by Meryl Kelleher
The members of the South Florida Jubilee Chorus were shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Richard Pfenniger on April 2nd. Dick, as he was known, was the devoted husband of SFJ charter member Doris Pfenniger, as well as an enthusiastic supporter of our chorus. Many of us gathered at his memorial service to support Doris. At her request, we sang the tender ballad, “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes”.
As I sat in my seat listening to the tributes given by the members of the United States Power Squadron (Dick and Doris are both long time members), the Free Masons (Dick was a member for 60 years), and several of his close family members, I reflected on my own memories of Dick.
First, a bit about Doris. I have been harmonizing with Doris for almost 27 years, in three different choruses. To know Doris is to love her. She is one of the kindest, sweetest people I know. She is devoted to SFJ and has spent countless hours as our Fashion Show Chair, as well as other positions in the chorus. She and I have spent many happy times talking about Dick and the family, their kids and grandkids.
Doris and Dick worked together selling medical textbooks for years, and they always seemed to be going somewhere fun, either to sell books, attend meetings with the Power Squadron, go somewhere exotic on their boat, or to visit family in other states. They spent lots of time in the Orlando area where they had a mobile home. They were always coming back from somewhere or getting ready to go somewhere.
I often envied her life with Dick, where they got to work, travel and play side by side. Dick attended every show, every Friends and Family Night, and every other function our chorus held. He put up with having his house overrun with the donations that were gathered each time we held our bi-annual fashion show. And, of course, he had to deal with all the little (and big) things that come with being a Sweet Adeline Spouse!
My impression of Dick is that he was a gentle and dignified man. But the thing the impressed me most about Dick was his love for Doris. I hope she doesn’t mind me telling this story: A while back, Doris had a heart attack. Frankly, it was touch and go for a while. Doris was in the hospital that December when we held our annual Holiday show. When I looked into the audience, there was Dick, front and center, (I’m sure, with the encouragement of Doris) sitting very quietly and seriously. When the show ended, I went over to Dick and thanked him for coming. I told him how much we missed Doris and were thinking about her that whole day. Well, he burst out into tears and sobbed uncontrollably, at the thought of his wonderful wife’s fragile and frightening condition. He could not bear the thought of losing her. How touching to see this man before me, with his raw emotions on display.
Thankfully, our Doris did recover and sings with us still. But I will never think of Dick without thinking of the love for Doris that I witnessed that day.
Doris’ incredible strength of character, evident during this trying period, is a testament to the unwavering foundation of support that she shared with Dick. He will be missed by all.