Dick Geib!

          My father, Richard John Geib, was born on May 31, 1939 at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania. He was the second son of Margaret "Peg" Sullivan and Philip Geib. Although living on the "Main Line" of the Philadelphia suburbs, Peg Sullivan and Phil Geib originally hailed from St. Paul, Minnesota where they met, courted and were married. Peg worked as a credit specialist in a department store while Phil was a former banker who then took a position as treasurer of a small firebrick company in Philadelphia. Although both midwesterners, they soon came to love the Philadelphia area and endeavored to start a family. Phil, Jr. was born the oldest child, and a year later Richard came along followed by Bill and finally Margie.

          My father recalls his childhood as "extremely happy" and the family as happy and united. Being only one year apart, it was soon evident that Richard and Phil, Jr. would be very close as brothers, something that would last the duration of their lifetimes. I remember my father discussing how his older brother would always say, "And Dickie too!" Phil was always protective towards my father in childhood and adolescence and this very helped him very much, as will be explained more later on. Dick was especially close to his maternal grandmother, Alice Sullivan. Some of her last words on her death bed were: "Where is Dickie? Where is little Dickie?"

          Business prospered for Phil, Sr. and the family quickly put down roots as the years passed comfortably. This all took place during the WWII years and the specter of war and sacrifice colored daily life. Phil, Sr. was a "block warden" in his Cynwood, PA neighborhood with civil authority to enforce "blackouts" and keep the peace in emergencies. My father describes these years as "quiet" when nobody went anywhere not absolutely necessary, gasoline being strictly rationed, etc. "The whole country was focused on a single goal, although there was a great deal of uncertainty as to whether we could defeat both Germany and Japan." Yet the war finally concluded successfully and my father still vividly remembers the victory parades he witnessed in New York City as a boy. "There were impressive long lines of soldiers in freshly pressed uniforms marching by in perfect formation hour after hour. It was easy for me afterward to fall into the habit of glamorizing military power," my father claims. The war had a profound influence of my father, and I was always able to detect a note of wartime negativity towards the the Japanese - something totally alien to me having grown up with Japan as a friend of the United States.

          The end of WWII brought a dramatic shift in tone for the country and the Geib family. As the economy opened up and soldiers re-entered civil society, the country began to grow. People started spending serious money, buying houses and cars, traveling and enjoying the luxuries of life. Phil, Sr. continued to prosper financially and his assets grew along with the country. The family purchased a large Tudor house in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania set off by magnificent oak trees.

          All this occurred during my father's formative years which he recalls as "prosperous and extremely happy years for our family." Every summer the family poured into the car and drove to Forest Lake, Minnesota for an extended vacation at their lake-front house. My father was also to enjoy many a summer afternoon and evening with his father playing golf at the renowned Marion Golf Club. Lacking families of their own, Uncle Dick and Aunt Alice were frequent visitors at the Geib household. The two doted on their nephews and niece. Uncle Dick was an especially colorful relative who gave to the young boys gifts such as switchblades, BB guns, and boxing gloves. These were gifts that, of course, brought nothing but trouble to the household.

          It was in this atmosphere of privilege and plenty that my father began his academic training with the Sisters of Mercy at Waldron Academy in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Phil and Peg Geib always placed a high value on a good education and made it central to their children's lives (and paid for it). The start of Dick's academic career was inauspicious: a few days after the beginning of nursery school he ran away from school. It was not so much that he did not like school as it was his extreme discomfort at being stuck in a room full of "screaming kids." Dick was highly independent as a child (something I must have inherited from him), and he simply walked away from the school and wandered the streets lost until finally someone took him home to his by-then-frantic mother. My father has warm feelings for Waldron Academy and his time there. The Sisters of Mercy nuns were definitely authoritarian no-nonsense type teachers in the classroom, but they were also very loving individuals. As my father puts it, "They were extremely nice people, but they didn't mess around." My father has lots of stories of nuns slapping students hands with rulers and the like. The Irish nuns also taught my father to love Notre Dame and its football team, another lifelong habit. Of course, Dick and Phil were a team and they excelled at Waldron in class and on the gridiron. My father graduated from Waldron Academy number one in his class and received a special silver cup with his name engraved on it. Having previously won the award, Phil's name was engraved directly about my father's on the trophy.

