I was saddened today to learn of the death of Ted Riehle. A very nice obituary appeared in the Rutland Herald. Ted will probably be best known as the man who got rid of billboards in Vermont, and for that he is owed a debt of gratitude, but I knew him quite some time after that. I owe him a debt of gratitude for other reasons.
Ted Riehle’s home was Savage Island, on Lake Champlain. It was his pride and joy. What was once a low-slung, overgrown patch of dirt and rock between Milton and Grand Isle had, under his care, become a place of beauty and solitude where electricity was generated with solar panels and sheep grazed in green meadows while his grandchildren played on the beach. For a time, I was fortunate enough to be a part of that.
Ted trusted me as caretaker and farm manager on Savage Island and I will never be the same. Living year-round on Savage Island was one of the most intense, challenging, frustrating and rewarding times of my life. It didn’t last but I don’t regret for one minute having done it.
Some people knew Ted as “that crazy naked old guy” but, as far as I knew, he always put his clothes on when he knew he was going to have company. It was the people who weren’t supposed to be there that got the surprises.
I will never be able to do justice to Ted’s memory so I’m just going to share a few images from my time on Savage Island. I’ve tried to get them in this post but it just ain’t working out. Please go to my Flikr photos here.
Here’s to the Ancient Mariner and the times we had, riding huge swells while he sang “… It was sad when the great ship went down!”. The time he guided me in, on a dark and stormy night, waving a flashlight from the dock in the pouring rain and later tried to convince me a tea cup was a shot glass and that I’d only had two.
For never expecting anything less than my best; for getting me to do more than I thought I could; for trusting me as a partner and a friend, I am grateful. His wisdom, advice and sense of humor are what made those long weeks of being stranded on an island in the middle of Lake Champlain – while he sailed the Caribbean – as rewarding as they were.
Ted Riehle was a good man. I am glad to have known him.