To Rick's wife, Jane, his family, friends, and brothers,
We are all deeply saddened by Rick's passing. He personified our ideals in Pi Kappa Tau and in Sigma Alpha Epsilon both. Come to think of it, each of us does--none goes his way alone.
As such events are likely to do, my thoughts have focused often on memories of Rick over the past weeks. I would like to share a few of these memories. Nothing I am going to say was not cleared by Rick. The story about Gerry's girlfriend is one he wasn't too enthused about my sharing with the world, but he gave me permission.
Rick Krieger sold me his car. As all of us who grew up and lived in the San Fernando Valley knew, you could not survive and you could not be independent without a car. Everything was so damn far apart. As a freshman I did not have a car of my own. I could drive a family car on weekends, but otherwise was dependent on friends to get around. My family lived in Sylmar which was a long way from Northridge and the fraternity house. I remember once I got into trouble because I didn't pay a traffic ticket (that I'd gotten on my birthday on my way to a rush party in Fall 1962) on time. The reason was that my ride from campus to the San Fernando courthouse was late because my friend had a pop quiz in his Engineering lab. I didn't have a job and had to borrow the money to pay the ticket. The situation went from bad to worse. The next day the guy at the bail window said the ticket had gone to a warrant and I would have to appear before a judge and pay a larger fine.
If I go on anymore, I am going to start crying all over again.
Rick became aware of my plight and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. He had just gotten a new car and would sell me his old one for $125. His parents said I could take my time about paying the $125 off. Dave Smith said he could get me a job selling shoes at Kinney's (with Steve Hecker and Jim York) so I could start earning some spending money. With the job, I could move in the fraternity house. The car was a 1950 Ford. It had a stick shift. It was blue. I bought it. Hey, even the radio worked. The only thing wrong was that the accelerator pedal didn't go in straight, so Rick showed me how to manipulate the pedal with my foot to make it go. It was quite a trick. Shortly the car got a generator problem so it couldn't recharge the battery. I used to get the battery recharged at a gas station every other day. Hecker got me a better job at Footwear Unlimited on Ventura in Woodland Hills (in the days before Topanga Plaza, by the way). There was a gas station next to the shoe store where I'd get the battery recharged while I worked. I couldn't afford a new generator. Anyway, after a year of this, the owner of the gas station took pity on me and offered to put in a used generator for $25 and I could repay it at $2 a week. That was what life was like in the 1960s.
That car gave me independence. I did move into the fraternity house. I did work at Kinney's on Sherwood north of Reseda. It completely changed the quality of my college life. I could never have participated in student government, yell leading, and so on had it not been for that car. I owe Rick a great deal for that.
I hope I get the details straight on this story, because it is one of the greatest stories of fraternity life as it really happened.
It happened about 1964 or so. My pledge brother, Gerry Adams, met a girl from back east that he was quite smitten over. She went to a university back east, came from a wealthy family, and was quite cultured. Gerry told her a lot about the fraternity and the fraternity house on Nordhoff, as he was proud of both. One night he planned to take her to the house to show it to her.
Rick Krieger lived in the house. The house was a large ranch house with a "new section" that contained the livingroom, dining room, kitchen, two bathrooms, and four bedrooms, and with an "old" section (actually a log cabin) which contained a large party room and three other bedrooms (that was before Dave Peterson and Scott Erickson built another bedroom in a breezeway). Well, Rick lived in the far bedroom in the old log cabin part of the house.
Now Rick had a job at Litton on the nightshift. He had this job for most of college. His life cycle was to go to work for the midnight to 8:00 am shift, then go to classes, then sleep, and then back to work. He would sleep until about 10:30 pm, take a shower, eat some food, and go to work. He didn't like the bathroom in the old part of the house, so he walked through the house to one of the luxury showers in the new part of the house.
Back to Gerry and his girlfriend.
It was during the week in the summertime as I remember. The girl was on vacation visiting some friends in California and met Gerry through some acquaintance. Anyway, Gerry spent all day cleaning the house from top to bottom--polishing the kitchen, vacuuming the carpets, washing windows, etc. He did more work on the house than an entire pledge class. He knew the house would stay clean until about 11:00 pm when brothers would start showing up.
Well, Gerry brings the girl to the house and gives her a tour. The house is empty. He doesn't know Rick is taking a shower. Neither does Rick know anyone else is in the house.
What happens is that Gerry is showing the girl the trophy case in the dining room, which is out of view of the living room. Rick comes down the hall from the bathroom wearing only a towel wrapped around his waist. The house is empty he thinks and he gives into a human impulse. Owing to the size of the living room and its acoustics, you can get echoes. So Rick stops at the end of the hall as he enters the living room and with a flourish he burps very loudly.
At this point in time Rick becomes aware that Gerry and his girlfriend are standing there. In fact, Gerry and his girlfriend are in an embarrassed state of shock, more or less.
What does a true gentleman do in such an emergency? The only way to handle it is to turn it into a humorous moment.
Rick apologizes, "Excuse me--I meant to fart."