          My father spent his freshman year of high school at St. Joseph's Prep in a dangerous area of urban Philadelphia. The experience for both Dick and his brother was a mixed one as they liked the Jesuits but disliked the long train ride to Philadelphia and the violent neighborhood in which the school was located. By then Phil, Sr. had discovered a prep school in rural New Hampshire named "Phillips Exeter Academy," perhaps the most prestigious prep school in the country. Accordingly, Phil, Jr. started there the beginning of his sophomore year and Dick followed him the next year when he too was a sophomore. The change came as a shock to my father. At Waldron, both Dick and Phil had been number one in their class at St. Joe's, yet at Exeter my father was not at the top nor even in the middle at the beginning. The students at Exeter were all exceptionally bright and the instructors demanding; suddenly my father was working like never before simply to avoid flunking out of school. However, with the invaluable help of Phil who was already more or less acclimatized, Dick was able to survive his Exeter years (1954-1957).

          My father has decidedly mixed feelings about Exeter. On the one hand, he received an excellent education in classes of no more than twelve students per class that met around a simple round oak table. The students were diverse geographically and represented many cultural and faith traditions. Without a doubt the rarefied academic environment of Exeter afforded my father opportunities that few people ever enjoy. By the end of high school my father began to achieve good results in class (he won the English history prize), scored well on the SATs and achievement tests, and played varsity football). He was accepted at Harvard on a joyful day in April, 1957. My father gives enormous credit to his brother Phil who helped him with the ropes, giving his younger brother the benefit of his experience at Exeter. Phil graduated and went to Cornell, while younger brother Bill also eventually graduated from Exeter and then also attended Cornell.

          Yet my father is not sure how good the experience was for him emotionally. He was always under enormous stress with "the possibility of failure and one difficult test after another, time after time, like a broken record." Forty years later he has nightmares about approaching tests, or stressing over the result of a test. It was a harsh life away at a boarding school away far from home in the bitter cold of rural New Hampshire. My father studied day and night seven days a week with time out only for sports and a movie on Saturday evenings. It was an austere adolescence ("a bit like boot camp") devoid of the company of young women and "normal" social activities. My father became a believer in suffering as strengthening, and more than once was happy to see me or my sister bend under the stress of an enormous workload. Perhaps this peculiarly Protestant ethic of "that which does not kill me makes me stronger" ethic was inculcated into my father during these years. One story my father was fond of telling us when we were young was how during law school he would get up early in the morning and put his naked back against the cold marble bathroom wall in his unheated quarters. He would see how long he could keep his back against the frozen cold marble in order to train his mind to be more powerful than his body. He always told that story with a smile on his face.

          My Father played on the varsity football team at Exeter and very much enjoyed this extracurricular activity. Again, in the beginning, he played in the shadow of his older brother but went onto make the varsity squad as an end. This Exeter team was the best ever in school history, being "loaded" with superior players ("ringers") brought in by alumni. The team never even came close to losing and my father played a lot as the scores became lopsided in Exeter's favor. My father enjoys telling how great the team was and how badly they crushed their opponents - especially rival Andover 45-6. It is obvious he appreciated the sense of belonging, and the male camaraderie that team sports brings, and the change of scenery and pace that traveling to other schools for games brought. At the end of his junior year my father applied to Harvard, Cornell and Dartmouth universities and was accepted at all three schools. He without hesitation chose Harvard (see college letter of recommendation).

