Stories

Eulogy for Daryl Richman

Bob Voyles, a UVA alumnus and former Study Center board member, shares memories of Daryl Richman and the great man of God that he was.

A number of years ago, I attended the funeral of the father-in-law of one of my wife’s best friends. He was a prominent businessman who had been actively involved in civic affairs, in addition to his many business accomplishments. At his funeral, Atlanta’s Mayor Andrew Young in describing this man said that “a mighty tree in the forest of Atlanta has fallen.” I thought about this comment a lot in recent days as I have experienced two other friends pass onto Glory, one another great personal spiritual mentor. A mighty tree…that observation is actually an excellent analogy for people of faith to ponder, as they think of their lives as a forest. There are many different trees and plants which inhabit a forest, each of them metaphorically representing those people who have influenced us, most hopefully for the good, but some for less.

As an amateur botanist and gardener, there are certain trees which exceed all the others. If you are a west coaster, you might think of giant sequoia groves, where the ancient redwoods rise in excess of 350 feet above the forest floor, the height of a 32-story office building. But for those of us back east, we would likely think of a stately oak tree, one of the strongest, most resilient trees in the forest. It is no accident that English and American shipbuilders in the 17th and 18th centuries prized English or American Live Oak when building their naval warships. It is incredibly strong, able to withstand the stress and pressures of open sea sailing, and when in combat, the cannonballs from opposing ships. Oak was prized by shipbuilders, furniture makers, and home builders alike.

Why do I share this? Because it’s a perfect metaphor for my friend Daryl. He was one of those mighty oaks in my forest. I met Daryl my first year at the University of Virginia when I attended an Action Ministries Sunday night fellowship group. I was curious about what a Christian community looked like on the grounds of Charlottesville since I had pretty much put my faith on the shelf after graduation from high school. Looking forward to joining a fraternity and experiencing all of college life, I decided to put my faith in my back seat. Fortunately for me, God had other plans.

Daryl Richman & Bob Voyles
Daryl Richman and Bob Voyles at an Action Ministries retreat.

When I met Daryl, he was quite unassuming. A slight man of about 5’6” in stature and “stout” in that he was built like an “oak” whiskey barrel, Daryl had an incredible jovial spirit that instantly engaged with mine. In all of our introductory discussions, I could not get a question in edgewise because he was so curious, so inquisitive, and caring for me as a person. Our friendship deepened over the ensuing three years as my interests continued to broaden at the University. I became a regular attender of the Action Ministries Sunday night meetings. While participating in the Navigators during my first year and later leading a Bible study at the Phi Delt house, Daryl and I stayed in touch, pretty consistently.

Probably the most poignant memory of mine is Daryl standing firm by me in the aftermath of a broken engagement at the beginning of my fourth year. I returned to college in early August to begin Air Force private pilot training for my eventual officer commissioning following graduation. Absolutely heartbroken, I had lost 20-lbs and my mother actually decided to drive cross-country with me from California in my un-airconditioned Mercury Capri because she was so concerned about my well-being. When I arrived in C’ville, Daryl was there. He met with me, sometimes for hours as I poured my heart out. While obviously eventually rebounding from my broken heart and after swearing off girls completely, a short four months later I met the woman who would eventually become my wife. Daryl was the bridge to get me across that very difficult divide in my life.

So what more can I say about my friend Daryl? I actually thought about this a bit and came up with 12 things which Daryl taught me:

1. Good things always come in small packages.

While somewhat slight in stature, Daryl was a giant of a man. His faith and influence extended across continents and into the very halls of business enterprises, as the men he discipled entered into various areas of commerce and mission. To paraphrase Henry Varley’s famous quote to Dwight L. Moody in the late 19th Century, “Never doubt what God can do with a man whose heart is fully dedicated to Him”. Of all the men I have known through the course of my life, Daryl matched that standard better than any other.  

2. North Dakota winters produce large families.

Daryl was born in the heart of the Depression to a large farming family (I think at least 12 kids) in North Dakota. Like most Americans in the fly-over states in the early mechanized farming era, large families were the norm, if for nothing else but in order to get all of the farm work done. A strong Christian family made the difference with Daryl. He spoke fondly of his upbringing and with gratitude for the faith of his parents, extended family and community, and siblings.

3. California roots are a good thing.

Daryl and I did especially well because of his having attended Fuller Seminary, the same seminary that my pastor Michael Youssef received his master’s from a number of years later. While growing up in North Dakota, Daryl had spent some precious time in California and used that to connect with me.

4. Working out has its many benefits – nearly all of them good.

Daryl used working out as an evangelical tool…. or as we say in Young Life – “earning the right to be heard.” And Daryl didn’t “work out” the way our culture describes it today. He “went to the gym.” A lifelong weight lifter, Daryl kept physically strong and surprised all of us with his enormous strength. While short in stature, he could likely beat anyone of us in an arm wrestle. Even into his 80s!

5. Truly great men build up others, who then build institutions.

Daryl first came to Charlottesville to preach at two small Baptist churches in the surrounding rural community. While working out at UVA’s gym, he befriended a number of students, and the meetings that began there in the mid-1960s, eventually became Action Ministries and later begat The Center for Christian Study, still at UVA today. The Law School Fellowship, Business School Fellowship, Frat/Sor, and many undergraduate ministries all blossomed under the Center. It is truly remarkable story, but might not have happened without Daryl having a heart for ministry to then just young men at the University in the mid – 1960’s. He raised and encouraged a generation of leaders, including David Turner, Woody White, Drew Trotter, Tom Tolleson, and many others. Each of those men, have in turn raised up additional men and women leaders….

