interesting. There is so much to see, to learn. Wow, taste what do they do with noodles here! What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. How high is that mountain? How fast that river? How much is this precious item in dollars?
The familiar neighborhood where everyone knows your name is great fun and comforting, but so are the places where they can’t quite place where you’re from. A discovery begins in those moments that lead to new worlds of understanding. In Spain, they thought I was from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa because my Z’s hissed like S’s whereas mainland Spaniards pronounced the last letter of the alphabet as if they have a “lispth.”
He knew all about the world, both inside himself and the world outside. Part of his own world, inside his body, was succumbing to cancer. But he kept traveling, kept writing, sending APB missives to his friends. Mine he signed, Ricardo, a gracious nod to my culture.
In the 12-plus years between working with him and seeing him last year, he hadn’t aged. He was still a tall, wiry guy with a youthful face. He was funny, charming, a good listener. To many, the sweetest of friends.
He missed wild Montana, where he had lived for several years. And even though he returned home, his obituary says he was from Helena, Montana. It also says he and five companions traveled 675 miles by canoe from Yellowknife to the Artic Ocean. That he took up dog sledding and raced in Washington, Montana and British Columbia. That he enjoyed scuba diving, kayaking, camping and a bunch of other outdoor activities.
Not long ago, I told him how sorry I was that he had a cancer that wouldn’t let him go. He said that he had lived a great life, a full life. He felt blessed by the deep love of his family.
He died Feb. 18.
At 51, he said he felt peace with his time to go. As he splashed in his parents’ swimming pool, in the backyard of his boyhood home, all I saw was a boy, full of wonder, smiling, chuckling at my impromptu bathing suit – a pair of his shorts and a T-shirt. And I was missing him already. But isn’t that how it always is with travelers?
This column appeared originally in The Republican in 2006