          And so my father in the fall of 1957 started what he himself describes as "four happy years" in Boston, Massachusetts. My grandfather grudgingly supported my father in his choice of Harvard University although for political reasons he was not thrilled. "You can tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much!" he would tell me many years later. About Harvard my father says, "I have a feeling of warmth about Harvard that I never had about Exeter." To this day he describes the Harvard of that time as a unique place full of intelligence, integrity and erudition. Moreover, studying at Harvard brought welcome and dramatic lifestyle changes. Suddenly my father had full freedom to come and go as he pleased instead of living in a heavily supervised boarding school dorm. Suddenly he was living in an American Revolution-era dormitory facing onto Cambridge Square right smack in the middle of a major cosmopolitan city instead of out in the New England countryside. He found his studies enriching and eventually graduated in 1961 with an honors degree in history. His thesis on "American Foreign Policy and the Spanish Civil War" earned magna cum laude distinction.

          My dad has only two regrets about his Harvard years. First, he regrets having gone through and completed the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He was never in his heart the military type and only entered the program because of pressure from both his father and older brother. Notwithstanding, he was close to dropping out soon after he began his freshman year when a smooth talking major talked him into staying. Some forty years later my father regrets not having left the program. Obviously, the decision vastly affected his life in terms of his later being sent to Vietnam. Also, according to his own words, "I spent time taking classes about how to read a map or take apart a rifle when I could have been taking other classes about the great ideas of the world!" In particular, he failed to take a course entitled "An Introduction to Music" at which Leonard Bernstein was a frequent guest lecturer! He could not take this class because his electives had been taken up by Army ROTC classes. Yet my father still had many outstanding classes taught by world-class scholars. He had Edwin O. Reichauer for modern Chinese and Japanese culture, Arthur Schlesinger for history and Henry Kissinger for government. Another favorite story of is the final exam that Kissinger gave to my father at the end of his senior semester. It was all about the Spanish Civil War, the subject which my father had written extensively about in his recently finished senior honors thesis! When the papers came back, it was my father's test which was on the top of the stack with a straight "A".

          His second regret was in not having stayed in a special combined honors History/Literature major about a specific country. My father had always loved both American history and literature and always felt he had missed out on an opportunity to really learn deeply in a unique course of study. The reason he left the major was simple: he was assigned an especially unpleasant and caustic woman as a tutor who drove him nuts. In an effort to avoid this person he simply transferred to the regular history program. In retrospect, he wishes he had the presence of mind to go and demand a new tutor. He says that straight history majors were run-of-the-mill in terms of Harvard undergraduate students.

          Important changes also occurred in his family during his undergraduate years. First of all, Phil, Sr. saw his company (National Refractories) merged with the Kaiser Aluminum and he was transferred to Oakland, California. And, while he complained some about the change in benefits and retirement, etc., the move was actually a blessing in disguise. My grandparents had always loved California and talked often about retiring there. They had vacationed in La Jolla and Santa Barbara in the past, and Phil, Sr. had even spent time on Balboa Island as early as 1919 - sixty years before his second son and his family re-located to the area! And while they missed Pennsylvania and the Merion Cricket Club at the Merion Golf Club attendant lifestyle, moving cross country to California was not all that painful for the family. The Geib family also took a memorable European vacation during Dick's junior year at Harvard. All six members of the family traveled by boat to England and then visited the major cities in Europe over a period of six weeks. The family traveled in luxury and it was one of the high points of the Geib family life.

