There are times in life when a person becomes much more than a friend or acquaintance, and this blog offers a tribute to a person who helped Susan and myself build our company. The nickname came from the show Cybill where her inebriated friend would talk disparagingly about her husband saying “Dr. Dick” with obvious disdain. Dick Niess never fit that mold, but we called him Dr. Dick anyway.
I first met Dick back when I was manager of machinery development at Mechanical Technology Incorporated. We were both selected for a task force looking at heat recovery technology. Years later, quite by accident, I was visiting with Hal Bowles who headed up the Electrification Council for EEI who told me that Dick had left his company and was retired.
Georgia Power had picked up on my idea of industrial heat recovery as an alternative to cogeneration and I convinced Dick to join me … which he did and we worked together for about another 20 years.
Dick came from a different generation and was the refrigeration salesperson that first introduced air conditioning in New York City, mostly to the garment industry … not to keep employees comfortable, but rather to keep them from sweating and ruining fabrics as they worked on them in the garment industry.
Dick’s stories were a large reason for our success. They seemed like history lessons, but the wisdom was timeless and applicable to life today. Plus, most of them were funny … at least by the standards of humor back then. Some people today have completely lost their sense of humor.
My favorite story of was of the lady’s auxiliary in Britain after the second world war who had invited a Luftwaffe Colonel to speak about the war from the German point of view. As he finished, a British commander asked him about rumors of friendly fire as they returned to Germany after bombing raids.
Dick told the story with both British and German accents which I can’t replicate here, but work with me: “Colonel, I understand there were nights when you were mistaken for British planes as you returned to Germany?
“Ya … dis is true … I remember one night when we were fired upon by a group of fokers.”
The British commander quickly reminded the audience of women that the Fokker aircraft was one of the finest German fighters in the sky to which the German Colonel then responded with:
“Ya … das is true as well … but these fokers they were Messerschmidts.”
There were so many other stories he told which I will cherish for as long as I can still remember them.
Here’s to you Dr. Dick!