Here is a wonderful tribute to Douglas Hedderich from Dave Lineberry. Dave knew him earlier in his life. Doug will definitely be missed.
"When I was a college sophomore, there was a fellow in my German class who was in his mid-to-late thirties, who walked with a cane and even then in great pain and with greatly inefficient movement, wore unwashed clothes, unwashed and greasy hair, and an equally unkempt Waylon Jennings-style beard, and who stank to high heaven--stank of b.o. and spilled whiskey and some moldy hole of an apartment or boarding room he hermitted in.
He was taking only one class, and that was German.
"His appearance in class was indistinguishable from any one of the homeless guys who now gather personal donations at the highway exits.
"But he came prepared. He turned in hand-written homework, always did the reading, usually more than once, was facile and capable in applying our new skills when answering the prof's questions in German, and in every way comported himself as a student who met or exceeded every standard of responsible learning.
"Probably because of my maternal family's origins in impoverished parts of the Ozarks, I don't have the socio-economic hangups some others do, and so even though I thought Doug smelled terribly, I certainly talked to him before, during, and after class, both in English and in German.
"I suppose, in his condition, there weren't a lot of undergrads (or anyone else for that matter) who actually talked to Doug or who even really "saw" him or acknowledged his humanity.
"I had three part-time jobs at the time, and one of them was working an information/reception desk for a huge, centralized student-services office. Doug would show up in the reception area like clockwork within ten minutes of my shift start, and would just hang out there, instantly going silent and fading back toward the walls when anyone entered or passed or conducted necessary exchanges with me, and then stepping back toward the desk to re-engage in all sorts of conversation as soon as we were alone.
"He was intellectually very bright, and like me then, thought first from the counter-culture and second about the larger society.
"We shared an interest in folk music, and he especially liked satirical/social commentary folk-- Steve Goodman, BIlly Joe Shaver, etc.
"I invited him to my multi-roommated house one afternoon to play some music, and we did so, and he showed up with ten pages or so of original compositions and unset lyrics. He had also hand-copied the lyrics to a handful of his favorite songs to play, and asked me to sing them while he played.
"We did that maybe once more, and then soon enough we played a folk set down at the old Chez Coffeehouse, and then other small spaces around where Doug could perform almost without being seen..
"Doug would continue in the German sequence, and used it as a re-entry to what had previously been a process of continuous, goal-free education. His student number was only four-digits long, while the rest of ours were six, and if I remember correctly, he had no degree and twice the credit hours on his transcript a degree would require.
"Over the year or two it took to move through that course sequence, he and I remained friendly. He took an interest in one of my hobbies, cycling, and he bought at a yard sale an old Schwinn road bike that I tuned as best its components would allow, and then he started riding that bike. Everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE.
"And an amazing thing happened.
"He lost his paunch.
"Then he lost his cane.
"Then he nearly lost his limp entirely.
"He shaved, and blunt-cut his hair at the collar, combing it back to reveal a strong forehead and bright, inquisitive eyes.
"He either quit smoking entirely or reduced it by about 90%, I can't remember which, but he no longer reeked of tobacco, and never smoked in my presence again.
"His father passed away, and Doug inherited a very small, somewhat cluttered, but perfectly satisfactory wood-frame house. I helped him move out of the shithole he had been living in for several years following what had apparently been an emotionally disabling relationship end. The white lampshades were made golden with cigarette smoke and speckled with roach droppings; active mouse nests were in the soft furniture and the room was dark and smelled of booze and sweat.
"And, freshly in a newly fit body, renewed in his intellectual pursuits, active in his musical expression and performance, resolved by the grave in his previously rough relations with his dad, and possessed of modest but decent quarters, the guy just blossomed.
"I finished my degree and moved on to graduate study and to life. We never had more courses together, but we met up from time to time to play music or to have a sandwich and talk.
"Though our life experience separated us, I never forgot him or what I learned about and from him, and I will never forget how even though by every measure he was the one who changed most greatly for the better, it was I who benefitted the most from taking the chance to know him and from watching and supporting his process of personal growth.
"Doug passed away, and the "obituary" he clearly authored himself appeared in today's paper. I've included it below.
"You would've had to be one of the handful of people Doug actually allowed himself to know to appreciate how pure-Doug his Hitchiker-inspired "So long and thanks for all the fish," goodbye is, and to realize that he spent probably thirty years of his life looking forward to that exit line.
"So, there's no big story here, at all--it's just a life story of a guy who like many of us was too easily overlooked.
"And I wanted, just once, somewhere, from someone, to be sure that good words about a good man were shared.
"So long, Doug--thanks for helping me fish.."