Richard Jaeggi — Richard the Good, I always called him — had died unexpectedly at 60. An old soul and a young pilgrim, Richard was one of a core group of us in Tallahassee, Fla. — seven or eight perpetual students and a handful of unrequited lawyers -- who wanted to be writers. For a couple of years, we were inseparable. We stayed up late playing “Dictionary,” reading aloud from heavy volumes weighted with meaning, watched countless sunrises, and made regular sprints to the beach to play horseshoes and consume bushels of Apalachicola Bay oysters.
One summer, we convened Sundays to rehearse a play that David, our group’s elder muse, had written. We performed it only for each other, but took our roles seriously, memorizing our lines and acting earnestly before an imaginary audience.
Richard was the quiet, contemplative one, always watching and smiling as one who knows the secret. He walked everywhere because, he said, he liked to walk. Richard was without peer at “Dictionary,” a game in which players compete to make up the most convincing bogus definition to some arcane word. I even remember one of his definitions — “the turned cuff on a medieval gown.”
Eventually, the sun set on these golden days. Richard wandered off to Nepal with the Peace Corps; I abandoned a Ph.D. program at Florida State and headed north toward an accidental newspaper career. Though we mostly lost touch, there are no friends like those from the time when life seemed infinite and death was a poem named “Annabel Lee.”
Richard’s path brought him to Silver Spring, Md., where, among other pursuits, he founded the Gandhi Brigade, an organization dedicated to training young people to become 21st-century leaders, using media and the power of communication to transform the world. “Make media not war” is their motto.