Growing up, and later as an adult, I was always told by my parents and older friends that one of the toughest things about growing old is seeing friends and relatives predecease you.

I always knew that to be true, as I saw my dad lose a lot of friends and relatives before he died 20 years ago this month.

But I recently received yet another sad reminder about that truism when a longtime colleague and friend died way too soon.

Yes, it’s true that my good friend had been battling COPD for several years, but even though his condition had worsened, I still had hoped that he’d be around for years to come.

Sadly, that was not to be.

Rick Thurmond’s death at the age of 68 was made worse because nearly a year ago, he had moved out of the Attleboro area to another Massachusetts city that was nearly an hour away.

I kept telling myself that I’d drive up to Acton to see him, but unfortunately I never did, and that failure on my part made his death even tougher to accept.

Rick and I were colleagues for 25 years at The Sun Chronicle, and we became closer once we overlapped on the night shift. I worked many different shifts over the years, and would routinely change from a night shift to a day one once each week, as did Rick.

The night shifts were brutal, but no more so than getting in at 4:30 a.m. for years before the paper changed from a late-morning press time to one at 12:30 a.m. Working overnight, as Rick did for a period of time when he became the overnight news editor after being the newspaper’s prime reporter for the in-depth stories for the Sunday edition, was also an impossible shift to become accustomed to, but I digress.

My point is that the night shifts are unique enough that people tend to bond.

We did, but it wasn’t until six years ago this month, when Rick and I were two of three people to accept an early-retirement package from the former owners of the newspaper, that we really became close friends.

We made a point of having lunches, at first every few weeks, then monthly, and finally, in the year BC — Before COVID-19 — twice a month.

We loved both the unlimited soup and salad offered for lunch (suspended after COVID) at the Uno’s in South Attleboro. We also enjoyed the unlimited soup and salad offering at the Olive Garden in South Attleboro, complete with their tasty breadsticks.

Occasionally, we would be joined by other very good friends from the paper, and the lunches offered a well-needed boost to people missing the camaraderie that we used to share with our friends at the paper.

Then came COVID-19, and like everything else, our worlds and lives screeched to a halt.

The lunches stopped for a few months until Rick and I decided to switch to picnic lunches at Attleboro’s parks. We particularly enjoyed regular lunches at the Judith Robbins Riverfront Park, which overlooks the scenic Ten Mile River, until the last picnic bench at that park mysteriously disappeared one day in May 2021.

So we switched to Capron Park until July 2021, when, with both of us fully vaccinated — I drove with him to Patriot Place in the spring of 2021 so he could get vaccinated — we decided to return to restaurants.

We would get caught up at these lunches, but the stories that Rick and I exchanged were the best part. Rick had a treasure trove of tales, and they never got old.

Our lunches eventually moved to his Attleboro apartment due to his being on oxygen, but they were still something to look forward to — and were quite enjoyable.

Then Rick moved away, and even though I texted and called him, our friendship lacked the badly needed human connection that all of us missed during the pandemic.

Rick used to work at the San Antonio Light in Texas as both a reporter and editor — the same posts he later held at The Sun Chronicle — and he was deeply proud of his Texas heritage.

In fact, he always liked to talk about the Alamo, so it was a weird coincidence that he died on March 6 — the same day that the Alamo fell in 1836.

With Rick gone, I’m left with a void, as well as with regret and gratitude. I especially regret that I didn’t spend more time with him, but I’m extremely grateful for his friendship.

Rest in peace, Rick.

I will miss you terribly, as do all of your good friends who worked with you at The Sun Chronicle.

Larry Kessler, a retired Sun Chronicle local news editor, can be reached at He blogs at