During the later part of 2013 and for the most part of 2014, I dealt with some pretty serious health issues.

Somewhere around 2009, my doctor discovered a leaky aortic valve during a routine exam. I started seeing a cardiologist to monitor this condition. I had yearly echocardiogram exams. In May of 2013, the cardiologist said that the condition had progressed to the point that I was in need of heart surgery to replace that valve. Additionally, I would require a graft of the aorta and probably two bypasses.

The surgery took place in September of 2013. After the surgery, I went through cardio therapy which I completed in January of 2014. I continued to work out after the completion of the formal therapy period.

In March of 2014, I developed problems. I had no appetite. I got tired very easily. I slept 12-13 hours per day. I eventually lost 40 pounds. As a part of the diagnosis process, I was diagnosed with acid reflux and started taking medicine. This did not solve the problem. I was referred to an oncologist who ran bone marrow biopsies based on the assumption I had cancer. No cancer (thank goodness).

It was finally determined in May 2014 that I had developed endocarditis, an infection. I was admitted to the hospital where I was first given penicillin and then a targeted antibiotic once the specific type of infection was determined.

A number of other tests were run on me in the hospital. One such test determined that the infection had attacked the aortic valve that had been replaced in September of 2013. The damage was such that I had to have a second replacement surgery nine months after the first surgery. I was in the hospital for one month.

I went back to cardio therapy, gained back the 40 pounds and my strength. I continue to work out four days per week for two hours. I feel fantastic and have started referring to myself as Rick 2.0, the new and improved version. 
Retirement Years - 1994 to Present
These are the best years yet!
As I often say, we are a product of the experiences in our lives. Having lost my parents at such a young age very much shaped my outlook on life. Thus early in my life I developed a strong desire to retire young.
The first year that I retired (1994) I did the usual travel thing. I started the year off by going camping in northwestern Arkansas.
I next visited one of my swimmers who lived in Minneapolis. I had always wanted to attend a winter carnival and St. Paul had a winter carnival. I spent 10 days visiting Sam and Sue Boutin in Minneapolis. During that time, the temperature was never above zero.
My next trip, in July, was an Alaskan cruise of the Inside Passage. I coupled that trip with a visit with a college friend (Ted Roche) and a swimmer (Ollie Press) in the Seattle area. On the return to St. Louis, I just had to stop by Grand Teton National Park. I talked my godson Jim Scharff into joining me on a backpacking trip thus introducing him to the Tetons for the first time.
In October of 1994, Steve and Connie Wiechens generously offered me the opportunity to join them on a vacation to Spain and Portugal.
One of my objectives in retirement was to start to follow some of the Washington University athletic teams. I became a fan of the women’s volleyball team as well as the men’s and women’s basketball teams. I have become an even bigger fan of the volleyball team in recent years.
In 1995, I took a two-month driving vacation out West. I drove the entire California coast and visited many of the National Parks of California as well as a number of friends who live in California. Of course, I also visited Grand Teton National Park on my way back to St. Louis.
The summer away from St. Louis made me realize that I did not want to spend another summer in St. Louis with its incumbent heat and humidity. A plan was hatched wherein I would sell my Longboat Key condo and purchase a place in the Tetons. I set 1996 as my goal for implementing this plan. To this end, I started looking for properties in the Tetons. In April of 1996, I made a visit to the Tetons and placed a contract on a new condo in a development which had just gotten underway. As the condo was to be completed in mid-August of 1996, I started work on selling my Longboat Key condo.
In early August of 1996, I sold my Longboat Key condo. I closed on my Driggs condo on September 16, 1996 thus starting a new era in my life.
I now spend time from roughly late-May through the first week of September each summer in the Tetons (actually Driggs Idaho which is 35 miles from Jackson Wyoming). I love having folks visit me there. In fact, I have had over 120 different people visit me since purchasing the condo.
In 1993, I purchased my first digital camera. I have since upgraded three times and now shoot with a Canon 1D-X camera. I am told that my photographs are very good. I don’t know if that is true but I am of the opinion that if one takes enough pictures one is bound to get at least a few good ones so I plug onward. You can judge for yourself my photographic skills or lack thereof by viewing the photos on this web site.
While in St. Louis, I busy myself working on friendships, following the Washington University sports teams, playing with my computer, reading, woodworking (I built my own kitchen cabinets) and photography. I even do a little bit of cooking! Believe it or not, I still live in the house I grew up in.
 Working years - 1965 to 1993 

