Sometimes something unplanned gives you a new perspective…and renewed appreciation for life, the people around you who care about you, and your community.

I hadn’t planned to go to Rich Poremba’s memorial service but when another commitment got cancelled, I decided I would go with Steve. Steve had gotten to know Rich initially when they were both in Rotary. My only interaction with Rich was that every April for the past four years, he stopped by our house to drop off a rough draft of the “Petaluma’s Salute to American Graffiti” program so that Steve could layout the program and get the file ready to be printed.

During his brief visits, I was always impressed that Rich never seemed stressed by the long list of tasks he had to complete before the event. In fact, dropping off the program almost seemed incidental to giving our dog, a German Shepherd named Xena, a big dose of affection.

I had never seen anyone who loved being nose-to-nose with a dog as much as Rich did. It always made me a little nervous that her big, wolf-y teeth were millimeters from his nose but she obviously knew that Rich was no threat to her territory. She loved giving him big wet kisses.

So although I didn’t know Rich well, after attending the service, I came away with a deep appreciation of him, the many people whose lives he touched, and deeply moved by the people who were grieving his passing.

Many people who spoke at the service talked about how that although Rich was not a blood relation, he became like family to them. And their tears at the loss of a beloved family member struck a chord in me in a way that I had not expected.

I thought I would sit through the service for an hour and then go on with business as usual. But instead I found myself grieving for someone I hardly knew. So much so, that I was drained for the rest of the day and taking care of the usual chores was a challenge.

It was wonderful to hear that love of animals was a theme throughout Rich’s life and a legacy he passed onto his children and grandchildren. I certainly never would have guessed that he loved astronomy. And although he was hugely devoted to the American Graffiti car event, he didn’t actually become a “car guy” until quite recently when he purchased a classic car for himself.

Attending the service reminded me how me grateful I am that there are people like Rich who work tirelessly for our community. In addition to the Salute to American Graffiti, Rich served on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Petaluma for many years and was recognized at the national level with one of the highest awards that a volunteer can receive.

And I was certainly reminded of my own humanity; although Rich had some health issues, everyone in the room certainly expected someone with as much energy as he had to continue in the same way for many, many more years. Yet within a span of five days, his life passed.

Bottom line: never take life and those around you for granted.