          During his senior year at Harvard my father applied and was accepted to the Boalt Hall Law School at the University of California at Berkeley (law school recommendation). He had wanted to be a lawyer since his youth when he came under the influence of his Uncle Dick (Richard Sullivan) who was a successful Washington and New York city attorney. My father has always (and still does) believed in the ideal of the "gentleman lawyer" who made integrity and honor the cornerstones of his persona. My father is one of the few lawyers I have known who went into law without being primarily motivated by the thought of making boatloads of money. However, law school proved to be an unhappy experience for him. He did not like the dog-eat-dog hyper-competitive nature of law school. "Boalt made little effort to make life bearable," my father complains. Moreover, he was a commissioned Second Lieutenant in the United States Army in the 1960's at overpoliticized UC Berkeley, a situation that did not earn him many friends and occasionally attracted active scorn. He resided at home in Piedmont, California and lived in an unheated room ("the judge's quarters") in an adjunct room above the garage. Far from studying the great ideas and concepts of Western civilization and engaging in the dorm bull-sessions of his Harvard days, he spent endless hours pouring over contracts, corporations, taxes, real property, trusts, torts - all highly practical but hardly elegant intellectual pursuits. Law school was a grind where he learned a trade. My father had a particularly difficult second year and was not particularly happy as a person. Yet he met my mother towards the end of law school and graduated eager to get on with his life.

          My father (a "Gemini") has always had a dual nature to his personality. In particular, he has always liked the business structure of the law while at the same time pursuing a love affair with the world of ideas and beauty, art and literature. In the unhappiness of law school my father gave serious thought to becoming a teacher or professor. "It reminds me of the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken and how we consciously choose between paths in our lives," my father explains. As a soldier in Vietnam he even applied and was offered a position as a teacher and coach at the Robert Louis Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, California. Yet he turned down the job offer because after working so hard to finish law school he thought he had to at least give law a shot; and after his legal career began, there really was no looking back. "While law provided me with a very comfortable living, I always have thought about how my life would have been different if I had chosen to go into teaching," my father contemplated soon after his retirement. My father had his likes and dislikes in the world of business and law, but I wonder if it was the ideal fit for him professionally. (At any rate, I took that other road myself professionally and did become a teacher; I sometimes wondered if I should not have chosen the money and respectability of and business and law!)

          Shortly after being married to Maggie Gibbons in 1965, my father received his orders to ship out for Vietnam. He thinks his decision to attend the Jungle Warfare Training School in Panama had something to do with being ordered to Vietnam. Ironically, my father made the decision to attend this school lightly, as a slot opened up in his battalion when another officer got sick and they needed someone to go in his place. "I was freezing up at Fort Lewis in Washington state and I thought it would be warmer and maybe kind of interesting in Panama," he claims. On one level the school was fascinating and Dick has plenty of stories from his time in Central America. For instance, during a training session a poisonous snake was passed around a group of soldiers so that every person would have the opportunity to handle it. Not being a fan of dangerous poisonous snakes, my father managed to maneuver himself so that he never had to touch the thing. He also once came dangerously close to serious injury when, exhausted from an earlier river crossing, he fell while exhaustedly trying to rappel down a waterfall. Then there was also the "escape and evade" exercise at the end of the training where, thanks to a soldier in my father's team who had recently returned from service in Vietnam, they were able to successfully avoid all contact with the opposition forces and reach their objective. My father recalls small but important things the man taught him about life in the jungle. "There we were all dirty and smelling like hell in heavy bush and this guy takes out a little bottle of cologne and splashes some on - pure genius!" By scrupulously avoiding any roads, paths or rivers and staying in the midst of the heavy jungle they were able to avoid all the "aggressors" while most of the other trainees were discovered. My father also recalls the virulent anti-Americanism in Panama and heard the reproach "gringo" muttered under the breath of the locals as he passed by. This was something I was to identify with as I worked with Latin Americans myself as an adult: the hated norteamericanos; resented and feared for their arrogance and power, envied and needed for their money and influence.

