This is Poet Richard McGill
By Jennifer Ersalesi
At eighty-five years old, Richard McGill, lives by his personal philosophy of life, “Do well what you can, when you can, while you can!” Richard spends many days of the week taking different classes at the 55 Kip Center, including physical fitness and creative writing classes with his wife of sixteen years, Suzann. This is Rutherford spoke with Richard, a published poet, about how he continues to open doors to new ideas and experiences.
TIR: You grew up in a large family, what do you think you learned as one of thirteen children?
Richard McGill: I was number twelve out of thirteen and now I am the only one left, so I am an orphan. The one that thing stands out in my mind about growing up with a large family is that we were not as tight as people think. There was a big age range. I was an Uncle the day I was born because I had siblings that were already grown up with children of their own. We all eventually went our separate ways.
TIR: After growing up in Newark, you served in the US Army. Tell us more about this experience.
RM: From 1957-1959 I was stationed in Germany. I was part of the trucking company at the 7th Army headquarters. Our job was to evacuate everyone at the headquarters in the event of an attack. We were fortunate nothing ever happened. After that, I spent two years in the active reserves and two years in the inactive reserves.
TIR: Once you left the reserves, what happened next?
RM: Then I got married to my first wife and had two children. I worked with UPS for thirty-four years and retired twenty-one years ago. I have been married to my current wife, Suzann who is my soulmate, for sixteen years. We met through my neighbor. We were actually living on the same block and did not even realize it. My neighbor, Ginny, worked as a Teacher’s Aide at the school where Suzann worked, Sacred Heart Grammar School in Lyndhurst. Ginny introduced us to each other and we hit it off. We have been together ever since.
TIR: When did you start writing? Have you always enjoyed it?
RM: I didn’t really start writing until I was eighty years old. My wife Suzann convinced me to join the Creative Writing Class at the Kip Center. I had written two poems before I joined the class, but I had never really delved into it. I was too busy doing ballroom dancing, for the last thirty years. Just as the title of the book I just published in December 2019, “Opening Another Door at Eighty”, this class opened another door for me.
TIR: When did you publish your book of poetry?
RM: The book was published in December (2019). I only had forty-five copies for my friends, family, and neighbors. I dedicated the book to my wife Suzann and my Creative Writing class Moderator, Barbara Wynne. She is an excellent teacher.
TIR: Tell us about Barbara Wynne and your Creative Writing class. How has she helped you on this journey?
RM: Barbara has taught me so much. She always tells us to “write on”. I’ve been taking this class for five years. I am so thankful to the Kip Center for affording us this opportunity. There are terrific writers in the class. Some of us write poetry and some like to write short stories. We all have different interests. We do all sorts of creative writing in our creative writing class. Recently, we used story starters to begin a story, passed them around the table and everyone added to the story. It is interesting to see how the stories turn out when we do this. We’ve written stories about other people, haikus, seasonal stories, and stories with story cubes.
TIR: There is one particular poem in your book, Opening Another Door at Eighty, called “The Lunch Bunch” which is especially important to you. Why is this poem so significant to you?
RM: The poem is about all of the wonderful people I have met at the Kip Center and our lives. It tells about our friendship and our lunches together. The last stanza of the poem explains how we help one another: If you’re looking for direction from our love and affection, Join forces with friends of your own and ensure that you’re never alone.”
TIR: Your poetry focuses on universal topics such as love, friendship, and nature. Do others feel like they can relate to your poetry?
RM: It seems like others can relate and I have gotten some really good feedback. Both my son and daughter are supportive of my writing as well.
TIR: Why is writing so important to you?
RM: It is all about turning another page of my life...another reason for living. The Kip Center opens up many opportunities for us. It is a pleasure to come here (Kip Center). There are so many ways for us to expand our minds here.
TIR: Tell us more about the 55 Kip Center.
RM: I have been coming to the Kip Center for classes and activities for the last twenty years. I have been so encouraged by so many wonderful people here, like Charlene Mariano (retired Assistant Director), Peggy Letsche (retired Director), and Karen Tucker (retired Founder and Director). Peggy was my first aerobics instructor here and Jeanette Large has been the aerobics instructor for the last eighteen years. Jeanette has so much energy and enthusiasm. I even wrote a poem about her (smiles).
TIR: Besides writing poetry, what are some of your other hobbies?
RM: I have always enjoyed ballroom dancing. My wife Suzann and I like eating out and traveling. This past year we went to Paris. We also enjoy the bus rides that the Kip Center organizes to Wildwood, the casinos, etc. and try to do at least one trip per month. I only gamble the amount that I think a room at the hotel is worth (laughs). I enjoy doing crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper, and watching movies...anything that keeps me off the streets (laughs).