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Remembering Rich Roat

December 3, 2017

“I’ve got peanut butter in my cranks” is what Rich Roat would say to me when we were spinning along the roads on a lunchtime ride. A kind way of saying, “Hey, I’m not feeling quite as fast as you are today, slow down!” Ever since hearing the news that Rich passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday, all I’ve felt has been that slowness and heaviness.

Cycling will be the first way I remember Rich: lunchtime work rides, being the two bike geeks in the office, riding along 82 and talking about work and life. But Rich was more than a cycling buddy, he was a boss, friend, and mentor.

Rich was a quiet leader of House Industries. He sat behind the scenes, making sure that everyone had the space they needed to work, giving us a direction to work toward, accepting of the inevitable twelve changes in that direction, giving credit where it was due, and providing the bedrock that kept the lights on in the office. It wasn't the easiest thing to do —Rich was the first to admit that no one should take any business advice from House Industries— but he made the whole thing work, and was ready to take whatever heat needed to be taken.

He was also not quiet. Meeting Rich was to meet someone gregarious, ready to ask you about what you were doing, keenly interested in your reply. He was full of stories and a never-ending zeal for exploring and trying new things. Rich was always happy to share what he knew, his enthusiasm, and open his door to new and old friends. To sit at his kitchen table as he put out a spread and made you a cappuccino was to feel the warm embrace of friendship and hospitality. His sense of humor and verbal play filled the House Industries catalogs, lectures, books, and website. His copy always made me laugh. I saw him show that warmth over the years to anyone who walked up to talk to him at any event. At first one might not be sure what to make of this tall, boisterous man, but it always became clear as he warmed up the room and people gravitated to him.

There is much more to be said about his impact on the type community, in ways seen and unseen; but for now I want to remember the man who was like an older brother to a lot of us. My heart goes out to his family; also to the staff of House, who is like a family. I hope that Rich has found a nice gravel road to enjoy as he waits for us to one day join him on a ride.

—Ben Kiel