          My father left for Vietnam in October of 1965 a recently married man with only one thought on his mind: coming back alive in one year to start the rest of his adult life. Although already a highly educated lawyer, the army found it best to send him to Vietnam as an artilleryman. Vietnam was the biggest ordeal of his life - up until his wife developed lung cancer more than thirty years later. "I told myself, 'I will survive this thing,' and I will put all my energy into coming home safe and sound," my father recalls. Therefore, he was more than happy to travel by boat to Vietnam, a journey which soaked up three weeks of his year obligation. Next, when my father and the rest of the First 30th Artillery arrived at Qui Nhon, South Vietnam they had to wait another three weeks to get their howitzers unloaded because of congestion in the local harbor. The battalion was headed by an alcoholic Lieutenant Colonel who ordered the men to climb down rope ladders off the boats and "assault" the beach in full combat gear with rifles locked and loaded. This was ridiculous as the South Korean "Tiger" Division was in firm control of the territory and there was no risk of any fighting. My father spent most of his in-country near South Korean soldiers and very much appreciated their presence. "The Viet Cong were terrified of the Koreans," my father recalls, "and I did not mind at all fighting on the same side." The South Korean soldiers had developed a fearsome reputation as combat soldiers.

          The excessive drinking of my father's commander was to become an acute problem later on. A decorated and respected combat officer during WWII, this man had deteriorated to such a point that he was a liability and a danger to his men. However, he still had many friends among the brass and it was seen as dangerous to speak up about the problem. Finally, while drunk one night he thought helicopters were approaching the battalion base and ordered the lights of all the vehicles in the camp turned on. This was an extremely dangerous action and endangered the lives of all the men at the base - and of course the helicopters were nothing more than a product of the commander's drunken imagination. Many officers were still too worried about their careers to say anything, and so the gutsy battalion doctor finally took the initiative himself and drove down to division headquarters the next day and a couple of hours later the commanding officer was relieved of his command.

          And so after almost two months of my father's tour of duty he was only beginning to embark on combat operations. However, the monsoon season then began and it rained steadily during the months of December, 1965 and January, 1966. My father remembers playing lots of poker and spending an incredibly dreary Christmas far from his new bride and family. But the beginning of 1966 found him out in the II Corps area in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam supporting the 1st Air Cavalry and other U.S. Army units. From January until March my father and the men of his unit lived at remote firebases in exposed positions with little sleep. The South Vietnamese were supposed to be in charge of perimeter defense at the firebases, but my father took one look at the handful of boy scout-resembling South Vietnamese soldiers and decided to take charge of matters himself. "These were really my war months, and I led patrols and set perimeter defense in fear of attack on our firebase out in the boondocks," my father explains. He still has very vivid images of the war as the North Vietnamese experimented unsuccessfully with open battle at the open stages of the conflict, among them the sun being almost blotted out by immense numbers of helicopters in the sky and the thunder of artillery so loud he feared he has suffered some hearing loss. "We put out unbelievable amounts of artillery fire," my father recalls, "at times there putting out high volumes of fire and the noise was unbelievable - and then came the jets!" My father and the soldiers in his units played a part in many large-scale combat operations including some the operations of the First Air Cavalry in the Central Highlands in the spring of 1966. In retrospect, it was a good thing that my father put in his time early in the war. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese had not learned that artillery firebases made easy targets for surprise attack. In the years after my father had returned to the United States, units of the First Battalion were shelled extensively and then assaulted with the attack ending in hand-to-hand fighting around the artillery pieces. But it was relatively quiet when my father served his time. Maggie and Dick wrote to each other almost everyday and the days passed one after the other while my father kept a careful eye on the calendar. He remembers sitting around the campfire contemplating the firstborn child he was yet to have, knowing somewhere deep inside that it would happen.

          Next, a fortunate event occurred. A captain back at battalion headquarters had gone AWOL ("absent without leave") and there was a need for someone to replace him as battalion Adjutant. The battalion commander took one look at all my father's education and picked him for that administrative position. This new job took him out of the field and made him responsible for court martials, requests for medical discharges, discipline, official correspondence, personnel records, and other miscellaneous paperwork. My father was more than happy to work as an administrative officer for the battalion. He was able to spend a five-day R&R ("rest and recreation") in Hong Kong with his friend Lt. Matthewson in May, 1966. "We had a blast!" my father remembers, chief among the pleasures being able to finally enjoy a long hot bath, eat at a restaurant and feel safe. Having no civilian clothes of their own, the two officers had a local tailor measure and make two beautiful suits for them as they waited in their hotel room.

