Dick Ristine’s Legacy

From our 2009 Summer Newsletter

In June, the Leelanau community lost Dick Ristine to cancer. As many of you recall, Dick was the very definition of an engaged citizen, and he loved everything about Leelanau County. Dick delighted in telling people that he first traveled to Leland when he was just five years old, a journey from Indiana that, in his telling at least, often took at least three days. He championed causes and poured himself into a range of organizations here and in Indiana. Among many other things, Dick was a key player in Conservancy successes since our founding in 1988. He served nine years on our board, serving as chair for his final two years, and continued with committee and volunteer work long after his board service was completed.

Dick’s greatest gift to the Conservancy might be the example that he set for fledgling board members. I first met Dick in 2000, when I as looking for new challenges, following my retirement from medicine. We were introduced at the International Coffee Club in Leland where we instantly found common ground, having both an Indiana heritage, a shared devotion to civil war history, and a healthy interest in the political climate at all levels.

It was not long into my early years first as a Conservancy Docent and then as a board member, that Dick became my role model and mentor. He took me along on visits to our supporters and showed me that fund development could be both fun and fulfilling, not only to the organization and its representative, but also to the prospective donor.

Dick had a gift for bringing people into the Conservancy family, and our friendship evolved and became a warm personal relationship that expanded to include spouses, friends and family members.

In May when Dick shared the news of his terminal illness, our friendship continued to grow. He asked me to counsel him on his diagnosis and prognosis; and what to expect. Over the short months of his illness, he never lost interest in the causes he held most dear, and he never wavered in his commitments. For example, he continued to edit written materials for the Conservancy right up to the last week of his life because he enjoyed helping us frame our message, and he delighted in knowing that he could still contribute.

Dick was instrumental in the development of our Heritage Society and he believed passionately in the power of giving, especially the power of planned gifts and bequests. In the days preceding Dick’s passing, the Conservancy staff and board searched for a fitting memorial to Dick’s legacy with our organization. Accordingly, from now on our Heritage Society, which includes all of our supporters who have made either a planned gift or who have included the Conservancy in their wills, will be renamed the Richard O. Ristine Heritage Society. We think this is a fitting tribute to Dick and his contribution to the Leelanau Conservancy.

The last time I saw Dick, I asked him if we could name the Heritage Society in his honor. He was thrilled. His last words to me five days before his death are worth reporting to you: “Heritage Society members will live forever.” Dick Ristine certainly will.—Tom Dunfee, Leelanau Conservancy President

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