The keeper

Richard Ivan Moore, 1939-2014

“Am I a keeper?” he asked.

The question came unexpectedly at the end of the visit where The Legal Genealogist had gotten to know members of the extended family for the first time.

Dick.meIt came about when, after some effort, I finally located my mother’s cousin, Fred Gottlieb, the man who had walked her down the aisle at her marriage to my father. I wanted to meet him, and arranged to fly to Albuquerque.

But before that trip, 10 years ago, in April 2004, Fred put me in touch with his nephew, my second cousin Dick Moore and Dick’s wife, Julie. “They’re interested in that family history stuff,” Fred said.

And so they were.

Dick and Julie met me at the Albuquerque airport. Opened their home to me. Showed me around all the places within a wide driving radius of the city that played a role in the lives of that branch of the family.

They played chauffeur for me on daily visits with Fred, including the one on the day that the question of relatives as keepers first came up.

Fred just didn’t get it. Could not for the life of him wrap his head around the idea of wanting to get to know distant family members … or what he thought of as ancient family history.

I remember trying to explain. “Some people collect coins,” I remember telling him. “Others collect stamps. Me? I collect relatives.”

Everyone laughed.

Then Fred’s face grew serious. “What do you do,” he asked, “when you find one that … well … you’d rather not have?”

I remember smiling in return. “Throw him back,” I said, “and find another one who’s a keeper.”

Dick and Julie and I went together down to Lovington, in Lea County, where Dick’s and my great grandfather Martin Gilbert Cottrell was buried and where, for some reason neither of us could articulate at the time, we just had to be photographed — as you see here today — together behind the tombstone.

And we talked. We talked and talked and talked.

About life. About love. About family.

About difficult fathers. About struggles we had faced. About our successes. About our failures.

Even… when we lost Fred less than a year later … even about death.

But mostly about our common heritage. The ancestors we share. Cottrells. Bakers. Buchanans.

About the history we have in common. A Revolutionary War patriot. A preacher. A scoundrel or two.

About what we owe to the past.

About what we hoped for, for the future.

In all too short a time, I had to say goodbye, back at the Albuquerque airport.

And, as he gave me one last bear hug, he asked if he could ask me a question.

“Am I a keeper?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said then. “Oh yes.”

Gentle. Funny. Smart. Loving. Kind. An amazing husband, father, grandfather.

A cousin. And then a friend. How could he be anything but a keeper?

We managed to get together a few more times. We shared emails and research and even DNA results. We talked about how we’d like to get together more.

But life has a way of keeping us from the keepers.

Distance, schedules, commitments all conspire to deny us the time we would so like to have with the people we would most like to spend it with.

And now it is too late.

On Thursday, 21 August 2014, Richard Ivan “Dick” Moore lost his battle with cancer.

My life was richer, deeper, more joyful because I knew my cousin Dick.

But some of the light of my family has gone out.

And we are left behind to try to keep the keeper’s memory alive.

Rest in peace, cousin Dick. We loved you.

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37 Responses to The keeper

  1. Frank Southcott says:

    Judy, Beautifully written. So sorry for your loss. May he rest in peace. Kind regards, Frank Southcott

  2. What a wonderful tribute, sadly so many cousins could care less.

  3. S Ellis says:

    Awww! So sorry you lost your cousin, especially one with whom you connected so closely. Cousins who share our passion for our ancestors and for family research are so special. Thank goodness your uncle introduced you to Dick and his wife and thank goodness you had the picture made and spent that time with him!


  4. julia buckner says:

    Such a fascinating story. I know “Dick” was a keeper. I hope all goes well with your searches. I have been amazed by mine.

    julia buckner

  5. A lasting memorable tribute.

  6. Wendy Walter says:

    A beautiful tribute to your cousin Dick. And I love your concept of a “keeper”.

  7. Debra Hoffman says:

    It is always sad to lose the “keepers.” I felt the same way when my Aunt Margie died. Always a terrible loss!

  8. Roz Dowling says:


    A beautiful tribute to your cousin Dick. I’m very sorry for your loss.

    I have met numerous cousins through family research whom I would not have met otherwise. Those who have since passed are greatly missed and regret not knowing them earlier in life. This past year I have lost too many Keepers.

    With deepest sympathy,

  9. Kim Elizabeth says:

    Such a beautiful and moving tribute to your special cousin. It certainly seems like he was a keeper, and I’m very sorry for your loss.

  10. What a wonderful tribute to someone who was obviously well-loved. Beautifully written.

  11. Mary Ann Thurmond says:

    Judy, a marvelous tribute to your cousin “Dick,” written in your own inimitable style. Consider that a light hasn’t gone out, but only dimmed because of the wonderful memories you have of him and the delightful fact that you did get to meet him, spend time with him, communicate with him. You are in my thoughts as you come to terms with your loss.

  12. What a loving tribute, Judy. Thank you for sharing. I’m sure it will bring comfort to many others as well.

  13. Dana says:

    What a beautiful tribute! I’m sorry for your lost, but glad you were able to bond over family and find such a wonderful ‘keeper’.

  14. Lovely tribute, Judy. I too have keepers and I often tell them so – as I think they deserve to know! My condolences on your loss and so glad you have good memories to sustain you.


    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I need to get a lot better at telling my keepers they ARE keepers, Kathleen. You’re right: they deserve to know.

  15. Nicholas Weerts says:

    Judy, I’m sorry for the loss of your cousin… who sounds, most certainly, like a ‘keeper’. Time goes by so quickly, and in our quest to research & locate elusive relatives from yesteryear, it’s always a challenge to maintain relationships & spend time with the ‘keepers’ of today.

    The loss of your keeper, has reminded me that I have a couple of my own keepers that could use some attention. Sadly, it’s times of loss that remind us of this the most clearly.

    Thanks for sharing your lovely tribute, and again, my sympathies.

  16. Judy, I am so sorry for your loss of this definite “keeper.” Sounds like you were blessed to have him in your life, and he was blessed to have you.

  17. Dale Hastin, Denver, CO says:

    That was a beautiful tribute to your cousin and I am sorry for your loss. It always seems like part of us and our link with the past has been cut off. It was nice that you were able to know him when you did. My sympathies.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks, Dale. I was very fortunate to know him at all, and only regret not making many more opportunities to spend time with him.

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  20. Cathy Wood Osborn says:

    This blog post is a keeper, Judy. How beautifully you have expressed what so many family historians experience over the years as we search out our ancestors. You have drawn me into the depths of your loss as I remember my own keepers. Many thanks for your transparency.

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