Last week Richard Nadeau, a former respected founding board member of Health Forward, passed away at his home. Richard led a full life even though he was partially blind. He was an avid art collector and mental health advocate and practitioner. In the early days of the foundation he fought hard to have mental health as a major funding priority of this foundation. I can remember him stating that Health Forward should provide services to the chronically and persistent mental ill including those who are incarcerated. He was a strong advocate for those of us some others may find expendable or non productive.
Richard cared deeply about social justice issues and he was not afraid to speak his mind in a loud and clear way. He was described by one of our board members as the conscious of the Health Care Foundation – because he always drew us back to taking about our shared values.
Richard told me that leaders should always take risks –don’t be scared to be different or to be out of the main stream. It is OK to challenge the status quo and to stir things up. He told me that if everyone thinks you are doing a good job and likes you … then you are not making a difference. To make a difference sometimes people get mad at you because you make them uncomfortable and challenge their current thinking. Richard loved to discuss “tough” issues and ask hard questions and you’d better be prepared with your “A” game if you disagreed with Richard’s opinion. However, Richard attracted sometimes bold folks with eclectic ideas and others who simply liked to be challenged in their thinking to discussions of how to make the community better.
As we as a community celebrate Richard’s life and accomplishments, the most appropriate way to honor his legacy is to carry on with fight for the needs of the underserved and mentally ill. Richard was a wonderful person and he will be missed terribly but never forgotten.