I started working for Monsanto on June 14, 1965. My first job with Monsanto was at their silicon production facility in St. Peters Missouri. I had a 26 mile one-way commute. I continued working at the St. Peter’s Plant for a total of 14 ½ years working in various positions.
During the early part of my Monsanto career, a friend with whom I swam on the Washington University swimming team (Don McIntosh) talked me into coaching the Webster Groves Swim Club with him. I wound up doing this for a total of seven years. During that time, I would work for Monsanto approximately 50 hours per week and the swim team for another 50 hours. Needless to say after seven years, I became burned out and needed to make a decision. I gave myself two years to try to get excited about the Monsanto thing or to realize I would be poor the rest of my life but a swim coach. I obviously chose the Monsanto approach to things.
During the coaching years I developed a number of close friendships with swimmers who are still close friends at this point in time. I have been in three wedding parties for my swimmers, one of which I was honored to be best man.
That brings to mind: I was honored to be a "best man" four times: Jerry Helfrich, Tom Floerchinger, Bob Scharff and Tim Snay. I was also in the wedding party of Dave Sterneck, Kevin Kennedy and Sam Boutiin. I am also godfather to all three of Bob Scharff's boys (Bobbie, Jim and Dan).
After my coaching career ended, I finally started taking vacations that were due me for something other than going to a swimming meet. My standard vacation became a backpacking trip in September of the year. Clyde the Wonder Dog was my companion on most of these trips. By the time Clyde died he had visited 26 different states with me.
One of the places that I visited on one of these occasions was Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. It was love at first sight. While most of my backpacking adventures had been to a different spot each year, Grand Teton National Park became a frequent destination.
In one of the jobs that I had, I interfaced with Monsanto’s Corporate Engineering Department as a liaison. During that experience, I realized that the silicon plant was quite different from the rest of Monsanto’s operations. As I was getting a bit tired of working at a plant and I had made some connections within the Corporate Engineering Department, I decided that I would pursue a position within corporate engineering.
I thus transferred to the Corporate Engineering Department where I worked for the remaining 14 years of my time with Monsanto until my retirement at the end of 1993. Within corporate engineering, I held various positions….project manager and cost & scheduling engineer.
Monsanto, like many large corporations, seemed to be constantly going through downsizing. In 1993, I was offered the opportunity to take a retirement package. As I had turned 50 years old, I was eligible for both my pension and medical benefits until I reached age 65 and could go on Medicare.
As I had been frugal most of my working years and had contributed the max in my 401(k) as well as other investments, I was able to retire at age 50 ½ and I have not worked since retiring.
One of my other investments during my working years was a condo on Longboat Key near Sarasota Florida. I purchased it in 1991.
College years - 1961 to 1965 

I went to college at Washington University in St. Louis a stone’s throw from my house in University City. I majored in Electrical Engineering (not realizing at the time that I enjoyed all of the things that electronics can do but that I really wasn’t interested in how they did it).
I was the first in my family to go to college. I often tell the story about how I got to Washington University. As a kid growing up I cannot remember any conversations with my parents relating to college. They never said “we want you to go to college” or “we can’t afford to send you to college“. There was just no conversation on the subject as I recall. Thank goodness my chosen peer group at that point in time was college-bound. I applied to Washington University and no other school (not knowing any better).
After I was accepted to Washington University, I remember starting to realize how big a decision I had made. I remember a number of my high school classmates who were definitely college-bound going to visit schools during their junior and senior years of high school. Here is where the naïve part comes in. My first day of classes my freshman year at Washington University was the first time I had visited the campus end of the University even though I lived two miles from the campus. But like most things in my life, luck played a major role.
I started out in a fraternity, Sigma Chi, but quit after one semester. Fraternity life was not for me. I competed on the swim team for the University and was Captain of the team my senior season. The swim team became my ”fraternity brothers” and many of them are still good friends to this day.
The first day of classes my junior year (1963), I came home for the family dinner. After dinner my dad complained of not feeling well and went to his bedroom to lie down. He proceeded to have a heart attack and died. Six days later my mother had a stroke which paralyzed her right side. Mother had some recovery over time but she succumbed to another stroke in 1970 and passed away.
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