Richard worked hard, had a thick skin, generous like a flowing river, like a soldier always ready for any task that came his way. Yes, this was my wonderful friend Richard Hawthorne. Chris, Christine and the Hawthorne family you have lost a dear brother, we have come to share your sadness, grief and loss. We too have lost a warm friend, a generous mentor and our city has lost a great citizen.
I first met Richard in 1997 when he was the chair of the Partnership Council, a European Unions funded initiative for the regeneration of Radford, Hyson green and Forest Fields. Its aim was to tackle social and economic inequalities. My first impressions were, “another white man in a grey suit, what does he know about the needs of the black and ethnic minority communities living in inner cities.” It wasn’t long before I was proven wrong, yes a white man but one who was colour blind. Richard wasn’t just a man of principles but possessed moral and spiritual values of the highest order. He practiced honesty, purity, unselfishness and love.
In 2002, he invited me to come to Caux in Switzerland, to the annual conference of the ‘Initiatives of Change’, he organised my trip and generously funded it too. This was my introduction to the Initiatives of Change, an organisation to which Richard was dedicated wholeheartedly, it was in his blood, he preached its values and stood up for its work but not with words but with actions. An organisation that hugely influenced my own thinking on ethical leadership, interfaith harmony and trust building. I am forever grateful to Richard for introducing me to such a wonderful organisation.
Yes, Richard was an amazing bridge-builder, connecting people, always willing to support others. I believe that his Christian faith and daily quiet time in the mornings gave him energy and motivation to serve others. In one of his diaries he noted “my duty driven efforts to serve others and build bridges between people were undermined by fear, the fear of making mistakes and appearing a fool to those whose approval I was seeking”. I have also just read what the apostle Paul had written to the people in Rome, this clearly said that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ. It was this costly love, if applied in my life towards others, which would overcome my fear of stepping out.