When one looks back from the perspective of hindsight, the impact of The Center for Christian Study is being felt all around the world. Men and women who have come through this work have moved into positions of power and responsibility in business, law, medicine, academia, and government, and are scattered literally throughout the United States, and beyond. Within just my own circle of friends, there are successful partners in major law firms, scholars who are considered national experts in various fields, industry – leading businessmen and women in literally every field of endeavor, and most recently, the new president of an international Christian mission organization, which is impacting over two-million teenagers a year with the Gospel in over 105 countries. It is remarkable, actually.

One may ask themselves would this have ever happened without Daryl following the Lord’s call on his life. I guess we will all find out when we reach the other side. But no doubt, Daryl certainly followed his calling well.

6. Romans 1:16 rings true in every culture and with every person.

Romans 1:16 states, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Once a member of the Sanhedrin and educated as a Pharisee, after meeting the risen Lord on the Damascus Road, Paul recognized the inherent power of the Gospel. Like Paul, Daryl in nearly every circumstance where I found him was a polite but tireless advocate for the Gospel, not in an in your face manner, but quietly befriending and caring for people. Earning the right to be heard. It was palpable when one was around him. It exuded out his pores.

7. There are friends, and then there are real friends.

I discovered this quality in Daryl when I went through my broken engagement. As I mentioned earlier, Daryl was there for me in ways that no one else could be. I would sit sometimes in his office and pour out my heart and emotions, and he would quietly listen and encourage and remind me that God is in control. Those were very sweet times for someone experiencing great heartbreak. I will never forget these times with Daryl.

8. Hannah Whitehall Smith is as relevant today as she was in the late 19th century.

When I went through that great heartache in the fall of 1973, Daryl gave me a copy of Hannah Whitehall Smith’s Christian classic, “A Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.” While many might quibble with her theology later in life, she was spot on here. I read this book through several times through, and was reminded that ultimately, we are called to “trust and obey.” That means even when things don’t make sense and when things are not the way that we would like them to be. Our God is a good God, and is good all the time, even when we can’t see His hand moving. We have to learn to trust His heart.

9. The ministry of presence is a powerful tool.

Sometimes people don’t need to tell you what to do, they just need to be there to show that they care. I witnessed this trait in Daryl’s life many, many times when I and others went through hard times. Like an angel, Daryl would simply show up, almost with an uncanny sense that his presence was needed. He would also go to great lengths to visit people. To stay connected. I remember one time when he, his brother and another friend, showed up in Washington, D.C. virtually unannounced and camped out in our little townhouse in Old Town Alexandria. Heated by forced-air electric heat with a single thermostat downstairs, Daryl and the two others slept quite comfortably while upstairs, the temperature rose to nearly 90 degrees in Belle’s and my bedroom. We laugh about it now, and it amuses me as I think about my friend sleeping so soundly while we basked in our sauna upstairs…..

10. Sing. “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength.”

Daryl loved to sing. I remember him often leading the Action Ministries meetings early with song. When there wasn’t a guitar present, Daryl himself would get up and lead us off using xeroxed song sheets that were passed around. Psalm 48 was one of his favorites:

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised

in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.

Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,

is mount Zion, on the sides of the north,

the city of the great King.

11. We eventually grow to live out our given names.

The name Daryl in the old English, means “tenderly loved.” For those of us who knew Daryl more deeply, that description is very apt. Interestingly, Daryl’s last name, Richman also has rich meaning here (no pun intended). In the world’s eyes, Daryl would have been considered a modest man. He never owned that much in an earthly sense, but was rich in the economy of people’s hearts and souls. He invested in Kingdom things… those things which from eternity’s sense, really matter… “the souls of men, and the Word of God.”

Daryl loved people greatly, and they loved him back. After leaving Charlottesville in the late 1970’s to go to Reed College in Medford, Oregon to begin a similar outreach ministry there, Daryl developed a whole new circle and group of friends. Even in his later life while traveling to Turkey or ministering to people in his Long Beach community, Daryl was incredibly well liked by all who met him. Indeed, he was “tenderly loved.”  While not rich in the world’s eyes, Daryl, like famous Blues Singer Blind Willie once sang, was “sending up his timbers every day” for his heavenly home.  In that sense, Daryl was a very rich man, and he spread his wealth around to all of us.

12. Finally, Daryl finished well.

The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is filled with stories about men who did, and did not finish well. Despite all his wisdom, power, wealth, and knowledge, Solomon ended up falling prone to multiple errors later in life, and losing his precious connection with the living God. The Book of Ecclesiastes is rich in wisdom because of this. We are called by scripture to finish well. That means for those of us who are still here, we are not called to sit on the sidelines, but to be actively engaged in the culture, and to continue to make a difference up to the last breath we take on this earth. Hebrews 12:1-2 would likely be Daryl’s reminder and encouragement to all of us:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,

let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,

and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Daryl certainly did that and I have no doubt that at his first appearance on the other side of the veil, his Savior welcomed him with, “Well done good and faithful servant; Enter the joy of your master.” I trust that each of us will remember his example in so many areas and do the same.

 

To my good brother Daryl, Godspeed and we look forward to seeing you again, as you are now in that crowd, cheering for each one of us.

Until that great reunion, to God be the Glory.  

Thanks be to God.

Bob Voyles, Col ‘74