He helped trans­form and en­lighten

PAS­SAGES: RICHARD GOTO FEB. 26, 1947 — MARCH 1, 2017 ‘Dur­ing those years his gift and pur­pose was to bring de­light to our lives’

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - JEFF GILBREATH Spe­cial to The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor

I met Richard Goto 19 years ago down at South­west Re­gional Cen­tre, the provin­cially run in­sti­tu­tion where he had been liv­ing for many years.

He was born dur­ing the era when the par­ents of a child with a devel­op­men­tal dis­abil­ity were told that his or her needs would best be met in such a fa­cil­ity, and so he was placed there, and re­mained un­til the age of 51.

In 1998, Richard be­came one of a co­hort of in­di­vid­u­als soon to be repa­tri­ated to Hamil­ton to live in neigh­bour­hood homes and so our paths crossed as I was part of the team sent in to draft his pro­file and judge his suit­abil­ity for com­mu­nity liv­ing.

It seems com­i­cal now to think back and re­mem­ber the hes­i­ta­tion the staff at that in­sti­tu­tion felt about Richard leav­ing and be­ing able to “make it” in a com­mu­nity set­ting. Sure, they were cor­rect that, at times, he could be stub­born, dis­in­ter­ested or an­noyed if he didn’t get some­thing he wanted, but upon meet­ing him, his in­fec­tious smile and de­ter­mined de­meanour told me he had a pur­pose be­yond the walls of that build­ing.

I think that se­cretly the staff at the in­sti­tu­tion didn’t want him to leave be­cause he had won their hearts, as he had won mine in a twohour visit. I knew he had to come to L’Arche and thank God he did.

Richard was a man who loved Elvis’ mu­sic and loved to dance. He would sing karaoke (ter­ri­bly) and light up the room with laugh­ter and joy with­out ef­fort. He spoke very rarely, but from time to time could be over­heard chat­ting in his na­tive Ja­panese while on the phone with his beloved sis­ters, Tosh and Miyoko. He took great pride in his ap­pear­ance as he metic­u­lously groomed and dressed each day. He en­deared him­self to al­most ev­ery­one when he would kiss you on the top of your head in ap­pre­ci­a­tion of some­thing or take your hand to de­ter­minedly join you in a rou­tine task like gro­cery shop­ping or bank­ing.

Richard was well and healthy liv­ing with us in L’Arche Hamil­ton for 10 years. Dur­ing those years his gift and pur­pose was to bring de­light to our lives. He was a small, quiet man whose love for mu­sic, dance, song, par­ties, and other peo­ple made L’Arche Hamil­ton a joy­ous com­mu­nity and all those who knew him laughed in cel­e­bra­tion.

Fol­low­ing those years of well­ness came the on­set of Alzheimer’s and Richard’s needs grad­u­ally be­came more and more com­pli­cated. The danc­ing and singing came to an end, but his love for his sis­ters and the rest of us was still ob­vi­ous in his smile and sparkling eyes. Even qui­eter now, his call to us to gather around him and care for him was loud and clear, and in do­ing so we were stretched and chal­lenged to grow. He seemed to have a new pur­pose: to help us as a com­mu­nity to un­der­stand our limits, to for­give our­selves when we don’t have the an­swers, and to love one an­other more de­spite our in­creased feel­ings of help­less­ness.

It was a long good­bye for Richard. Half the time we knew him he was well, and half the time he was not, but we lived a life­time of laugh­ter and dance in those too short years. Fare thee well, my friend.


Richard Goto made L’Arche Hamil­ton a joy­ous com­mu­nity.

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