Sally Gracie TwispBy Sally Gracie

A Western bluebird landed on the fence post not 10 feet from where I sat. Stunned by its beauty, I ended my telephone conversation to watch it. Bluebirds may be common here, but this was the first time I’ve seen one up close. It took my breath away.

Richard Wrangle had the gift of making you feel you were the only person in any crowded room, devoting his entire attention to your conversation. The “room” was often the Confluence Galley in the building on North Glover Street, which he and his wife, Cheryl, owned for a time and did so much to establish and maintain.

Richard Wrangle died on April 7, 2014, and on Saturday afternoon (May 31), his many friends and relatives gathered at Confluence Gallery to remember him. Program facilitator Darrell Gantt said that the gallery was “the only place” the memorial could have been held. “He loved this place,” Darrell said.

Local people met the Wrangles’ family members from out-of-town at a reception before the service. Cheryl’s three children were there: Randy Horton, Jeff Horton and Suzanne Mathieu. Cheryl’s sister Jan Pinninger and her husband, Harry, and Cheryl’s sister-in-law Gail Meyer, who was married to Cheryl’s brother (deceased), were in town for the memorial. Several nieces and nephews also attended.

Darrell and the other speakers spoke from the beautiful black walnut podium, crafted by Richard, and familiar to all who have signed in at the gallery’s guestbook. That podium was the reason Darrell met Richard in the first place. After admiring it in a Seattle gallery, Darrell tracked Richard down here in the valley. They have been friends since. (Purchased by Gerry Sparling, the podium will eventually find a permanent home with the Methow Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.)

Former gallery director Sybil Macapia opened her remarks by saying, “Walking in here [today] was like walking into Richard’s heart … This place of congregation is what Richard put his last years into.”

At her first event at the gallery as a volunteer, one friend told me, it was Richard who walked her around and introduced her to everyone.

Cheryl Wrangle read a poem that she and Richard both loved. By the Sufi poet Hafiz, it is called “Cast All Your Votes for Dancing.” (Find it at abuddhistlibrary.com).

Phil Ager and Rick Swanson, both obviously touched by the loss of their close friend, explained why they admired Richard so much. For Phil, Richard’s qualities of generosity and courage made him so special. Richard was “always encouraging, always accepting,” Phil told us. Richard was also “stubborn,” sometimes even “ornery,” “like a Jack Russell terrier about his woodworking projects … Nobody bosses Wrangle,” Phil said.

Rick, friends with Richard for 35 years, also admired Richard’s courage: He “kept working … though his body [especially Richard’s arthritis in his hands] betrayed him,” Rick said.

Others remembered humorous events in lives shared with Richard and Cheryl. Sandy Shulman remembered the goat that ate through the giant hedge that Richard was so proud of. Randy Levine remembered guiding the Wrangles on a trip to Peru. Richard left his passport in a Peruvian airport, crossed the Bolivian border without it, then found when they returned to Lima that a good Samaritan had turned it in to the consulate. Richard was “always Mr. Positive Attitude,” Randy said.

Donations to Confluence in Richard’s memory will go toward maintaining the building, a job which was Richard’s calling for many years.

I plan to write next week about recent Liberty Bell High School grads who have distinguished themselves after graduation — at university or elsewhere. Please contact me if you or your child will fit into this story.

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