The thing about Alan Lichter | Guest column

by Rachel Newcombe

On behalf of the Orcas Library Board of Trustees

The thing about Alan is that he would be horrified to know I am starting a sentence that begins, “The thing about Alan Lichter.”

Alan was precise with language. When I bravely asked him to edit my writing he’d swiftly get rid of adjectives and clip unnecessary commas. Word choices were questioned and he always pressed for exactitude. (I can hear him asking me if exactitude is the word I really want to use here.)

Since Alan’s death I have discovered the numerous passions and interests that engulfed him. Although I cannot speak to what he was like as a council member or a pilot, I do feel equipped to speak of my experience of him as a fellow Orcas Island Library Trustee and a book lover.

I first met Alan at the monthly library book selection committee meetings. My memory is that he always had interesting mysteries to recommend. He also was quick to blurt out who he believed to be the best authors. I had no idea how old Alan was because he had a twinkle in his eye that was ageless. He was also witty and impish. His linguistic playfulness was a delight.

Then in 2010, when I became a library trustee, I was able to get to know Alan more intimately. Understandably, we all have subjective experiences of people and my subjective experience of Alan is that he was a kind human being. We shared a background in social work, and he was fascinated by the process of mediation. He truly wanted people to work together and to respect differences of opinion.

During the past year, Alan consulted with his son in Portland, Ore. and shared with the board an idea to have a “20/20 Vision” campaign for the library: 20 years looking back to when the Rose Street library was built and looking ahead 20 years to the future and how the library might expand. Alan imagined creating a campaign that would collect enough money to finance a small expansion for the library.

For Alan, the world of ideas and knowledge propelled him through his life. He loved to talk about poetry, swimming, his family and adventures to Hawaii that he and his wife Kate shared.

My fellow Library Board Trustees Donna Riordan, Margaret Payne and Tom Fiscus are saddened by Alan’s death. At the library picnic on July 13 and the Library Fair on Aug. 10 we will be remembering Alan and wishing that he was there with us.

We want Kate to know that we are going to find a way to carry Alan’s ideas for the library forward.

Although “kind” is a fairly mundane word, I still believe it packs a punch when it rings true. I know Alan had an appreciation for the counterculture of the 1960s and ‘70s, so I’ll end with a lyric from the Grateful Dead song Uncle John’s Band: “Think this through with me, let me know your mind. Woh – oh, what I want to know, is are you kind?”

The thing about Alan Lichter is he was most definitely humane and kind. We’ll miss you, Alan.