          Finally came the date for my father to leave South Vietnam and return to the United States. My father and other homebound U.S. soldiers boarded a first class Continental Airline flight in Saigon complete with champagne, good food and beautiful stewardesses. They were all giddy and delirious with delight at the prospect of leaving Vietnam. As the plane took off and he looked out the window at the receding Vietnamese coastline, my Father promised himself, "I ain't ever coming back to this place!" Having suffered a bout with food poisoning, my father arrived on the ground at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California a gaunt 165 pounds. "I didn't look too good," he describes, "and this got me the sympathy vote with my wife and family." After a year of separation, he and his wife had to get to know each other again and truly make their nascent marriage work. After being discharged from the army they moved into a small apartment in Oakland and my father marveled over the beauty of a refrigerator and food ready to eat at your disposition. One time while he was staring into the refrigerator, my mom secretly snuck up behind him and shouted. According to my mom, my father jumped half out of his skin and came down in a combat crouch ready to attack her! My father quickly found a job as a lawyer in San Francisco and my mom almost immediately became with pregnant with me. I was born almost nine months to a day from when my father returned from Vietnam.

Other Dick Geib photos...

Dick with little brother Bill and sister Margie at Forest Lake, Minnesota in 1946. (24.6kb)

Dick and big brother Phil hang out at Phillps Exeter Academy in November of 1954. (14.9kb)

Dick and big brother Phil as best man in his wedding in 1965. (13.7kb)

Dick back from Vietnam in 1966 and ready to start the rest of his life as a civilian! (77.7kb)

Dick running marathon in a little over three and a half hours. (15.4kb)

Dick reacts with surprise on Christmas morning as he opens the wrapping and sees the keys for the scooter his wife bought for him in 1983. (14.6kb)

Dick Geib, Esq. smiles for the camera as a Newport Beach attorney-at-law. (13.7kb)

Dick with brother Bill and sister Margie at his wife's funeral in 1996. (22.7kb)

A series of picures of my father at his new summer house near Eugene, Oregon in August 1998. Many of these images capture the essence of Dick truly in his element.

Dick and his oldest son enjoy a golden sunset out on the Newport Harbor in 1999. (25.2kb)

Dick and his second son enjoy a quiet moment at Katie's wedding reception in August 1999. (28.4kb)

Dick Geib and His First B-17 Bombing Mission at the Long Beach Airport in early May 2008. (172.2 mb)

The Richard John Geib Family
Tom, Richard, Katie, Dick, and Maggie.

Other Geib family photos...

Newborn baby Richard with proud parents in 1967. (52.7kb)

Then came my brother Tom in 1968 in photo with me and my father. (34.3kb)

Another photo of Tom and I in our cute pyjamas. (6.1kb)

Last but not least came Katie in 1971 and our family was complete and my parents had their hands full! (7.3kb)

The whole clan again with baby Katie in Forest Lake, Minnesota in the summer of 1971. Uncle Phil and Aunt Margie look on from behind. (25.0kb)

The Geib family poses for the camera after arriving in Newport Beach, California in 1976. (18.3kb)

Somone tells a joke and Katie laughs while we watch her sometime circa 1983. (17.8kb)

The Geib family next to the Christmas tree around 1985. (26.3kb)

The Geib family as more or less all adults gathered around the fireplace. (22.6kb)

The Geib family turning out just handsomely in 1987 as the kids start their adult lives. (11.7kb)

The last picture of the whole Geib family together in 1996 before our mother died. (31.7kb)

The remainder of the Geib family prepare to go the funeral of Maggie Geib (mother and wife, respectively). (27.4kb)

Posing during happier times at Katie's wedding in August of 1999. (46.3kb)