Biography of Ricardo “Dick” P.

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Past Secretary/Treasurer, Cleveland District Office

This is taken from several sources, but primarily from bios furnished to the Akron AA Archives by Charlie K. in 2010, and largely taken from Dick’s recorded talk at the 35th Anniversary of Akron’s St. Vincent Group in October 1976.

Ricardo was born near Mexico City and raised in rural Mexico, which offered no schooling. After his father was killed in the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) his mother took him and his brother to Laredo, Texas, where he worked in the fields, and later to San Antonio, where he worked on the railroads. That led him to Cleveland, where he worked as a dishwasher at the Statler Hotel.

He met a woman named Helen, of Hungarian descent, who had graduated from high school, knew Spanish, and worked with the Mexican Consulate. Over her father’s objections, they married and had a daughter whom they named Naomi.

He had been a hard worker until he took his first drink while working at a garage and quickly descended into active alcoholism. Friends sent him back to Mexico to straighten him out, but he got drunk there and crossed the river to return to the U.S. and come back to Cleveland. Helen threw him out but showed him a newspaper article about how AA had helped Cleveland Indians baseball player “Rollickin’ Rollie” Hemsley. Ricardo called for help and was put in touch with Harry Ryan, who later founded Stella Maris Hospital. Harry told Ricardo that, if he would not drink, lie, or mooch for a week, he could be brought to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.

That was in April 1940, and Ricardo went to the Orchard Grove Group, stayed sober, and learned English. After he had 9 months of sobriety, the wives of other AA members convinced Ricardo’s wife Helen to take him back.

He applied for U.S. citizenship and got honest during the process about his less-than-legal entry to this country. That impressed the judge, who still had to deport Ricardo, but did so while giving Ricardo documents that would allow him immediate legal re-entry and a path to citizenship.

After that, Ricardo started translating the Big Book into Spanish, purportedly with much help from Helen. In 1941, Dr. Bob wrote Ruth Hock, Bill W’s secretary, to obtain permission to make this an official, permitted translation. Bill and other AAs in New York City felt that Alcoholics Anonymous needed to assure that the translation was both accurate and universally accepted. This is a bar so high that the several translations to date have yet to reach it, per my Hispanic friends.

By 1946, the translation was complete. This may have been the first such translation, but it was apparently not published. Later that year, Ricardo returned to Mexico City and organized the September 18, 1946 public information meeting on Alcoholics Anonymous that culminated in Mexico City’s first AA group. Mexico marked the beginning of their 75th year with a virtual celebration involving Cleveland.

Upon his return Ricardo got a job selling encyclopedias—a truly remarkable vocation for someone with no formal education. He was a very active AA member and supporter of the Cleveland District Office, which was formed in February 1945. “Dick” was hired in June 1963 as the administrator (his actual title was secretary/treasurer) of Cleveland’s central office. He held this job until his retirement on June 1, 1981.

Dick spent his Sundays walking in the woods, enjoying the Great Outdoors rather than attending church. He was unquestionably spiritually awake.

Office policy was that, when a person called for help, the request would be referred to the nearest AA group. Dick modified this somewhat by only calling groups or people that he was sure would respond.

He believed strongly in attendance at his home group, so much so that he left the wedding reception of his only child to attend Parma Saturday Night, his home group at that time. Dick explained the need for the 4th through 9th Steps as the prior steps are like adding a few drops of honesty to a glass of dirty water. It is fine to use the Four Absolutes as a guide, but the dirt must be cleaned out first so that God can flow in.

Dick formed a speakers’ group to talk to schools and other organizations. He created a “Downtown Pickup Squad” from those who worked there to answer calls from downtown hotels, often so-called “flea bags.”

It is said that “If you love everyone in AA, you are not getting to enough meetings, and if everyone loves you, you’re not doing enough service.” Dick did enough service and acquired a few supporters that he could call upon to attend meetings he expected would be contentious; for example, an old-timer insisted that Dick urge all the Cleveland groups to donate to Rosary Hall at St. Vincent Charity Hospital. Dick battled this, citing AA’s Traditions. On Thanksgiving he delivered a dozen roses to each of his supporter’s homes. He attempted to do this anonymously but was caught at it.

A rumor circulated that, upon retirement in 1981, Dick took the Cleveland Office’s archives with him. Cleveland had no formal archives then, and it is truly doubtful that Dick took anything that was given to AA instead of directly to him. Years of misfiling and lack of protection did cause much of Cleveland’s archival materials to disappear, at least for a time. But this was due to absent archival practices rather than the actions of any individual. Other than that disputed rumor, we’ve heard no disparaging remarks about this highly lauded manager.

After retirement, Dick and Helen moved to their daughter’s home in Laguna Beach, California, where Dick started a Spanish-speaking AA group. After Helen’s demise, Dick could no longer drive but would take a taxi to do 12th Step calls. When the cab company found out this purpose, it stopped charging him. His final days were spent in a large home, presumably a nursing home.

When Dick was about to leave Cleveland, one of his Sponsees, John B, lamented losing him. Dick tersely replied that change is difficult. So, these are the words this fellow who endured so many changes in life left us all with:

Change…Is Difficult!

Dick P.

By Bob M. CDO Archivist

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.