Gerry's girlfriend went back east and he didn't hear from her again. It is not known whether this turn of events had anything to do with the fraternity house incident.
I never had any trouble getting dates, even though I was 6'2" and weighed about 120 lbs. if I was wearing a lot of clothes. However, I did have a certain apprehension about calling a girl up for a date. What if she said no? That possibility was always frightening to me. I remember spending hours sometimes working up the courage to face that possibility and call a girl up for a date. (There may be some women out there who are reading this and saying, "I knew it!", but in the interests of complete truth I must tell this story.) If one did say no, for whatever reason, it was very awkward and I never really knew what to say.
Two overheard conversations changed my life and banished my fear forever. Again I owe this change to Rick Krieger.
In the house, we always had a pay telephone in the utility room by the back door. This telephone, in fact, was the official "house phone" and when we had pledged had to be answered before the third ring. Both of these calls were overheard at that telephone.
On the first occasion, Rick called a girl for a date. He asked her to go to a party and she said no. He immediately said, "Well, you'll be missing out." He said good-bye and hung up. It just seemed a natural way to handle the situation.
The other occasion was prompted by the fact that one of Rick's "ex-girlfriends" had put out the word that she'd like to start dating Rick again. Rick had gone out with her for quite a long time and felt she didn't end the relationship well, to put it mildly. I think I am the only one who overheard this conversation.
Rick called her up and sounded very friendly. After a few minutes of light talk, he pops the question: "What are you doing Saturday night?"
She replies, "Nothing."
Rick says, "You ought to get a date," and he hangs up.
Rick Krieger was Social Chairman about 1963, I think, and it was the first semester in the Nordhoff house. The big event of the Fall semester was the New Year's Eve Party. It was a gala affair at the house, black-tie optional, expensive decorations, and the best to eat and drink. As Social Chairman, Rick planned the party. Although people would help if he asked, he liked to organize it by himself because he knew what he wanted and it was just easier to do that way. Because he usually had to end dates early so he could go to work, he liked to just be the bartender at the New Year's parties and had helped plan and put on the two previous parties.
We normally didn't charge anything extra for parties beyond our social dues, but we always did for New Year's. Rick set the charge the same as the parties in the two previous years of the fraternity's life. Pi Kappa Tau, as you know, was founded in 1961.
The party was great. What can you say? It was great.
Rick found he had money left over. Although the fee for the party was reasonably set, he hadn't counted on how large the fraternity had gotten since the last party. He thought the fraternity could really use a jukebox to play music for dancing in the party room and he found a used jukebox in great condition. He bought the jukebox, stocked it with the latest 45s, and surprised everyone at the next party.
Anyway, what happened next is fraternity history. The officers on the Executive Board got mad at him because he spent so much money without authorization. It came up at a Sunday night fraternity meeting. Rick argued that he was Social Chairman and could spend money on social functions as he saw fit--it was his responsibility. The Executive Board argued that the money was not collected for a jukebox, so there was a contract with the brothers; the fraternity members at a meeting should have decided on what to do with the money left over. The brothers sided with Rick.
It was one great jukebox.
The policy question never did get resolved, actually, although a lot of the Executive Board became lawyers.
The highest award Pi Kappa Tau could give was the Achievement Award. It was presented at the Installation of Officers dinner each semester by the President of the fraternity. The choice of which brother would get the award and for what reason was always entirely a decision of the President's.
In all the years of my experience in Pi Kappa Tau, those dinners were wonderful events with great speeches. It is ironic that I never got to give a speech at one of the banquets, even though I was Associated Students President and otherwise "quite active" in student government, and here I am today with a Ph.D. in Speech and a professor of Speech as well.
When the President gave the Achievement Award, he gave a speech to the brothers on why he had selected the brother to get the award. It was the custom that each President would comment upon and praise the good work of many brothers, finally announcing, explaining, and presenting his choice. The Presidents always did a good job without exception. I never remember anyone feeling that someone had gotten the award who didn't deserve it. These moments were very moving and inspirational.
In the semester Rick Krieger was President of Pi Kappa Tau, we learned a lesson.
Rick gave his speech. He talked about what Pi Kappa Tau was for and what ideals it cherished. The pursuit of excellence is not easy and requires extraordinary effort. While we had won the Dean's Medal, the Intramurals Trophy, and so forth, Rick believed in his heart that we could do better, that we should do better. He did talk about some of the accomplishments of individual brothers that semester, but then he announced that he was not going to present the Achievement Award that semester. He believed no one truly deserved the award and he would not cheapen its value.
Somehow we were disappointed, but we collectively knew he was right. Brotherhood and love are not enough by themselves. What is valuable in life is to strive vigorously for excellence in all that you do, demanding the best from one another, setting a personal example for others to follow.
I have other memories of Rick Krieger, more recent things, but these memories stand out to me, depicting his warmth, his love, his values, his integrity. In all my days Rick's life will be with me.
Rick Krieger with brothers at the Sigma Alpha
Epsilon house in December 1998.